How to Divide Dahlia Tubers and Store Over the Winter

Nov 17, 2020

It's getting cold outside! If you haven't dug up your dahlia tubers, now is the time! Our Summer 2020 Box featured guest, Jesalyn Pettigrew of Mossy Gate Farm, talked us through the ins and outs of dahlias, including how to care for them once the growing season is over. Here's a fresh recap about what to do with those dahlia tubers during the winter, as well as how and when to divide them for next year.

Watch the video below, or if you can't listen right now, scroll down to read her tips for caring for those spent dahlias.

 Cutting Back Dahlias

Wait until the first frost to kill your dahlia before cutting it down. You'll look out at your garden and see it turn brown and start falling apart within hours. 

Cut it down short so you have a handle at the base. If you leave it in the ground over winter, you do risk losing the plant. In mild climates you can sometimes get away with this. Jesalyn recommended digging it up and storing it for the winter, especially those of you who live in very cold places.

Digging Out Tubers

Simply dig around the tuber mass in the ground, pull up by the stem handle, and shake off as much dirt as possible. Some farms wash their tubers, but Jesalyn finds this unnecessary. If they do get wet, you must make sure your tubers dry completely before storing.

Dividing Tubers 

If you dig up your dahlia, it will have multiple tubers coming off of the original mother tuber. The mother tuber is woodier in texture and more square. Mother tubers are weaker. The new tubers are more likely to produce big, healthy plants the next season. Not all of the tubers coming off the mother are viable, however. 

Look for eyes on the dahlia tubers. Any tubers that have that eye growth can be cut off and used to create a new plant in your garden. Jesalyn stores her dahlias in big clumps over winter and waits a few months before dividing her plants, but her friends in Minnesota divide theirs right away before storing. If you're unsure in the winter, you can always wait until spring to see if the eyes are more visible.

Storing Dahlia Tubers 

Once you've shaken off as much soil as possible, you can store in a container surrounded by a dry material like pine shavings, saw dust, or vermiculite. Jesalyn uses mesh plastic crates for her storage. If you live in a dry climate, you may have to worry about the tubers drying out too much, so consider wrapping the tubers in plastic wrap instead like Jesalyn's friends in Minnesota do.

Keep the packed tubers in a 40-50 degree range. Don't let them freeze. 

Now your dahlias will be safe and ready for spring! If you want more tips for readying your garden for winter, check out our recent blog post and get your entire yard in shape for the cold months. 

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