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Helpful Tips for Dahlia Care in Winter

Posted on: November 20th, 2015 by Aimee Sherrill

We hope everyone had a great growing season and your dahlias gave you armloads of blooms all season.  For most parts of the country, we have reached the time of year where it’s time to dig and store your dahlias for winter.  The calendar says we are still in the fall season, but winter conditions will hit hard over the last couple weeks.  In areas of freezing winters, dahlias typically will not survive frozen soils or soggy soils.  To protect your dahlias, it’s best to dig in the fall and store for winter.

If you’ve had a freeze, it’s time to dig :

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

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

The challenges with dahlias is that they need to feel a freeze in order to properly end the season and cure their tubers. When we let our dahlias freeze in the fall, that tells the plant, “OK, it’s time to go to sleep for the winter.”  Then the stalks turn black, the energy is returned to the tubers and the tuber skins begin to thicken as the tubers are preparing themselves for winter.  If you haven’t had a freeze, you’re safe to dig by the middle of November. They have felt enough cold now and the skins of the tubers have thickened.  Dig your clump out of the ground with a shovel or a pitchfork.  Lift the clump out of the soil and tap the dirt off, most of the dirt will fall off.  If it’s still clumped on the tuber, set aside for a few days to let dry, then tap again to remove most of the soil.  If there still is some soil remaining on the tuber clump, that is OK.  It will provide the clump with some moisture and humidity for storage.

We always advise to NOT RINSE your tubers with a spray hose, just tap the dirt off.  We see many websites that say to rinse your tubers and we do not agree.  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.

We’ve just completed our harvest and are happy to report it was outstanding this year.  We were lucky enough to miss the weather.  Above you will see the flooded garden picture, we received massive rains just a few days after we finished digging.

Winter Dahlia Storage

There are many different ways to store your dahlias.

The most important tips are:

  1. Make sure they freeze in the garden and the stalks turn black before they are dug up.  During this time, the skins are thickening and they are preparing themselves for winter.  Dahlias dug too early typically will not store over winter.

  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 dry before they go into storage.

 Storage options are:

  1. Store in clump form or divided loose in paper bags or cardboard boxes lined with newspaper.

  2. 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 can give you an added 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:

15% off Sale – Small Business Saturday to Cyber Monday.  The entire website will be 15% off.  We rarely ever have sales, this will be the only one of the entire year !!

We hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.  We leave you with a few of our favorite pictures from our 2015 farming season !

6 Responses

  1. Sharon Kilbourn says:

    Thanks for the info. I dug my dahlias before the freeze, rinsed them off –
    did everything wrong so hope some of them survive. I did dry them well and
    they’re stored in our garage in paper bags. TX again – I’ll do it different
    next year. Sharon Kilbourn

  2. Arlene Z. Ryan says:

    Thanks for great advice. Loved all the photos, especially Lauren…the selfie “not so much”! LOL

    I dug the 60 dahlias all of last week and will bring them to the garage tomorrow. Thanks for the very timely tip about not leaving them outside. We’re due for our first frost tomorrow night so it was the perfect tip at the perfect time.

    I never knew you grew begonias!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Marcia says:

    Of course I got on the internet and found that website that said to wash them. I washed about half and then packed in sawdust in two wooden boxes. We shall see. I thought mine looked dehydrated, shriveled. I’m in a cold climate but I have not seen a freeze inside the garage.

  4. george smith says:

    I just dug my Dahlias on Black Friday, 11-27-15. This is my 3rd and best year for growing Dahlias. I owe my growing success to the advise and growing tips from Aimee. Looking forward to 2016 season.

  5. Callie Redfield says:

    We are in a cold dry climate. The dahlas I orderd (not from you) last spring arrived before it was warm enough to plant. As instructed, I put them in paer bags to wait but many shrivled up in the month or so before I planted them. How can I keep they humdity in balance for the winter? Thanks. Callie

    • Storing them in peat moss will help hold the humidity in. The tubers you received may have been dug too early in the fall, that’s what happens when they shrivel in the spring, they were dug too early and weren’t given time to properly harden off. Thanks!!

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