Tuber Store SOLD OUT - See you Fall 2022!
If you live in an area where the ground does not freeze during the winter, you may be able to leave your dahlias "in place" and have them re-grow next growing season right where you planted the original tuber!
Most of us, though, need to take extra care if we wish to re-use our dahlias - or benefit from the fact that a single planted tuber will generally produce a tuber "clump" by the end of the growing season which often contains between 3 and 15 viable new tubers which can be "divided" and planted as separate tubers the next growing season.
Anyone growing dahlias in an area prone to freezing temperatures will notice that the day before your first frost the dahlia plants look fine...but hours after a frost they look terrible. They are tender plants and don't survive that first exposure to freezing weather.
What we do: Wait about two weeks after the first killing freeze (when the above-ground portion of the plants have died). Then we cut and carefully remove the dead portion of the plants leaving about 6" of stalk protruding from the ground.
The first freeze, and the cold temperatures during the two weeks following that freeze, will allow the underground tuber clump to "cure" and harden before you remove them from the ground for winter storage.
To "lift" the tuber clump from the ground we carefully dig under the clump around the central stalk. Some growers use a pitchfork to minimize the possibility of cutting through tubers that may be quite long, but we use a shovel to dig around the stalk (perhaps 6 or 8" from the center) and lift the clump gently out of the ground.
PREPPING tuber clumps for storage
Many serious growers soon wash their tuber clumps free of soil, allow them to dry (usually overnight) and then proceed to "divide" their clumps prior to winter storage.
In our case, we do not divide our tubers prior to winter. Instead, we store the clumps during the winter (in a cold, high humidity environment safe from freezing temperatures). And we've found the easiest way to do this is by leaving dirt and soil in/on/around the clump in order to help "insulate" the clump from the hazards of winter storage.
The obvious downside to this approach: clumps with dirt tend can be somewhat heavy and take up a lot of storage space. But we don't have the time the divide our dahlias in the fall, they usually do not have visible "eyes" which allow for easier dividing, and we have plenty of storage space for our tuber clumps!
"Dividing" tubers is both an art and a science. We encourage you to do some internet sleuthing on the topic - you will find a large number of useful videos and articles. And you will notice there seem to be as many different approaches to dividing and storing tubers as there are growers!
We divide our clumps in the early spring just after the "eyes" have begun to form with the warmer prevailing temperatures. At some point we will supplement this page with more information on how we divide tubers, but everything we've learned has been through a combination of careful research and a bit of trial-and-error.
In the end, however, we tend to end up with 2 to 10 (or more) new "plantable" tubers from each tuber clump. So, with proper care, you may find that your initial batch of a few purchased dahlia tubers can blossom into an enormous number of future tubers.
Growers who divide tubers in the fall have to protect the individual, divided tubers from two primary hazards: moisture and temperature. Tubers (whether divided or in clumps) need enough moisture not to dry out and die...but not so much they rot. Individual tubers which are not allowed some degree of airflow are less prone to desiccating, but more prone to rotting. Tubers which are left in the open but not cared for properly are likely to dry out during winter's cold, low-humidity environment.
Growers who divide tubers in the fall will have to protect their tuber clumps from those same perils. In our case, we are able to control temperature quite well, but moisture somewhat. If our tuber clumps are allowed to dry too much, the dirt will dry out and individual tubers in the clump will eventually begin to shrivel. Before we reach this stage, we ensure thy are re-hydrated - we manually "spray" or "mist" our clumps with water to keep them from drying out completely but do not allow them to become too moist. Experience is a wonderful guide to the balance.
Those who divide tubes in the fall tend to check their tuber "health" at least every two weeks in order to stay ahead of problems. We tend to check our clumps once or twice a week.