Did you grow big, beautiful dahlias this past summer and want to keep them for next season?

If you love growing dahlias and want to ensure your dahlia collection remains strong you will want to dig and store your dahlia tubers for next season. Here are 5 easy steps to storing your dahlia tubers for winter.

5 Steps to Storing Dahlias for Winter

  1. Dig Up Dahlias Before a Hard Frost

    Park Princess DahliaThe tubers of dahlias will tolerate a light frost, however, they will not survive a hard killing freeze. A killing frost or freeze occurs when temperatures are below 28 degrees for a duration of hours or days, whereas a light frost may only be a couple of hours of temperatures below 32 degrees. The plants may suffer damage to their leaves or flowers in a light frost, but essential parts of the plant will be unaffected. Therefore, when the fall season has arrived and the first light frost occurs this is a time to start planning to dig your dahlias. Once your dahlias start dying off for the season (usually have a light frost or two) this is a good sign they are ready to be dug.

  2. Time to Dig

    Your dahlias are most likely fairly tall and bushy at this point. To start the process of digging the tubers up you will want to first cut back the stems to about 4” above the ground. Using a sharp spade or shovel carefully dig up the tubers using caution to not dig directly into the tubers. You will want to start the digging at least 12” from the stem to be sure to preserve and save the majority of the tubers.

  3. Clean and Dry

    Dahlia Tubers

    Now that your dahlias have been dug up remove any soil that remains on the tubers by shaking them off. There is no need to wash the soil off the tubers as this will add unnecessary moisture to the tubers. When most of the soil is removed from the tubers it is time to let them dry before storing for winter. If you are able to hang the tubers in a warm and dry location this is best as it allows all of the moisture to be released. If you don’t have a place to hang the tubers, any well-ventilated area, and surface away from moisture, and extreme temperatures will work for drying the tubers.

  4. Storage Location

    Dahlias tubers need to be stored in a place protected from frost, as well as excess moisture. Therefore, you do not want to store your dahlia tubers in the refrigerator—this will lead to rotting. A basement or location in your home that is temperature-controlled is ideal. Garages and garden sheds may be too cold for the tubers in winter, depending on where you are located. When you have decided on a location to store the dahlias you will need to find a container to store the tubers in. You could use a large plastic container with a lid or a 5-gallon bucket with a lid.

  5. Storage Medium

    Dahlia TubersAs much as you don’t want the tubers to rot in winter from too much moisture, you also don’t want them to lose all their moisture and dry out. Therefore, you will need a medium to store the tubers in. A variety of items will work for the storage medium; here are some suggestions from fellow gardeners: peat moss, sawdust, vermiculite or shredded newspaper. When placing the tubers in the storage container and storage medium you will want to layer the tubers with the storage medium.

When all the tubers are packed up and in their storage location for the next couple of months don’t forget about them. They don’t require you to do anything to them necessarily, but it is a good idea to check the tubers every couple of weeks to ensure they aren’t drying out or receiving too much moisture. If you do notice the tubers appear to have too much moisture, consider changing your storage location and add new storage medium to the container. If the tubers appear to be drying out you can mist the tubers and storage medium lightly with water. In late winter or early spring, you can start potting the tubers up in pots in preparation for spring planting. This will give the tubers a jump start on the growing season.  If for some reason your attempt to save your tubers doesn’t work this year, you can always get more in spring! Whoever said buying more plants was a bad thing? 🙂