Dahlias forum: determining viability of tubers in the spring

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Name: Bob Randall
Southeastern Massachusetts (Zone 6b)
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PuzzlerBob
Nov 29, 2017 11:42 AM CST
Hello, I'm new here. I'm a retired engineer that appreciates the beauty of dahlias and this is a wonderful community for the gardener. Smiling

This is my second full season planting. I divide the tubers in the fall since the they are moist and cut easily. To increase the flowering season I pot the tubers inside in the early spring. This seems to work well for me. I like many of you, I have hundreds of tubers and of course we never get 100% success. Some varieties cooperate while others have a low yield.

For the sake of space efficiency I was wondering if anyone does a preliminary step to find out which tubers will grow. Some eyes are clearly formed, but there are always those that just don't show growth until you give them moist soil and time.

I was thinking of something like planting them in soil but leaving the crown area exposed so they can be inspected. I was further thinking of doing this in large containers that could hold several tubers tightly but not quite touching each other. The idea is to find out which tuber are viable, and as soon as one shows any growth transplant it into it's own pot. This way I can save a lot of space and not end up with any unproductive pots.

Has anyone done anything like this or have relevant tips?
Name: Frank Richards
Clinton, Michigan (Zone 5b)

Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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frankrichards16
Nov 29, 2017 12:54 PM CST
I always have dahlias that perform well one year and then bad the next year. They seem to be "moody" and I have not been able to figure it out... kind of like kids:)

Those that are consistent under-performers are culled... not like kids:)

I usually plant 2 tubers together so that if one decides to under-perform, maybe the other one will flourish.

I try to move dahlias around from one year to the next, they seem to need movement or new soil.

I usually do not plant any tuber that does not have an eye.

Sometimes the "mother" tuber dies a month or so after planting. When that happens, you usually see stunted or wilted growth for a while and then the plant recovers. However, sometimes the plant does not recover.

I used to plant as early as the weather permitted. Now I wait late. I have other plants to enjoy. And, planting early usually does not make that much of a difference.

I have tried many methods of storing tubers over winter. My method of choice is wrapping cut tubers in saran wrap.




Name: Gary
Wyoming MN (Zone 4a)
hostasmore
Nov 29, 2017 2:24 PM CST
Welcome PuzzlerBob!
When I start observing my dahlia tubers for growth in the spring. I plant them in gallon pots as they emerge. Any that don't show growth are set aside with no soil. I plant those as they start to show growth. Often this will often bed directly into the gardens.
In the black gallon pots they absorb heat and I can easily cover them if late frosts threaten.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Nov 29, 2017 3:29 PM CST
I lay mine out (those that don't have eyes yet) in flats of soil moistened. Quite often they will sprout in that fashion and then I will plant right away. Those that don't produce within a few weeks gets dumped. Probably would help to put a cover on the flat to preserve a little moisture (not too much or they will rot)
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Dahlias Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
pirl
Nov 29, 2017 3:42 PM CST
Welcome @PuzzlerBob - I don't divide since I haven't the eye to spot an eye. They go into plastic bags, unwashed, and stay at 40 - 50 for the winter. When I spot them sending up green shoots in March I bring them to the enclosed, unheated, very sunny porch and can divide with a small garden saw. It's a miracle that I get blooms!
Thumb of 2017-11-29/pirl/7909d5

Name: Geof
NW Wisconsin (Zone 4b)
Region: Wisconsin Dahlias Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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mandolls
Nov 29, 2017 5:44 PM CST
Everyone seems to work out methods that suite them.

When I am ready to wake up my tubers I put them in zip lock baggies of damp potting mix. If there is an obvious eye or sprout, the tuber gets its own baggie, if I cant see anything happening I group them 3-4 of the same type in a baggie, and then check them every 3-4 days. I transfer them to individual baggies as they wake up, (or eventually toss them if they don't). I have had tubers that took over a month to show an eye, but then took off and grew well.

As the sprouts grow, I add more soil, keeping them covered until the zip lock is about 3/4 full, after that I grow them under fluorescent lights, until it warms up enough to start putting them outside.

I like the fact that growing them in zip-locks takes so much less room than pots. I can easily fit 12-14 in a standard tray. When I am ready to plant I can just cut off the baggie with a lot less stress on the roots than pulling them out of pots.

I used to try to get them out as early as possible, but the Japanese beetles have been so bad lately that, its almost better not to have blooms until July./Aug
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Nov 29, 2017 6:07 PM CST
Geof, I like your method. I may try that on those tubers small enough to go into a zip lock. I have quite a few that are simply too big or odd shaped. I know that Dan says you can sort of pare them back to the size you want with no problem and have done so a few times. Doesn't seem to harm them any.

Arlene, you have gorgeous blooms every summer. You must be doing something right. lol
Name: Bob Randall
Southeastern Massachusetts (Zone 6b)
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PuzzlerBob
Nov 30, 2017 3:27 PM CST
Wow! Lot's of good information.

Frank, I'll try the saran wrap method. First I'll dust the tubers with powdered sulphur to make sure I'm not locking in a fungal infection. I divided my tubers two days ago. Hmm. Should I spray them with some water very lightly so the sulphur will coat better? Never coated them before.

Mary + Geof, both of you have had success starting indoors but not in pots, which is basically what I was wondering. Thanks for confirming this.

Geof, do you put any holes in the bottom of those bags? Are the bags left open the entire time, or zipped closed until they show growth? Your method is definitely space efficient.

Name: Geof
NW Wisconsin (Zone 4b)
Region: Wisconsin Dahlias Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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mandolls
Nov 30, 2017 3:33 PM CST
Bob,
I dont zip the baggies, but I do keep them mostly closed until there is growth, then they can be folded back past the zipper, and it gives them a little structure.

I dont put holes in the baggies until I put them outside (the rain can be a problem), I just water very lightly until there is good root growth.

and by the way - I use cinnamon instead of sulfur - it is much more pleasant to work with
Name: Dan
NE Ohio (Zone 6a)
psudan
Nov 30, 2017 5:37 PM CST
I've cut the long tubers down to size more times than I can count .... and not necessarily because I wanted to! It's usually because of my carelessness when digging. LOL I seem to always forget how large those dahlia clumps can grow in just a few months. Incredible! I let the cut heal a bit and dust with copper dust, sulphur or cinnamon. I've had very few problems with them growing.

I love the saran wrap method. The only problem I've had (if you want to call it a problem) is that when the tubers decide to wake up, there's no stopping them. The one in the photo was one of several that had sprouts poking their way through two or more layers of saran. I was very careful trying to cut them out of the wrap but still broke off a few sprouts.

Thumb of 2017-11-30/psudan/b55ec2

Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Nov 30, 2017 5:56 PM CST
Now I need to go downstairs and see how the bags are doing. Not too late to saran some.
Name: Geof
NW Wisconsin (Zone 4b)
Region: Wisconsin Dahlias Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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mandolls
Nov 30, 2017 6:13 PM CST
Dan - I have had the same thing happen - still the sprouts grow back, so not that big an issue.

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