The basics in storing dahlia tubers

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When the cooler weather arrives, it’s time to start thinking about how to store dahlia tubers. Dahlias are a beautiful addition to any garden, and with the right care, they will last for many years.

To store dahlia tubers, first, dig them out of the soil and set them out to dry for a couple of days. Brush off excess dirt. Place them in a bedding of sawdust or peat moss inside a breathable container such as a wooden crate, cardboard flat, or milk crate. Then place the storage container in a cool location at around 40°F to 45°F (4°C to 7°C). Check the roots every few weeks and remove any that are starting to show signs of rot.

There are some important details to remember when storing dahlia tubers so that you can enjoy the beauty of dahlia flowers in your summer garden year after year!

Check the roots for signs of rot before storing them

How to lift dahlia tubers from the soil?

Prior to storage, dahlia tubers must be taken out of the ground.

Dig up dahlia tubers after the aboveground portion has yellowed or has been hit by frost, but before the ground has frozen.

Sunset Western Garden, p. 279

It is important to follow this timeline and keep the dahlia plant in the ground until it dies back naturally to allow for the most mature tubers to grow. As individual tubers mature, they will store better and be far more usable for the next growing season (University of New Hampshire Extension).

For other November gardening tips, click here!

Digging up dahlias in the fall

When digging the tuber clump out of the ground, avoid damaging them as much as possible! Any damage to a tuber will allow an entryway for disease and lower the likelihood of successful replanting in the spring.

An excellent way to avoid this is to carefully dig a 2-foot-wide hole around the plant and loosen the soil with a fork. Gently work the soil away from the mass of dahlia tubers below the main stem. Carefully separate out the tubers from the surrounding soil. Brush off any large dirt clods before setting the tubers out to dry.

Learn more about digging up dahlia tubers here.

Dahlia tubers after digging them up

Storing dahlia tubers

Overwintering dahlia tubers is an excellent way to preserve your favorite dahlia variety for the next growing season. When getting your tubers ready for winter storage, you must consider how to prepare them, what to store them in, where to keep them, and how long they can be kept in winter storage.

How should I prepare the dahlia tubers for storage?

Once dug up, let the dahlia tubers dry in the sun to reduce excess moisture before storing them. Continue to brush off excess soil as they dry in the sun.

Living in a chilly location where the temperatures drop to near freezing? No problem! Dahlia tubers can be dried indoors outside of direct sunlight as long as the air isn’t too high in humidity. Find a spot where you can maintain a temperature of 60°F – 70°F (16°C – 21°C) for a few days for the tubers to dry.

Drying dahlia roots before storing them for winter

What can you store dahlia tubers in?

Once dried, the dahlia tubers can be placed in your container for storage. You can store them in a wooden crate, cardboard box, or even a plastic tub. Just don’t seal them up tightly, as they need to breathe a bit in storage.

Dry tubers can be stored inside this dry container surrounded with airy bedding of sawdust, peat moss, dry sand, wood shavings, or chips.

Be sure to label the storage container with the name of the plant and the date it was stored.

Storing dahlias in a milk crate

Where should dahlia tubers be stored?

Store tubers in a cool, dry, dark location with an ideal storage temperature of around 40°F to 45°F (4°C to 7°C). This could be a cool corner of a garage, basement, root cellar, or workshop. Avoid storing them in an area that is exposed to freezing temperatures, as this can damage the tuber.

If your available storage location is particularly dry, you may wish to moisten the storage medium slightly. Be aware that too much moisture will cause rotting tubers, so be careful!

Sprouting a dahlia indoors in early spring

How long can dahlia tubers be stored?

Dahlia tubers can be stored for several months but should be checked on throughout the winter. Check your tubers in storage every couple of weeks or at least once a month.

Look for any signs of softness or rot. Promptly remove any tubers with signs of rot or mold before it spreads to the rest of the roots.

Also, check for signs of growth, such as new leaves or stems. Growth may indicate the storage temperature is too warm and that the plants have come out of winter dormancy.

Healthy tubers can be replanted outdoors in the spring as a part of next season’s plants. For a head start, plant them indoors in soil and let them sprout during the early spring before transplanting them outside when warmer temperatures allow.

FAQs

What supplies and gardening tools are required to store dahlia tubers?

To lift the tuber clumps you will need a shovel, garden fork or spade to dig up the tubers. Once the entire tuber is out of the ground, a tarp or drop cloth is handy to have to dry them out. You may also need a broom to clean up the dried soil left behind.

For storage, it is important to have large containers, plastic bins, milk crates or other containers filled with a bedding of sawdust, wood chips, peat moss, dry sand and wood shavings.

What is a dahlia tuber?

A dahlia tuber is the thick, fleshy root of the plant that stores all the nutrients and water the plant needs to survive.

When the plant dies back to the soil line in the fall, the tuber is all that remains of the plant. These tuberous roots can be replanted in the spring to grow dahlia flowers again.

Dahlia tubers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; however, tuber size increases with ideal growing conditions. Colder climates and lower amounts of sunlight will result in a smaller tuber clump, and fewer tubers will be produced per plant.

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Dahlia tubers

Resources

References

Love to grow dahlias?

We’ve got tons of articles about specialty dahlia varieties, different color categories, and tips for growing these gorgeous flowers.

Tanisha Juneja
Tanisha Juneja

Tanisha Juneja is a plant-loving, business student attending Western University in London, Ontario. She enjoys reading (especially fiction novels), baking, and spending time with family and friends.

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