Dahlia tubers are worth saving for next year!

When Is the Right Time to Dig Your Dahlia Tubers?


Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Henry Homeyer

Wait till After Frost!

Saving dahlia tubers allows you to get flowers like this every year

Dahlias need to be dug in the fall if you want to have viable tubers to use next summer. Leave them in the ground, and they will freeze solid and die – wasting the money you spent on them this year. They are easy enough to winter over. Here’s what you need to do:

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In the fall it’s imperative to wait until the tops of the dahlias have been totally killed by frost. If you dig them up too early, you’ll probably have poor luck the next year. Let the tops turn black and mushy, but don’t let the ground freeze around them.

Wash off tubers

Dig the clumps with a garden fork or shovel, but keep back from the clump so you don’t sever any roots. Just push your tool into the ground and tip it back to lift the clump of tubers. Rinse off with a hose, and allow to dry. Then you can divide each clump of tubers with a sharp knife or lopers.

Using lopers to separate tubers

In order to produce a new plant next year, each tuber you plant must have at least one eye, which will be the growing point. The eyes are not easily recognized by the uninitiated, but if you cut off the tops and separate the tubers with some stem intact, they should have eyes. Don’t worry needlessly about that part.

Why bother dividing the clumps? If you don’t, and plant the entire clump of tubers in one place, 6 or more plants will start all in the same hole, and will be fighting for nutrients and water. Divide them now.

The tubers need to be stored in a cool (40 to 50 degrees), high-humidity location all winter, but must never be allowed to freeze. Perhaps you can store them in your basement or in a spare bedroom in black garbage bags that have been punctured several times with a knife until they are practically mesh bags.

Moisten cedar bedding and puncture bags many times to allow air circulation

Also in the bag you should include some lightly moistened cedar shavings, the kind sold for gerbil bedding. That keeps the tubers from drying out. If you have several varieties that are different colors or sizes, you can labels each tuber with a black “Sharpie” so you will know what is what, come spring.

Label your tubers - even if you have just a few kinds

Each plant produces enough tubers for several to many new plants each year. By saving them all, you can have enough to give to all your friends – and even your enemies!

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Henry is the author of 4 gardening books. Visit his website by clicking here.  

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