Dahlias: Digging, Dividing, Storing
Dahlias. They’re a beauty in the garden and a must-have despite the extra bit of work they need to be successful.
This time of year your dahlias could be looking fantastic, just having bloomed, or they may be on their way out. Either way, you should be starting to think about digging them up and bringing them inside for storage. Here’s how.
When to Dig
Timing is very weather dependent. In some locations you can get away with not digging them at all but remember that if the first few inches of soil freezes in your area, your dahlia tubers will need to be pulled.
Wait until your dahlia’s foliage has died and turned black. This will occur after they have experienced a hard frost, so don’t rush out with your spade right away.
How to Dig
1. Cut back the foliage, leaving 6-8″ of stem sticking from the ground.
2. Get out your pitchfork or spade. CAREFULLY loosen the soil around your dahlia and lift the tuber out of the soil.
3. Tap the soil from your tuber, removing as much as possible.
4. Let your tuber dry out for 5 days in a dry area. Place on newspaper, turning frequently.
How to Divide
Once dried, your dahlia tubers are ready to divide:
1. Using a sharp garden knife, remove the mother tuber. This will be the largest, darkest clump from which this year’s blooms gathered their energy.
2. Remove damaged or rotten tubers as they will not grow next year.
3. Tubers with thin necks will not keep over winter. They can be removed and composted.
4. Locate the tuber’s “eyes”. These will be located where the tuber clumps converge and look similar to potato eyes: white or light pinky in colour.
5. Using a sharp pair of pruners or garden knife, separate each clump from the main stem of the tuber, making sure that each clump being removed has at least one “eye”. Without an eye, the tuber will not grow next year.
Now that your dahlia has been divided, you need to store it for next season:
1. Do NOT let your tubers freeze.
2. Keep them apart from one another (to avoid contact rot), laying them on newspaper in a box and keeping them in a cool, dry place.
3. You can also store in plastic bags but you must make sure that your tubers are completely dry.
Finally, it is imperative that you check your tubers every few weeks. Look for rot or anything else just a little “off” about them. Remove anything that is questionable.