You say that you loved your dahlia flowers all summer and fall and now you want to know how to save the plants for next season? We’re here to help! Keeping dahlias from year to year isn’t difficult…here’s what you need to do:
1. Dig your dahlia plants up after the frost wilts the tops of the plants. It works best to use a garden fork but a shovel is OK too…be sure to stick your tool into the ground about twelve inches or more away from the dahlia stalks so that you don’t cut into the tubers. Push the fork or shovel down deeply and lift on one side of the plant to loosen tubers. Place the tool on the opposite side and do the same, this time lifting the tubers out of the ground.
2. Shake as much dirt as possible off of the tubers and cut off the stems. Place these on a tarp or newspaper in a covered area so that they can dry for a couple of weeks out of the weather. If you want to keep track of which plant is a particular color, write the colors on the tuber with a Sharpie marker.
3. After the clumps and remaining soil have dried, brush off as much soil as possible without damaging the tubers. Wrap the clumps in layers of newspaper and put them in paper bags or cardboard boxes. You can also put a layer of dry potting soil, peat, or sawdust in a box and place the tubers on top, filling the box with the same material to surround the dahlia roots. The idea is to surround the tubers with something that will help keep the moisture in the roots but won’t promote rot or mold. Don’t wrap with plastic as this doesn’t breathe and the roots can rot.
4. Store your boxes or bags in a place where it’s cold but doesn’t go below freezing. An attached, unheated garage, cold basement, or cool closet is good but an unheated shed would get too cold. If the tubers freeze they won’t be good next spring. Hint: if you’re unsure how cold your attached garage gets, store your tubers up high instead of on the floor. Since heat rises the areas near the ceiling will stay warmer than the ground.
5. Unwrap your tubers in May after all danger of frost has passed. Some will have sprouts already growing, so be careful not to break those off. Cut the tubers apart but don’t cut any individual tuber in half. Whenever possible preserve the “stem” end of the tuber that attaches it to the main clump since growth often comes from this area. Each of these will grow into another large clump of tubers over the summer, so you should have plenty of dahlias to share!
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