Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Winter Storage for Dahlia Tubers

I'm a huge fan of dahlias.  Big blossoms and small, cactus petals and pom poms, white, yellow, red, pink and orange.



But every year there's the question of where to store all those tubers?

Last year was my first time in our new home storing tubers and it was a struggle deciding where to keep them.  I initially put them in the basement but that was a failure.  Our basement doubles as Jody's workshop and is kept relatively warm in winter.  Halfway through the winter the tubers were beginning to dry out.  

This year I had to try something different.  I need a spot that is cool and dark but not damp.  Light, warmth and moisture will cause the tubers to start growing and we want them to become dormant.  Too much moisture and they may rot.  Too dry and they may wither and die.

This is my bay window in the dining room.  The bench holds my houseplants on top but underneath there is a secret hiding spot.


Pull back the cover and lift the lid.


The seat has a compartment below which is not insulated.  It's quite cool down there and quite dark with the lid on.  A perfect spot to hide dahlia tubers!  And it keeps them out of the way for the winter season.  I put the tubers down there in the fall and I checked them for the first time this week.


My yellow dahlia has grown to epic proportions and wouldn't fit in a box so I put it in this extra large brown garden bag with some peat.  A look inside revealed the tubers are still nice and firm.  No signs of rot or withering.  Absolutely perfect.

A cardboard box filled with tubers didn't fare as well.


Sprouts were peaking out the top.  Either too much warmth or light is causing these tubers to begin to grow.  My guess is too much light as the peat in the box was barely enough to cover the roots.  They should have been completely covered with plenty to spare.  Apparently I was in too much of a hurry when I put them away.    


The good news is the tubers are very healthy.  As you can see above the bulb is plump, no signs of drying up and they feel solid to the touch.  So what does one do when their dahlias decide to start growing a bit early?

Well in my case I've had this happen before and I let them grow.  I take a cardboard box and mix up some potting soil and plant my dahlia in it.  I water it, put it in a bright window and watch it take off.  The sudden change in conditions is all the plant needs to start growing.  By the time the weather has warmed sufficiently outside my plants are quite large and more than ready to be planted out in the garden.  I harden them off for a few days first and then outside they go.  The result - extra early blooms in the garden - and that makes me very happy.





25 comments:

  1. Oh perfect advice, and great timing. I just bought my first batch of dahlia tubers. Living on the coast they never did well, and I didn't bother with lifting them, as for storage, there wasn't room either.

    So these beauties are going to be my first experiment into dahlia land, can't wait.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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    1. Jen, so glad to hear you're trying out dahlias! My mom never lifted her dahlias on the coast either but it was warm enough there they survived. I hope they do well for you and can't wait to see photos of your new flowers.

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  2. What fun and something to look forward to through the chill months. My fresias' have just begun to bloom and now I am all inspired to post about them. Beyond that I have to satisfy myself with apple peach and pom blossoms. Husband says if it doesn't fruit it isn't coming into the yard.

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    1. I understand what your husband means. When you have a small yard you have to limit what gets put in it and food has more benefits than flowers in a way. My hubby was insistent when we moved in that a vegetable garden be set up immediately. I'm so fortunate here to have plenty of space for both veggies and flowers.

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    2. I love my flowers, but I love growing food too. nothing like going and picking your own salads and deserts from the yard.

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  3. Very clever!! I might have to grow some Dahlias...though I am not a dig up the tubers for over wintering...we shall see.

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    1. Janet, I know I'm biased but really digging up the tubers isn't all that hard. and you can move the plants in sprnig to whatever location needs some extra colour!

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  4. I love dahlias, but I run into this problem every year, and my storage spots never seem to work out. Just end up buying new every year.
    By the way, I can't seem to pick your posts on Blotanical, the last three times I tried, I was getting a stange message full of code. Thought you might like to know.

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    1. Thanks for the heads up. I haven't been to Blotanical lately but I should check into this. The one downside to this storage spot is that it isn't very big. I can see myself running out of space quickly and then I'll be working at finding another hidey hole for them.

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  5. Dahlias are such a pretty flower, they are worth a bit of trouble. Thanks for the info.

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    1. I agree! but then everyone has their favourites that you'll go to that extra bit of trouble for don't they?

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  6. Congratulations. I usually store tendeer bulbs in a cement bunker, which is inside of a closet and under the front steps. Your location is much more convenient to access. Glad to see you found a method that works for you.

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    1. Kevin, I was so lucky to discover that spot. We actually didn't know it existed when we bought the house and as you point out, it's really very convenient now that we know it's there.

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  7. Hi Marguerite, I need to find a similar storage spot. A friend gave me some cana lily tubers and they have not faired well at all. I noticed the other day that they have dried up and may now have to be discarded.

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    1. Jennifer, it's definitely not easy to find a good storage place is it? I think more modern houses particularly aren't made to have cool spots like this. I remember growing up we had a cold room in our house and all the bulbs were stored in there along with root vegetables and preserves. I haven't seen a house with a cold room in years.

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  8. Your storage technique is excellent. I have not grown dahlias because I had a bad experience with storing them, but perhaps one day I will try your idea. I can't wait to see their display.

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    1. There's all sorts of ways to store dahlias, some people use baggies with vermiculite, or even saran wrap as well as coating them in fungicide powders. I'm a bit lazy so I find this is the easiest way for me but I haven't had any trouble. I suspect though for some of you in warmer climates you may not need to lift the tubers at all. A little extra mulch and a warm location next to a house might be all you need.

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  9. What luck. I'm glad you found the right place to store your dahlias. And its great that you've potted them up indoors. It's one way to satisfy the gardening urge before it's safe to take them outside.

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    1. I was very fortunate to find this hiding spot for the flowers and you're right, starting early inside is the perfect antidote to the winter willies.

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  10. wow, gorgeous pictures..perfect storage place too..it did my heart good to see something besides the snow we have here..it's windy and snowing today too..I found a site you might like by Gayla Trail from Toronto. It's called: www.yougrowgirl.com..hope you enjoy it. On one of her blogs: You Can Bury a lot of trouble by digging in the dirt...happy gardening Lannie

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    1. You Can Bury a lot of Trouble... LOL I can just imagine. Will be headed over to check this out, thanks Lannie.

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  11. I think dahlias are beautiful; but the one time I grew them, I was faced with the problem of no satisfactory place to overwinter the tubers. My house is heated by a woodstove in the center of the basement, so it's not cool down there in winter. Your solution was ingenious. My house is modern enough to be pretty tightly insulated. I'm thinking about adding a root cellar when I put an addition on the house; maybe that would allow me to add dahlias to my garden. -Jean

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    1. I wish we had a proper root cellar, they are so beneficial. That would be great if you were able to do so. Not only dahlias but other flowers like canna lilies and gladiolas would benefit from that type of space as well as storing vegetables from the garden. We've thought about using the attic for storage as well but the mice would likely have a party up there if I tried storing food.

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  12. I live quite near to you in New Dominion. I have been growing about 100/150 dalhias for several years. I put them in plastic bags and vermiculite and then store them in my mother's clay basement in her two hundred year old house. They usually do fine there. Haven't looked at them this year, but will do so in the next ten days..

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    1. Hi and thanks for commenting! The old style basements are really the best for storing roots aren't they? I wish we had a cold room, that would be ideal. I think I saw your sign coming into town this week, are you selling your plants?

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