Digging And Storing Dahlias For Winter

digging and storing dahlias, flowers in bloom
Digging and storing dahlias for next season is easy and cost-effective.

If you’ve ever grown dahlias, you know they can quickly become a gardener’s prize flower, stealing the summer show with their huge, colorful blooms. Whether you grow dahlias to cut for endless bouquets, or to add a burst of color to the summer garden, you’ll need to learn about digging and storing dahlias at the end of the season if you live in all but the warmest regions of the USA.

Native to Mexico, Dahlias won't survive freezing temperatures. Digging and storing dahlias for the winter is extremely easy and simple, and will save you a lot of money.

digging and storing dahlias, digging up
Dig your dahlia tubers up in the late fall before there is a hard frost in your area. See those enormous, woody stems that have been left behind? Those are from first-year tubers!

Digging and Storing Dahlias: When to Dig Them Up

If you live in an area where the ground freezes, you’ll want to dig your dahlia tubers up before there’s a hard frost. In our area (Northern Vermont) that’s usually late October, but it could be later depending on where you live. A good indication of when to dig your tubers up is when the plant starts to turn brown and die back.

Find your average first frost date

If you live in an area where your ground doesn’t freeze – such as parts of California and Florida – lucky you, your dahlias can be grown as perennials and you don’t need to worry about digging and storing them for the winter!

digging and storing dahlias, digging up

Cut foliage back to a couple of inches from the ground, before digging your tubers up.

Digging and Storing Dahlias: How To Dig Tubers Up

Digging the tubers up is extremely easy:

  1. Cut foliage back, so that only a couple of inches remain above ground.
  2. Take your preferred digging shovel and dig around the tubers, being careful not to accidentally sever the roots. Many gardeners use a pitchfork to prevent this from happening.
  3. Once you’ve dug the tuber up, shake the dirt off and set aside.
  4. Repeat until you’ve dug all of your tubers up.
digging and storing dahlias, shaking dirt off
Gently shake excess dirt off of your tubers after digging them up.


Rinsing Dahlia Tubers Off

After you’ve dug all of the tubers up, gently wash the dirt off in a tub of water, or with a garden hose. Make sure not to puncture the skin of your tubers, as this could cause them to rot over the winter months in storage.

digging and storing dahlias, rinsing dirt off

Gently rinse excess dirt off of the tubers with a garden hose or in a tub of water.

Examining And Trimming Dahlia Tubers

digging and storing dahlias, examining

Carefully examine each tuber and cut out any rotten parts.

After you’ve rinsed the tubers off, it’s time to examine each clump to make sure that there are no rotten parts. If there are, cut these bits off. If the tubers have several eyes, you can divide them at this step in the process as well. Use a sharp knife to divide tubers, making sure each piece has at least one eye.

The eyes of dahlias are the set of cells that produce the next season’s plants and blooms. They almost look like pimples! If you can’t identify them in the fall, wait until the spring to divide your tubers as they may be more visible by then.

Drying Tubers Before Storing For Winter

If possible, we recommend drying your dahlia tubers for several weeks before putting them away in storage for the winter. This helps to cure them and to prevent rot during storage.

digging and storing dahlias, drying tubers

Set tubers out to dry for several weeks before storing them for the winter.

Choose a location – either indoors or out – that won’t dip below freezing, has good air circulation, and indirect sunlight. After your tubers have dried, cut back the rest of the dahlia stem with pruners or a sharp knife.

Storing Tubers

The key to successfully storing dahlia tubers for the winter is making sure they stay dry, have good air circulation and are in a cool, dark spot.

You can store the tubers in a variety of containers – milk crates, plastic bins, paper bags, and cardboard boxes all do the trick. Just make sure there is space left between each tuber and there is some air circulation.

digging and storing dahlias, drying tubers

Store tubers in a crate, paper bag or cardboard box for the winter.

Place the tubers in a cool, dark space that won’t freeze. For many, this could be an unheated basement, attic, closet or utility room.

Re-Planting Dahlias In Spring

Once spring arrives, ground temperatures have warmed and there is no more chance of frost in your area, you can bring your beloved tubers out of storage and re-plant them in your garden. You can read more about planting and caring for dahlias here.

Have you had any experience with digging and storing dahlia tubers for winter? If so, please share in the comments below!

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