Dahlias are easily the stars of the summer flower garden; covered with enormous and flashy blossoms from midsummer into the fall. But these natives of Mexico grow from tubers that can’t tolerate freezing temperatures. The tubers must not stay in the ground over the winter in any but the warmest growing regions. But that doesn’t mean you have to say good-bye to your dahlias at summer’s end. It is easy to dig up the tubers and store them for the winter so they’ll be ready to plant come spring. Here’s how:
Digging up the Tubers
1. You want to make sure to get the dahlia tubers out of the ground before the first frost. A good time to think about digging is when the plants start to die back at summer’s end.
2. Cut the dahlia plant back until only two to three inches (5 to 8 centimeters) remain above ground.
3. Dig with a shovel or pitchfork around the base of the plant being careful not to nick the tuber or cut the roots.
4. Lift the tuber with attached roots from the ground and gently shake the dirt from it.
5. Rinse the tubers with water from a garden hose, careful not to pierce the tuber’s skin. Use a sharp knife to cut away rotted sections.
Drying and Storing the Tubers
Dry the tubers for several weeks, if possible, by setting them out in a place, inside or out, that won’t freeze, gets some indirect sun, and has good air circulation. When done drying, cut away the remains of the base of the plant.
Store the tubers until spring in a cool, dark place that doesn’t freeze. You will continue to want to make sure there’s good air circulation, and that the tubers stay dry. Paper bags, cardboard boxes, milk crates, and wooden crates make good storage containers, just make sure air can move in them. These can be stored in a cool basement, attic, or garage until spring.
With a little help from you, your dahlias can bloom and re-bloom year after year. This fall, simply follow these steps for digging up and storing dahlia bulbs. When spring rolls around, you’ll be ready to replant them for another season of stellar beauty.
Did you know that Dahlias make great potted plants? Learn more about growing plants in containers here.