Q • Last fall I dug up all of my canna bulbs and stored them in cardboard boxes stuffed with shredded newspaper. I know that peat is suggested as a packing material, but newspaper is a lot cheaper. Anyway, I got the cannas out of the box today to plant them, and they are all dried up. I planted them anyway. Will they come up?
A • I suspect the humidity level in the environment where you stored your cannas this past winter was too low. Consider an alternate packing material in the future. You might obtain better results if you go back to peat moss. Personally, I find that vermiculite gives me the best results in the unique temperature and humidity ranges within my basement.
I always check stored bulbs several times during winter as well. If things seem too moist, provide more ventilation. If bulbs appear to be drying out, spritz the bulbs and packing medium with enough water to dampen (not wet), then check them again in several days. Bulb size plays a role in moisture retention. For this reason, I store my clumps whole and wait until spring to divide them. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find a system that works best for you.
As far as your shriveled rhizomes, you might dig them up and try to hydrate them by soaking in a bucket of water for a few hours to see if they plump up before planting again. If they don’t respond, they are not likely to flower well, even if they do sprout and grow.
Write to Chip Tynan of the Missouri Botanical Garden at email@example.com or Horticultural Answer Service, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, 63110.