Dahlias forum: Digging & Storing Dahlias

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Name: Frank Richards
Clinton, Michigan

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frankrichards16
Oct 26, 2013 6:46 AM CST
I have been digging and storing tubers for many years. I have tried a ton of different methods. Here is what works best for me:

1. After the first hard frost (Usually mid to late October in Michigan, zone 5), I cut off the tops of the dahlia plants and wait for 1-2 weeks. This allows the tubers to start forming new buds and makes it easier to divide. A tuber with no bud will not grow.

2. Dig up the tubers. If you damage the neck of the any of the tubers, they will probably not save. If you happen to cut a tuber in half, it will normally store just fine.

3. Wash & cut. If the new buds are not clearly visible, you will have to make a best guess. The goal is to have at least one bud per individual tuber.

4. Allow the tubers to dry for 4-6 hours or maybe even over night. I usually do this inside (think shade).

5. Mark each tuber with a permanent marker. If you have trouble doing this, the tubers are probably not dry enough. I abbreviate the Dahlia name.

6. Wrap each tuber in plastic wrap (Saran Wrap). One tuber per sheet makes it easier to deal with in the Spring. However, you can wrap 3 or 4 together making sure each tuber is separated with plastic wrap.

7. Pack the wrapped tubers in bags or boxes and store in a cool dark place (Basement cellar).

8. Settle in for Winter. Sometimes I check the tubers, but most of the time I just wait until Spring planting. If you have any tubers that have spoiled, you can deal with them at that time.

I have currently completed step 1 (yesterday). I only have around 100 tubers to dig this year. I am scaling back. A few years back I peaked at ~300. Too much work:)

I usually do 12-16 tubers per day. I can dig, wash & cut this number and be done by Noon. The tubers are dry by around 6:00 PM, so I complete steps 5-7. I repeat steps 1-7 for several days until I reach step 8. This is the most rewarding step!

A couple of years ago I took photos of the process and posted on flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/50697352@N00/sets/7215760789438...

Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Oct 26, 2013 7:57 AM CST
Very instructive, Frank, thanks! I have always stored in sawdust, I suppose thinking they needed air or something to do with keeping them dry? Your method certainly is a cleaner and more space efficient way. Perhaps I'll try it on my sole remaining dahlia this year, and then get geared up for new starts next season.
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Name: Frank Richards
Clinton, Michigan

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frankrichards16
Oct 26, 2013 11:04 AM CST
I also wanted to mention that my father grew dahlias as well. As a teenager, I remember that he would drag me out to the garden to show me his beautiful dahlias. We lived in Blue Island, Illinois (just south of Chicago). At the time, I was not at all interested:)

At any rate, he would dig up his dahlias and put the entire root ball in the crawl space under the house. I have used this method, but it is not very practical if you have a large number of dahlias. Takes up too much room.
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
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chelle
Oct 26, 2013 12:38 PM CST
This sounds even better. Thumbs up I already store several tender perennials in my crawlspace once they go dormant, and a few more would fit just fine. Big Grin
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Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
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jvdubb
Oct 26, 2013 2:12 PM CST
Thank you Frank for the timely advice! My plan is to dig up my dahlias next weekend. I have never washed mine. I just shake off what dirt I can, let them dry out for a day and then tossed them whole in paper bags. I usually store in my crawl space. Last year when I pulled the bags out from the crawl space the paper bags were covered in green mildew. Most of the tubers seemed to be ok. I had never divided them before and tried to do it in the spring. It was difficult but I kind of figured out how to do it. I did something different this year and started them in pots in a south facing window rather than planting the tubers directly in the ground. It didn't seem to make a difference as far as bloom time.

My dahlias did not do well this year for the most part. I did get some nice blooms. But several rotted in the ground when we had those couple of weeks of so much rain. Many others only grew to a foot or two and never set buds. I am still going to did those up and save them. Hopefully they will do better next year.

I usually just buy my dahlias from Costco. But this year I bought six dahlias from Old House Gardens. They were pricey. But I had always heard good things about them. Well, two rotted in the ground, one finally just made it to a foot tall. Two bloomed just fine. The fifth one bloomed but was not as pictured. It was like a single with the ugly center. No more expensive dahlias for me!

Name: Frank Richards
Clinton, Michigan

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frankrichards16
Oct 26, 2013 3:44 PM CST
I had 3 new dahlias from Old House Gardens this year: Promise, Yellow Gem and Claire de lune. They all did quite well. I do like the heirlooms.

Dahlias are unpredictable. Some years a given variety will do bad, then the next year they do good... for no reason. And, of course, some years they just die.

Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
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jvdubb
Oct 28, 2013 8:13 AM CST
I want to use the saran wrap method but I don't plan on dividing small clumps. Do you think I could still wrap this as a clump?
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Name: Frank Richards
Clinton, Michigan

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frankrichards16
Oct 28, 2013 9:38 AM CST
jvdubb said:I want to use the saran wrap method but I don't plan on dividing small clumps. Do you think I could still wrap this as a clump?
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Sure, but i would cut off most of the stem and roots on the tubers. You might also consider removing the original "mother" tuber. But, maybe not, the remaining tubers do not look that developed.
Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
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jvdubb
Oct 28, 2013 10:05 AM CST
This was one of the ones that pretty much did nothing. I got about a foot of foliage and that is it. I decided against saran. I put it in a paper bag with peat and vermiculite. I will store the bag in a cloth bin in the garage.
Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
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jvdubb
Oct 28, 2013 10:23 AM CST
Just dug this up. Never bloomed. Only got 18" high. I have never seen bumps like this. Should I disgard it?
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Name: Frank Richards
Clinton, Michigan

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frankrichards16
Oct 28, 2013 12:29 PM CST
jvdubb said:Just dug this up. Never bloomed. Only got 18" high. I have never seen bumps like this. Should I disgard it?
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I have had some strange looking tubers over the years. Most of the time I save them and see how they do the next year. A few years ago, my 'Cornel' looked like that. This year, the plant looked great and I see no tuber "bumps".

If i get a dahlia (in the growing season) that looks like it has the dahlia virus, I dig it up and destroy it... you can google for photos of this virus.

I have never stored a "bumpy" looking tuber that resulted in a Dahlia with "dahlia virus" the next year.



Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
Hummingbirder Sedums Winter Sowing Peonies Region: Michigan Garden Ideas: Level 2
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jvdubb
Dec 11, 2013 7:32 PM CST
I just checked my dahlias that I wrapped in saran. They look just like I just put them up for storage. I have the saran clumps in paper bags and the bags in a dark bin.

Originally I had the bin in the garage. But it was getting into the 20s in there. I moved them to the pump room in the basement. I thought it would be perfect temp but my darn husband opened the heat vent in there! Grrrrr. I can't find a good place to store them!
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
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pirl
Dec 11, 2013 7:39 PM CST
Rats! Is there any basement wall that's far from the heat vent?

I should go check the temperature but it's cold in the garage - maybe that's double the reason to check it!
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
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pirl
Dec 11, 2013 7:44 PM CST
Guilt made me check. It's 45 so they're okay. I did pile more blankets on top.
Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
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jvdubb
Dec 11, 2013 8:26 PM CST
Hubby said I could close the vent to the pump room once this super cold snap passes. Its 53 in there, so not too horrible. I checked the crawl space and that is 33, so too cold there. I put a thermometer in another small room that leads to the crawl space. No vent in there. So maybe it will be slightly cooler. We'll see tomorrow.
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
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pirl
Dec 11, 2013 8:29 PM CST
As long as they are snug in their big bag I don't see them warming up fast. Good luck and let us know how they do.
Name: virginiarose
Virginia
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virginiarose
Dec 12, 2013 11:11 AM CST
I agree Yes, keep us informed.
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Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
Hummingbirder Sedums Winter Sowing Peonies Region: Michigan Garden Ideas: Level 2
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jvdubb
Jan 11, 2014 8:29 AM CST
Just checked all my tubers stored in the basement pump room.

Dahlias are looking awesome!!!! @frankrichards16 thank you for publishing a clear description of your method. It clearly is THE best method I have ever used. It may just encourage me to get even more dahlias!! Ah, but then again, I have to wait until summer to see if I divided them correctly and got the eyes Rolling on the floor laughing But even if I didn't I'll figure it out eventually.

My calla lily corms I wrapped in newspaper and tucked the newspaper into open ziplocks. The newspaper was damp and many of the corms have mildew. I took them out and opened the newspaper leaving it on the shelves down there. I'll lose a few but I think they will be ok. I'll have to find a new method for them next year.
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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pirl
Jan 11, 2014 10:36 AM CST
Great news on the dahlias, not great for the calla lilies. I hope you find the ideal way to store them.
Name: Mike
Hazel Crest, IL (Zone 5b)
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Hazelcrestmikeb
Jan 15, 2014 11:02 AM CST
Jennifer, you probably didn't let the calla lily dry long enough before storing. I usually wash mine and let them dry for a few days. I try to sort them by color for planting purposes. I leave them in a plastic tub with a little peat moss. I believe that they are one of the easiest to store.
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