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Winter Storage & Dividing Dahlias

Posted on: November 25th, 2017 by Aimee Sherrill

Now that dahlia season is done, its time to dig up your dahlias and store them over winter, if you live in an area that has harsher, freezing winters.

By mid November, if you haven’t had a freeze, it is safe to dig up your dahlias at this time.

Do I really have to dig up my dahlias?:

We always recommend that you dig your dahlias every fall for a few reasons.

1 – Dahlias are tender and will not survive harsh, freezing winters with frozen soil.

2 – Digging and dividing your dahlias over winter will keep your dahlias healthier and stronger than the ones left in the ground.  Dahlias left in the ground year after year, will create a massive tuber clump that will send up many week, unproductive stalks.

3 – It’s a chance to save your favorite dahlias and build your stock up!

If you live in an area that does NOT have harsh, freezing winters you may be able to leave your dahlias in the ground.  In mid November, cut the stalks down low enough to the ground to where the stalk is not hollow.  This will keep the water from getting into the hollow stalk and freezing, and re-freezing your dahlias.  Add a layer of mulch such as straw, grass clippings, leaves or compost to insulate the ground.  Remove the mulch in March so the soil can begin to warm up.

 Digging Dahlias:

 Use a digging fork, pitch fork, shovel, whatever works best for you.  Start back about 12″ from the stalk and start to dig, working your way around, get under the dahlia clump and lift up.  Tap off the dirt with your shovel, do not rinse your dahlias.  We find that it’s rinsed tubers sometimes have a tendency to shrivel in winter storage and it’s extremely difficult to get them dry enough before storing for winter.  If your dahlia tubers are wet, they will rot and there is no saving a rotten tuber.

Winter Dahlia Storage

There are many different ways to store your dahlias.

The most important tips are:

  1. The ideal temperature is around 40-50 degrees. An attached garage is usually safe.  Unheated outbuildings typically will freeze and aren’t a good choice for storage.

  2. Once dug up, make sure they never freeze wherever they are stored.

  3. Make sure they are dry before they go into storage.  Tap the dirt off the clump, do not rinse.

Do I divide in the fall or the spring?:

Either one is fine, in the fall they are easier to cut, in the spring the eyes may be easier to see, but they will be tougher and harder to cut.  We start dividing in the fall and continue through late February.

Storage options are:

Colder Climates – usually need added protection when storing.  If you want to use the cardboard box lined with newspaper method, add a layer of peat moss, add a layer of dahlias, another layer of peat moss, etc until the box is full.  This can give you an added layer of protection from freezing and keeps humidity higher.

If you want to store your dahlias while they are still in clumps, you can use this method too.  Layer of peat moss, layer of dahlias in clumps, peat moss, etc.

Keep the temperature at 40-50 degrees at all times during winter storage. The humidity should be kept medium-high to keep tubers from drying and shriveling. Check your tubers monthly during winter storage.  See our ‘Dahlia Care’ page for more detailed information.

Dividing Dahlias:

We recommend that you divide your dahlia tubers at some point during the winter.  Here is a helpful video created by us to help you with dividing your dahlias:

We are having our Annual Shop Small Sale – The entire website is 15% off now through Cyber Monday.  We hope you had a successful dahlia harvest in 2017.  Thank you!

3 Responses

  1. Dee Dee Bach says:

    Thank you so much for sending this. I was out today digging up my Dahlias, I live on Camano Island, WA. My husband was helping me (I should say trying too). He looked up on line what to do and they talked all about washing them, using bleach or fungicide. I was thinking to myself “I don’t know”. My husband said this is too much work, just leave them in the ground. I’m glad I told him that today I’m just going to get them out of the ground and I will research more. I invested a lot in dahlias this year and I want to protect them. I watched the videos, again thank you!!!

    • Hello – We recommend just tapping the dirt off and skipping the washing. The only time you would use bleach is if you had a big problem with fungus during the growing season. If you did, then soaking them in a bleach solution will kill any overwintering fungus. Store in an area that doesn’t freeze, like an attached garage. Thanks so much!

  2. wonderful post, very informative. I’m wondering why the other specialists of this sector don’t understand this.
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