Keep Your Dahlias Blooming Year After Year No Matter What Zone You're Gardening In
Dahlias are native to Mexico so they won’t survive the freezing temperatures that many North American gardens experience. Digging up and storing dahlias is easy if you follow a few simple tips.
When to Dig Up Dahlias
If you live in an area where the ground freezes, you’ll want to dig up your dahlias tubers before there is a hard frost. A good indication of when to dig your tubers up is when the plant starts to turn brown and die back.
If you live in an area where your ground doesn’t freeze – such as parts of California and Florida – you’re lucky! Your dahlias can be grown as perennials and you don’t need to worry about digging and storing them for winter.
Digging Up Dahlias for the Winter
- Wait until after the first frost. You can dig them sooner, for example as the foliage starts to turn brown and die back, but not much later than the first frost since if the roots freeze they die.
- Cut off the leaves and stems until only a couple of inches remain above the ground.
- Dig around the tubers. Be careful not to sever the roots. Digging with a pitchfork makes it easier to dig up the tubers without cutting the roots.
- Shake loose dirt off each tuber. Then gently wash off remaining dirt in a bucket of water or with a hose. Make sure not to puncture the skin of your tubers as this could cause them to rot over the winter months in storage.
- Examine your tubers to make sure there are no rotten parts. If there are, cut those parts off.
- If the tubers have several eyes, you can divide them now. Use a sharp knife to divide tubers and make sure each piece has at least one eye.
Drying Dahlia Tubers in Preparation for Storage
If possible, dry your dahlias for several weeks before storing them. This helps to prevent rot. Choose a location that won’t dip below freezing, has good air circulation, and indirect sunlight and lay out the tubers so they don’t touch each other. After your tubers have dried, cut back the rest of the dahlia stem with pruners.
Storing Your Dahlia Tubers
You can store dried, trimmed dahlia tubers for the winter in a variety of containers: milk crates, plastic bins, papers bags, and cardboard boxes all work well. Be sure to leave space between the tubers. Put the container of dahlia tubers in a cool, dark, dry place with good air circulation. Be sure it will not freeze. Good choices include unheated basements, attics, closets, or utility rooms.
Replanting Dahlias in the Spring
Once ground temperatures have warmed it’s time to replant your beloved dahlias! Wait until there is NO longer a chance of frost. Bring your tubers out of storage and bury them shallowly, eyes up, in nutrient-rich fertile soil. Watch for them to reappear, then water regularly. (Dead rhizomes look dead; they become a paper husk or dramatically mushy.)
By following these easy steps, you can replant your dahlias spring after spring for a bold, beautiful garden!