The Q&A Archives: Dahlias

Question: We have a lot of beautiful dahlias for about 5 years now (30 or more). We never took their bulbs out during the winter. Last fall a friend offer to take the bulbs out and separate them for us in exchange of some part of our rarest species. He never showed up and we ended up having them in the ground over the winter again. We are planning on expanding its bed and we need to know if we take them out now (March), separate and replant after the last frost, will they survive?

Answer: We recommend dahlias be dug and stored over the winter months because if the soil stays soggy, the tubers will rot. You've been very lucky - or you have wonderfully well-draining soil! Dahlias can be dug and divided now, then replanted. I usually plant mine in May, after the soil has warmed. It's been such a mild winter, I don't think there will be another frost, and am banking that tubers can go into the garden much earlier than usual.

If you've never divided dahlia tubers before, you're in for a real education! The tubers grow from a single stem and are arranged like the spokes of a wheel. When you dig, dig carefully and try to remove the entire clump all together. Divide by cutting each tuber away from the stem, leaving some of the stem. The bud, or eye, that will produce a new stem will be near the top (narrow end) of the tuber, just below where it's attached to the old stem. Be careful when cutting each tuber away from the old stem so you don't damage the bud.

Amend the bed with some organic matter before you replant, and place a stake in the hole as you plant so you can tie the stem up as it grows.

They should grow and bloom beautifully for you this summer!

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