by Matt Gibson
If you grow dahlias, you’ve likely fallen in love with their impressive blooms, and you won’t be happy about giving up your precious dahlias when chilly weather arrives. The good news is that you don’t have to say goodbye to this season’s dahlias when you learn to remove and store their tubers. It’s time for overwintering. Keep on reading to learn about how to remove tubers from dahlias and store them during the winter so they can make a reappearance in your garden come spring.
Dahlia flowers have become a popular sight to admire in modern flower gardens in Europe and the United States due to their low-maintenance care needs and resilient general nature, not to mention their massive, multi-layered, and magnificent blossoms. Dahlias are perfect for planting directly into your flower beds as well as growing in container gardens. They can be grown successfully in both indoor and outdoor settings. Dahlias’ large, stunning flowers also serve fantastically cut fresh from the garden and added to a vase as the focal point of an arrangement or bouquet.
Dahlias are related to sunflowers and aster flowers and are grown solely for ornamental purposes, as they have no culinary or medicinal value. Like sunflowers, dahlias are known for their massive size and giant flowerheads.
Dahlia plants can reach six feet in height and produce blooms as large as 12 inches in diameter. Dahlia flowers have also earned their reputation among gardeners for adding longlasting beauty because their blooms, once open, will remain stunning for several weeks—whether in the ground or after they have been cut.
Dahlia flowers come in several different types, a variety that offers gardeners just about every color and color combination under the sun, The flowers are so lush and lovely and easy to grow that breeders have taken it upon themselves to create an array of hybrid varieties of the dahlia flower, providing gardeners with a wide selections of choices, with lots of options in various sizes and colors.
Do Dahlias Come Back Year After Year?
Dahlias are tropical flowers, and when they’re grown in warmer climate areas, they tend to survive for several years. Dahlias are not frost hardy, however, so if you don’t live in a tropical climate region, you will need to dig up the tubers and store them indoors over the winter if you want to bring them back the following year. The process of removing and storing the dahlia tubers is not a tough task at all.
Removing Dahlia Tubers and Preparing Them For Winter Storage
If you grew your dahlia flowers in a container, there’s no need to dig up the bulbs to store them indoors as you can simply move the container inside when the temperature starts to dip nearer to frost. First, trim back the foliage to encourage new healthy growth. Next, bring your dahlias indoors and store them in a cool, dry place until spring comes around again.
If you planted your dahlias directly in your garden beds, follow these four steps to store them safely so that you can bring them back next year.
- Once the winter weather has killed off the foliage and turned it black and the plant appears dormant, dig up the tubers.
- Shake or brush off any excess dirt particles clinging to the tubers, keeping only the dirt needed to keep the clump of tubers intact.
- Completely remove any remaining stems and leaves from the tubers.
- If the bulbs are small, you can store them immediately. Larger bulbs need to be left out to dry before storing (a process also known as curing). This step is needed to prevent excess moisture from causing tuber contamination, such as fungal and bacterial growth or mildew.
That’s all you need to do to prepare your tubers for winter storage. You should now have a large clump of tubers that are connected to each other by the root system of the original plant. There’s no need to rinse the tubers or to separate them for winter storage. Leave each plant’s tubers in a large clump with a small amount of dirt that helps keep the clump from breaking apart. Once the larger tubers are completely dry to the touch, the clump is ready to store.
Methods of Winter Storage for Dahlia Bulbs
Storing your dahlia tubers is a very simple task, and there are several ways to do it. The easiest way is to simply place the tuber clumps inside of a paper bag. The bag should then be stored in a cool, dark place, such as a cabinet or shelf in the basement of your home. This method is fine for large bulbs, but small dahlia bulbs are in danger of drying out completely during the winter when stored this way, rendering them (and your efforts) useless.
The safest method is a little bit more time consuming but will give your dahlias the best chance of success when you replant them next spring. All you will need is a cardboard box and packing material that’s dry to slightly moist, such as sawdust, pet bedding, peat moss, coconut coir, or a mix of equal parts vermiculite and perlite. Whatever you have on hand or is the least drain on your funds will work fine. Follow these steps to make your own dahlia tuber storage box.
- Line the bottom of the box with newspaper topped by a generous layer of packing material.
- Now it’s time to put the tubers inside the storage box. If you are only storing one clump of tubers, you may want to add even more packing material to the bottom layer so that the clump will sit near the center of the box and is supported equally on all sides by the packing material. Place the clump in the middle of the box.
- If you have a good collection of dahlias, you probably have a lot more than one clump of tubers in need of storage. Storing multiple clumps in one box is perfectly fine, but try to arrange the tuber clumps so that they are not touching one another.
- Fill the box with your packing material so that the bulbs are covered completely, then close the box.
- House the box of dahlia bulb clumps in a cool, dry location where the temperature level never drops below freezing. Choose with care: If the temperature drops too low, your bulbs could die. If the temperature becomes too warm, your bulbs could rot.
Another storage method that is popular among gardeners is to keep the tubers in trays packed with either peat moss or sand. These trays should be kept in areas that stay around 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also store trays of tubers in a heavy plastic bag with packing material, such as peat or perlite. If you use a heavy plastic bag, make sure to leave it partially open so that moisture can escape to help avoid mildew and rot.
Whatever you do, don’t store your dahlia tubers in sealed plastic containers. Avoid using light plastic bags, plastic trash receptacles, or plastic bins to store your tubers over the winter. Light plastic containers, especially when sealed, tend to trap excess moisture inside, and dahlia bulbs need to remain cool and dry during the winter months.
A Styrofoam ice chest or any type of Styrofoam container will also serve wonderfully for storing tubers over winter, and you may already have a container you can use. Keep the dahlia roots separated from each other using perlite, peat moss, or cedar chips. Some gardeners suggest using a fungicide to lightly dust the tubers before storing them to prevent fungal infections and to help fend off rotting.
No matter what method of storage you choose or what container you store them in, you will want to keep an eye on your tubers, checking occasionally to be sure that none of them have begun to soften and rot. If you notice signs of rot, remove and discard any rotting tubers immediately so that the problem doesn’t spread and ruin all of your bulbs.
Videos About Growing Dahlia Flowers
If you really want to know the correct way to grow and care for dahlia flowers, the best way to get an advantage is to learn from other gardeners who have experience growing dahlias themselves. The following three videos give you the tips and tricks of three different gardeners who have experience with growing dahlia flowers.
YouTube Gardener Lew Whitney’s Secrets to Growing and Maintaining Dahlias:
YouTube Gardener Shirley Bovshow’s Tips For Growing Dahlias:
YouTube Gardening Duo “The Dahliaholics,” How Geoff and Heather Grow Dahlias:
This short how-to guide teaches you how to easily propagate dahlia flowers from cuttings:
Overwhelmed by the many varieties of the dahlia flower? This video breaks down the different types of dahlias that you can plant to beautify your flower garden:
Once you know what type of blooms you like the best, you can start picking out the specific varieties that you want to grow this season. This slideshow provides 75 different species of dahlia blooms to help you choose when it’s time to order seeds:
Want to Learn More About Growing Dahlia Flowers?
The following link will take you to Gardening Channel’s very own in-depth how-to guide to growing dahlia flowers.