It happens every spring. The tender bulbs (gladiolus, tuberous begonia, canna, dahlia, etc.) you brought indoors the previous fall start to sprout, you get ready to plant them, but… which one was the short double red one? And which the tall single lavender?

The truth is that it may be easy enough to tell a gladiolus corm from a canna rhizome, but all gladiolus corms look pretty much alike. And who can tell one dahlia root from any other? That’s why it is so important to label your bulbs as you dig them up this fall.

You can use the label that came with the plant or one you prepared yourself (remember to use a waterproof, UV-resistant marker and a label that will last a few years). If you don’t remember the cultivar name, at least note the color, the height and the type of of the plant. If labels aren’t your thing, at least write the name on the box or bag in which you will be storing them.

You can even write the name or description directly on the bulb with a marker (this works especially well with the tuberous roots of dahlias).

Whatever you do, don’t trust your memory alone! It may seem obvious today that you put the red ones on the right and the lavender ones on the left, but you’ll have forgotten that come spring.

Identifying your tender bulbs is simple enough to do, but oh so easily forgotten, since this is the right time of the year to them indoors, take this as a reminder!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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