This year was a building year for my dahlias. Remember, I bought a bunch of special breeds from a local dahlia breeder and they came in the form of one tuber?
Yeah, well for some plants, that was a starting point that needed a season to build upon. I only got one or two blooms from some of these guys in late September. But better late than never. This one is called Sparkler. Cool right!?!
So here we are on the cusp of November and it’s time to put these babies to rest. First you have to wait until they look like, well, shit. If the stalks are still green, they’re not ready. They are still using photosynthesis to bulk up for the winter. Wait until they are mostly brown or even blackened from frost. Then you can dig them up.
Why should you dig them up? If you don’t the tubers will make massive clumps that won’t be as productive as they have been in the past. Tubers need to breathe so it’s good to take them out of the ground and let them hibernate elsewhere. Also, you run the risk of them rotting in the wet and cold. You want them looking happy next season right???
I have actually not dug them up once before just to see what would happen in one of my plots (or maybe I just got lazy). I’d say it was about a 60% grow back and the rest were rotted. Those that did grow back were ok, but certainly not as vigorous as I remember. I guess what I’m getting at is that if you have some that you absolutely love, you probably want to house them properly so you can have them year after year.
And why not? It’s a really easy process. If you have 5-6 plants, it can be done in a half an hour! If you have 20-30 like me it’s more of an afternoon but hey, I still do it! So no excuses, house your dahlias! You’ll be happy you did.
Step 1: Dig up your dahlia. Gently use a shovel and start about 1 foot away from the stalk, the tubers can get pretty big. Once the stalk is moving and you’ve found purchase under the tuber, it should come up fairly easily. I accidentally cut one of the tubers on this clump but, as you can see, there are a zillion other tubers so, it’s ok.
Step 2: Cut off the foliage, leave about 3-4 inches of stalk, and toss the rest. Tap away excess dirt and cut off any rotted tubers.
Step 3: Put it in a plastic bag. I use grocery bags for the big ones and gallon zip-locks for the small ones. Whatever fits just so the tubers can spread out and be happy. I make a point of also labeling the bags so I know who’s who in the spring.
Step 4: Cover the tubers with peat moss. If you can’t find straight peat moss, potting soil will work too. Did you know that most potting soils are almost entirely made of peat moss? There is no dirt!! I don’t know about you but when I think soil, I think dirt. So just make sure the potting soil is made with peat moss and you’re good to go.
Step 5: Give ’em a little water in the bag. Just a pinch to moisten the soil. Do not water-log it!!
Step 6: Put them in the garage or shed and forget about them…. no seriously, they don’t need you hardly at all. I usually check on them once every couple of months or so, when it occurs to me that I miss them. If the soil is bone dry, give ’em a little drink. If not, just walk away. No, they don’t need light, and they don’t need any more warmth than what your shed or garage can offer.