How to Care for Dahlias in the Winter

Overview

Hailing from Mexico with ancient roots in the Aztec culture, the dahlia has a long and international history as a gardening favorite. Available in a dazzling number of sizes, forms and colors, dahlias are easily recognizable for their stiff petals that mound in a flat or rounded head at the top of a long, slender stalk. The popular bulb bloom is planted for late-summer color in spite of the necessity to dig the tubers after blooming for winter storage.

Step 1

Dig tubers after the first frost, prior to November. Carefully use a spade to dig a wide hole around the entire planting area, to avoid cutting any newly formed tubers from this season. Use a garden fork to lift up the clump of soil containing the tubers.

Step 2

Gently separate the tubers from the soil. Separate the clumps by type and label a marker to be stored with the various species over winter for easy identification. Cut any remaining foliage back to a few inches and spray the tubers with water. Leave them until completely dry.

Step 3

Discard any tubers that appear to have disease or moldy spots, as these may spread their ailments to other tubers during storage.

Step 4

Fill containers that will provide air circulation with peat moss. Place the clean, dry tubers upside down (with foliage stub facing down) in the peat moss.

Step 5

Store the containers in a dry, cool place that remains a steady 40 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the winter. Check the tubers in mid-January for any shrinking or wrinkling of the skin. Ohio State University Extension expert Jack Kerrigan suggests that a small amount of water may be added to the peat moss if excessive shriveling has occurred. Take care not to soak the tubers or fungus could result.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden fork
  • Spade
  • Storage containers
  • Peat moss
  • Sharp knife

References

  • Ohio State University Extension, Fact Sheet: Growing Dahlias
  • Iowa State University Extension, Reiman Gardens:Dahlias
  • Oregon State University Extension, Dahlia Culture
Keywords: dahlia winter care, digging dahlia tubers, dahlia storage

About this Author

Desirae Roy holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education, with a focus on reading and special education. Also an interpreter for the deaf, she facilitates communication for students who learn in an inspiring way. Roy cultivates a life long love of learning and enjoys sharing her journey with others through writing.