Saving Dahlia Tubers

Sep 25, 2017 | Gardens

In the fall the dahlia’s are the best flowers in the cutting garden. But even as they are in their glory, it’s time to think about saving them through the winter. Today’s post is about keeping dahlia tubers, when to dig them up and where to store them. 

First of all, let your dahlias flower all though the fall. Keep picking them to stimulate more blooms. The growing season is short so why not enjoy these beautiful flowers for as long as possible? But after the first hard frost, it’s time to dig them up.

Cut the frosted stems and foliage off about eight inches from the ground and pile it in your compost or brush pile. Using a garden fork placed about ten inches from the stalk-stub and push it down to the length of the fork’s tines. Push the handle down to begin lifting the tubers up. Do this in a circle all around the dahlia stalk until the clump of tubers come up easily. Gently shake or brush some of the soil off. 

Some people then use a hose to wash the dirt off the tubers out in the garden, and some dry the clumps with the dirt on. In either case, move the clumps under cover – in a garage or shed that won’t freeze – and let them dry for a week or two. If you’ve left the dirt on, brush it off the tubers at this time.

We store our tubers still in the clumps and wrapped in several layers of newspaper. We put those bundles into cardboard cartons and place them on a shelf in our garage for the winter. Be sure that you’re keeping your tubers in a place where it is cold but not below freezing, so if your garage gets too cold use a cool basement, attic or insulated bulkhead/root cellar. 

When cut dahlia flowers have short stems, display them in small clear glass bottles.

This cartload of dahlia tubers was pulled into the garage. We laid all these clumps of tubers out on a tarp to dry, and then packed them up by rolling each clump in about ten sheets of newspaper.

Tip for success: Don’t put your tubers into storage before they are dry, and don’t store them in a plastic bag or they are likely to mold.

We are still harvesting vegetables from the garden in September, and we’ll continue to pick dahlias until hard frost. 

I can’t end this post without mentioning that my friend and co-host of Plantrama, Ellen Zachos, will tell you that you should pack some of your tubers away but others should be brought into the kitchen! Yes, dahlia tubers are edible and can be, for example, grated and baked into quick bread.  

For more about dahlias, be sure to listen to this episode of Plantrama. You’ll find a link to Ellen’s dahlia tuber bread recipe in the show notes as well.

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