Hardy Plants are those that can be left in the ground safely all year even where frost penetrates deeply into the soil. Most of the beloved bulbs of spring (bulbs planted in the fall) are in this category - crocus, daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths are the most familiar ones. Lilies and many perennials are also hardy in most zones. It is important to know your hardiness zone, so that you can know what is hardy in your garden. The lower the zone number, the colder the zone. For example, Zone 2 is colder than Zone 3. A plant that is hardy to Zone 3, may not overwinter in a Zone 2 garden, unless given special protection. Bulbs benefit greatly from a 2" to 4" deep mulch of shredded bark or hardwood, compost or leaves. Mulch prevents the ground from alternately freezing and thawing, which can heave the bulbs out of the ground during winter. In summer, a mulch conserves moisture and suppresses weeds. Wait until the ground freezes before applying a winter mulch to fall planted bulbs.
Tender Plants are those that can not survive the cold temperatures in your area. In most Canadian zones, you must dig up bulbs like begonias, dahlias, and gladioli before fall frost, winter them indoors and plant again in spring. Of course, in very warm climate zones, such as coastal B.C., they can be left in the garden year round. When brought indoors for the winter, storage temperatures may range from 7°C to 15°C depending on the type of bulb. Many gardeners treat them as annuals and replace them each season. If a bulb or perennial is border-line hardy in your area and you must provide protection, apply a thick winter mulch.
Bulbs and Corms that have a protective papery husk are easy to deal with. Simply dig up in the fall and shake the soil off. If the foliage has not quite died, leave the bulbs upright in a cool spot for a couple of weeks. Cut off the dead foliage and store the bulbs in old nylon stockings or mesh bags in a cool but frost-free area.
Summer blooming bulbs with fleshy tubers or roots should be dug before frost and spread out in a shaded spot (like a garage) until the outside of the tuber feels dry. Then lay them in uncovered shallow flats or boxes filled with peat moss, sawdust or vermiculite. Check monthly to make sure they are not drying out and shriveling. They should stay plump until spring planting time, so you may have to sprinkle them with a little water to keep the right moisture. Too much water will cause mold.