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Fall Dahlia Care – What to do now

Posted on: October 22nd, 2020 by Aimee Sherrill

#1 best advice we can give for fall dahlia care, is to let them go through a freeze.

 Why do I have to let them freeze first:

Dahlias need to feel a freeze in order to properly go dormant and cure their tubers.

When you let your dahlias freeze in the fall, that tells the plant, “OK, it’s time to go dormant for the winter.” The stalks turn black, their skins are thickening up underground and they are preparing themselves for winter.  Dahlias dug too early have thin skins and typically do not survive the winter. They may look alright now, but usually by spring, they have shriveled to an unusable tuber.

If you HAVE had a freeze:

Wait until your dahlia foliage looks like this before digging in the fall

Wait at least 1-2 weeks after the freeze, before you dig your dahlias.  Do not cut the stalks down, that only opens up the hollow stem for water to collect and freeze and re-freeze possibly damaging your tubers.  It’s better to leave the stalk sealed with the stem so that doesn’t happen.  Do not rinse your dahlias, just tap the dirt off.  Dahlias sprayed with cold water after they’re dug are really difficult to dry out enough before you put them away for winter.

If you HAVE NOT had a freeze:

Let Mother Nature do her work and let your dahlias freeze in the garden.  Don’t cut them down, leave them intact and wait for the freeze.  Wait at least one week after a freeze to dig your dahlias.  If you haven’t had a freeze by mid November, you’re safe to dig at that time.

What If I don’t get a freeze in my area:

This would apply to southern states in warmer climates that may never get a ‘hard’ freeze.  Here’s what to do:  Early November, start to withhold water and let the soil dry out.  Your dahlias will start to look tired, mid November dig them up and store them for winter.  If you have an old refrigerator in the garage, divide them and store them in the fridge.  All dahlias appreciate some dormant time in the late fall and winter.  In March, you can replant when you typically do.

Why don’t I cut them down yet?

It’s best to leave the stalk intact and do not cut down if they have not felt a freeze yet.  When you cut into a dahlia stalk, you will see that the stem is hollow.  If water gets into the stem and freezes, then refreezes it can damage the tubers.  It’s best to leave them intact and sealed up so that doesn’t happen.

Do I rinse off the tubers?:

We always advise to NOT RINSE your tubers with a spray hose, just tap the dirt off.  Rinsing makes it incredibly difficult to get them dry enough for winter storage, which is a key factor in getting your dahlias to survive winter storage.  If they are wet, they will rot !  And there is no saving a rotten tuber.

Do I really have to dig up my dahlias?:

If you don’t wish to dig your dahlias, that’s ok too.  For some people that just have a few growing in their yard and they are not too thrilled with the idea of digging, we

Digging Dahlias

Digging Dahlias

always say, “Well, cut them down after they have frozen, mulch them, if they come back, Great! if they don’t, oh well just get yourself a few new tubers.”  Sometimes it’s more work that just picking up a few new tubers in the spring.

Winter Dahlia Storage

The most important tips are:

  1. Make sure they freeze in the garden.

  2. Once dug up, make sure they never freeze wherever they are stored.  An attached garage is usually pretty safe.  Unheated outbuildings typically will freeze and wouldn’t be a good choice for storage.

  3. Make sure they are VERY dry before they go into storage.

 Storage options:

  1. Store in clump form or divided in a cardboard box lined with newspaper, with the dahlias buried in peat moss., this will give them added protection in storage.  Use the cardboard box lined with newspaper, add a layer of peat moss, add a layer of dahlias, another layer of peat moss, etc until the box is full.  This gives you an Box of Tubersadded layer of protection from freezing and keeps humidity higher.

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:

When is the best time to order dahlias from your farm:

NOW IS THE BEST TIME to order dahlia tubers, please take a look at our bulbs and perennials too.  Begonias, Peony, Hosta and other Shade Perennials and Sun Perennials

Thank you.  We hope you have a successful dahlia harvest in 2020.

2 Responses

  1. John says:

    We have had good luck over the last couple years wrapping the tubers up in plastic wrap. I’d say we have 70-80% pull through and have been pleased. We don’t have much room so wrapping in plastic also saves space.

  2. Annu says:

    Thanks for the sharing informative article.

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