Get a head start on spring with packaged roots

These packaged roots and bulbs can be a great buy if you are looking to fill larger areas in the garden with similar plants.

packaged roots
Numerous types of plant packages line the shelves of a local garden center as seen March 16. John Zvirovski / The SUn

The other day, I found myself running errands and became aware of all the gardening products coming out. I always find it exciting to see what is new on the shelves and what the prices are going to be for the year. Sometimes I see things that I forgot to put on my list, so I mentally take note and add it to my list when I get home.

One of my great weaknesses is when I come across all the packages of bulbs, perennial roots and corms. There are numerous packages ranging from gladiolus, begonias, astilbe, peonies, cannas, liatris, hosta, elephant ears, caladiums, lily of the valley and iris, just to name a few. I think it is that sense of potential plant life that gets the best of me. Even when I don’t really need anything further in the yard, I find myself looking over all the items to see what I can squeeze into the garden this year.

These packaged roots and bulbs can be a great buy if you are looking to fill larger areas in the garden with similar plants. Many of these packages have from three to five roots or bulbs in them, which can be quite cost-effective in the long run. Always read the packaging so you know exactly how many items you are buying as a total, as these can add up quite quickly in number.


To read more columns written by John Zvirovski, click here.

As wonderful as it sounds to obtain these products early, you still need to have the allowed garden space to plant the products. Always plan ahead and fill the spots in your head or on a map as you buy them. This is a good technique to keep you from overbuying too many products during the spring season.

One of the things you really should pay attention to is how you are going to store these items until planting time arrives in about two half months. That means if you purchase them today, you will have to make sure they remain healthy and viable come the month of May. This can be a difficult situation in some instances, especially if the roots, bulbs and corms have already sprouted.

If you choose packaging with sprouted material, it is best to plant these items up first and get them under grow lights or in a sunroom as soon as possible where they will get an abundance of sunlight. If they do not get enough light, they will become leggy and weak before transplanting outdoors. When buying early, always choose an item that has not sprouted and is firm to the touch if at all possible.

Another factor to be aware of when making your selections is to make sure the product is not rotting in the package before purchasing. Most packaging occurs with clear plastic and you can inspect the item through the bag. Move the items around until you can tell they are healthy and not dried out or mushy. Also, recognize if the medium they are in is dry, moist or wet. If they are moist or wet, make sure you open the packaging as soon as you get home so they do not perish while being stored for the next few months.

You will notice that some packaging is in an opaque plastic that you cannot see into. Unless you are comfortable with feeling a vigorous root or bulb through the plastic, or at least be able to open it to inspect them, I would shy away from these items. You may be disappointed with them once you get home. Of course, most places will allow you to return them for a refund if you find they are not good upon getting home but I tend not to enjoy running back and forth unnecessarily for these reasons.

Items such as caladiums, gladiolus, lilies, peonies and iris will tend to still be in their dormancy when purchasing this early. Always store them in a dark, cool area where they will not get too much moisture. If they are in too warm of an area, this will just encourage them to sprout early.


I have seen many inexpensive "pop-up" greenhouses on the market that might be a great investment if you are only getting a few dozen items. I would pot and place the sprouted items in these environments as they will be most ideal. If you are one of the lucky few who have a bright sunroom, they will thrive there until planting season arrives.

Another thing I have to remind myself is that this is just the beginning of the products that are yet to come out on the shelves. I have to remain patient and only seek out the items that I just HAVE to have and wait to see what other new products will be displayed later. As eager as I am to begin the season, I continue to look out the window and see the dormant gardens awaiting warmer days.

The spring fever is in me now, so I always make sure that I grab a basket instead of a cart so I don't over-buy too early. The weather has been unseasonably warm this year, but you can never tell what is in store over the next month to come.

What To Read Next
Get Local