Winter storage of dahlia bulbs: excavation, division and storage

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You may be one of those lucky souls Who stored their dahlia bulbs Year after year, the loss is small. Unfortunately, every winter, many roots are lost due to decay and excessive wilting followed by decay.


Driving along country roads in autumn, dahlia plants can be seen in open areas, many of which tell a story. In many gardens, the flowers are:

  • They are all the same color.
  • The same variety.
  • A few years ago, gardeners started out as the only survivors of more than a dozen types.

Except for this, its tenacious roots can almost be thrown in any remote basement corner in autumn and sprout in spring.

Years ago, a wholesale grower packed thousands of roots for retail trade, asked him about his recommended storage method, and sent me a printed copy of his cultural description, along with a short note.

The content is as follows…

“You will notice that I didn’t include anything about storage. This is because losing roots makes business prosperous.”

Anyway, candid.

With the same frankness, my correspondent might write: “It is difficult to develop a standard method that can be successfully operated across the country and under the different facilities of individual growers. We just don’t try it.”

In California, during dormancy, the roots can be stored on the ground at any sheltered point. In Minnesota, the growing season is short and winters are cold, and the problems vary.

Plants should mature

However, we can provide some tips for storing dahlia tubers. The beginning of successful storage was the previous spring in the garden. Properly stored tubers must be fully mature, so plant them as soon as possible and delay growth when the weather permits.

In areas where frost is a tourist in the fall, excavations usually wait for the event to occur. Without delay, cut off the severed stem within a few inches of the ground. A pair of long-handled scissors is ideal for this purpose.

If the stem is allowed to stand upright, the liquid composed of sap and decayed plant tissue will flow from the inside of the stem to the root cap, which is usually the source of decay. After cutting off the stalks, leave the clumps in the ground for about a week, which is good for the previous storage.

When lifting the clump, make a second cut, this time cutting the stalks to within one to two inches of the canopy. If the diameter is one and a half inches or more, divide it in two.

related: Questions about growing dahlia bulbs

Leave the ground, dirt or soil

If your soil adheres to the clumps, leaving it on is one of the best ways to ensure good storage. After digging, let the clumps dry on the garage floor for a few days.

This is called the “curing” process. The length of this curing time depends on the ground conditions at the time of excavation. If it gets wet from the rain, it will take longer. Don’t separate the clumps in the fall. Wait till spring.

Packaging or storage medium

Various packaging and storage media, such as sand, vermiculite, peat moss, sawdust and wood shavings, are used to reduce evaporation and subsequent root drying. Among them, vermiculite has proven to be satisfactory.

Some dahlia growers leave soil on it. Others use a garden hose or a bucket of water to wash off excess dirt from the clumps.

For those who are storing roots for the first time and want to use them safely, it is recommended to try one of them in the main part of their roots. We recommend trying one of the methods mentioned below, which omits any packaging materials in the rest.

When soil is left on the clumps or packaging medium is added, it means that the floor is very dirty in autumn and spring. In addition, it increases the work of packing and unpacking.

The vast majority of commercial growers and fanciers do not use such products.

If you are lucky enough to have a cold or unheated basement, store the uncovered clumps in empty jars or cardboard boxes placed on the ground. However, if it happens to be a fruit storage room with a cement floor, a bucket or tray of water should provide the necessary humidity.

Or you can keep the floor moist. If neither is available, store it on the floor in the coolest part of the basement. Please note that we say “on the floor” because this is the place with the highest humidity. To this end, flower pots or cardboard boxes are lined and covered with newspapers of several thicknesses.

The key is humidity

Store dahlia roots in a temperature range from slightly above zero to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Although there has been a preference for lower temperatures in the past, recent experiments have shown that higher temperatures can obtain more reliable results.

The trick is to provide the right amount of humidity. Overdose at low temperatures can cause greater harm than at high temperatures.

After 30 days of storage, take a look at their performance. If you find any mold or rot, increase air circulation. If shrinkage of some roots is detected, add a little water and make sure that the mulch is reasonably airtight.

They probably do not need to pay more attention to winter balance. Remember, no storage method is 100% effective. Expect some losses in the “poor breeder”.

For this reason, it is best to keep various identification tags on your root so that you can identify anything that is missing. One of them may be your favorite, and you want to replace it.


Autumn dahlia care

When autumn comes and the frost has killed the leaves, it is time to consider digging dahlia tubers. Within a week after defrosting, cut the top to the ground. Then let the stem bleed for at least a week before digging.

Now you are ready for the actual operation. Grab a shovel, garden fork, or shovel, and use the one that is most convenient for you, and carefully pry up the plant from all directions.

Next, carefully lift the dahlia bush and cut the stem about two inches above the crown. Let the dahlia tubers dry in the sun and air for about a day. Some soil may stick to the clumps, but it can be easily removed by tapping the ends of the cut stems with a trowel, wooden block, or any heavy object.

Some breeds are poor winter breeders, and some breeds are good, but there is no need to separate the two breeds well. However, if the tuber falls off, you should thoroughly sprinkle sulfur on the wound to prevent rot.

If any tubers are injured, use a clean, sharp incision and sulfur to remove the damaged part.

In actual storage, put paper in the storage container, preferably waterproof. Then put in a layer of tubers, being careful not to touch, cover with vermiculite, almost dry peat moss or sawdust, then put in another layer of tubers and cover them completely. Finally, split the largest clump to facilitate packing.

By JR Berry

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