Hortiscope: Bulbs need air circulation for winter storage
Q: I have a large cluster of coneflowers that I would like to move. Should I do it now before winter or wait until spring when they start coming up? Also, do you have any advice about the actual move? Do we dig them up in one big clump?
A: Coneflowers can be moved in the fall or spring. However, I prefer the fall season because there is not as much demand on the roots and aerial part of the plant at this time. Try to dig large clumps to get as much of the fleshy root system as possible. However, don't fret if some of the root is left behind.
Q: I have a 20-year-old crown of thorns in my backyard. It grows tiny, white blossoms every spring. The thorns are about 3 inches long. Right now, it has small, golden-colored fruit that when cut smells similar to a lemon and has pulp and seeds like a lemon. We never have done anything special to this plant.
We use it for making a crown for the cross on Good Friday. I can't seem to find a picture or description of this type. Are the fruits poisonous? Should I trim it every year at a certain time? Is it supposed to blossom throughout the year like some I read about in my research?
A: First, congratulations on having a successful crown of thorns for so many years! You apparently are doing everything right with your plant, but I would in no way recommend eating the fruit no matter how much it smells like a lemon. The crown of thorns is in the Euphorbiaceous (spurge) family. While I cannot find any specific listing of any poisonings, tasting the fruit isn't worth the chance. Enjoy it for the rewards this plant gives you. There isn't a plant that can bloom all the time because even the most prolific blooming plants need a resting period to accumulate more energy.
Q: How do I store my lily and calla bulbs? Everything I have read says to store the bulbs at 40 to 50 degrees. My garage is not heated, so I am afraid the bulbs will freeze if kept outside. My basement is heated, so I don't have a location that is in that temperature range. I do have a small dorm refrigerator that is not being used. I checked the temperature in it and the warmest it gets is 40 degrees. Is this too cold to store the bulbs? Do they need air circulation?
A: I'm afraid of condensation in the refrigerator causing disease or rot problems. The bulbs should have air circulation. Is there a corner in your basement that would be at least cool (lower 60s)? You could get away with that if needed and would be better than the options you mentioned.
To contact Ron Smith for answers to your questions, write to Ron Smith, NDSU Department of Plant Sciences, Dept. 7670, Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.