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A gardener holds up a Dahlia tuber

How To Dig & Store Dahlias For Winter

By Amanda Shepard, Flower Farmer & Garden Writer

If you’ve ever grown Dahlias, you know they can quickly become a gardener’s prize flower. They steal the summer show with huge, colorful blooms, whether you grow dahlias to cut for endless bouquets, or to add a burst of color to the summer garden.

If you live anywhere but the warmest regions of the USA, you’ll need to learn about digging and storing dahlias at the end of the season! Native to Mexico and South America, Dahlias do not survive freezing winter temperatures. Digging and storing dahlias for the winter is extremely easy and simple. When done properly, you can replant your Dahlias each spring, for year after year of fantastic flowers. 

Follow our guide below to learn how to dig and store Dahlias for the winter! We'll cover when to dig, how to dig, and how to properly prepare and store your Dahlia tubers in a few smiple steps.

When To Dig Up Dahlias

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.

If you live in an area where your ground does not freeze, such as parts of the far southeast and southwest, lucky you! Your dahlias can be grown as perennials and you don’t need to worry about digging and storing them for the winter.

Find your average first frost date with our helpful chart!

How To Carefully Dig Up Dahlia Tubers

Digging tubers up is extremely easy:

  1. Cut foliage back, so that only a few 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, gently shake excess dirt off, and set aside.
  4. Repeat until you’ve dug all of your tubers up.

How To Prepare Dahlia Tubers For Storage

There are 3 key steps to preparing Dahlia tubers for stoage: you'll need to rinse them, examine and trim them, and finally, dry them before they are ready for winter storage.

Rinse Dahlia Tubers

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.

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

Examine & Trim Dahlia Tubers

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.
Some gardeners will sprinkle an anti-fungal powder on roots to prevent rot.
Divide and trim dahlias
Carefully examine each tuber and cut out any rotten parts.

Dry Tubers Before Storing For Winter

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.

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

Drying your dahlias before storage
Set tubers out to dry for several weeks before storing them for the winter.

How To Store Tubers Over Winter

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. You may choose to pack them in peat moss. The important piece is to make sure there is space left between each tuber and enough room for some air circulation.

Store tubers in a crate over the winter
Once thoroughly dried, store tubers in a crate, paper bag or cardboard box for the winter.

Place the tubers in a cool, dry, dark space that won’t freeze. For many, this could be an unheated basement, attic, closet or utility room. If your space is prone to moisture or mold, it is not a good place to store your tubers. 

It's best to check on your tubers in the course of the winter - to make sure they're not rotting and look good!

Re-Plant 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. 

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