Saturday, October 17, 2009

Digging Dahlias

This Spring I planted seven dahlia tubers. Of those, four have have flowered, one has foliage only, and one has yet to show any signs of life. The three blooms that are missing are: 1.) Junaita: a large burgundy and ruby flower dating back to 1949; 2.) Little Beeswings: a yellow with red tip ball/button type from 1909; and 3.) a mystery dahlia picked up at Alderbrook Farm.

The gorgeous dahlias shown below are the following:
  • Jersey's Beauty- a true pink, vigorous dahlia from 1923 which was once the world's most popular dahlia according to Old House Gardens. Plentiful blooms.
  • Andries' Orange- Its full name 'Andres' Oranje As' honors a Jazz Age liquor from the Belgian town of As. This rare dahlia dates back to 1936 and has been in show all summer long.
  • Pink Petticoat- a recent introduction with ruffled white petals that fade to pink at the tips.
  • Bishop of Llandaff-  standout bronze foliage compliments the scarletred petals, a very stunning mix from 1927.

Some of my dahlias are just beginning to show off their blooms.  This was seeming late to me but it turns out they prefer cool weather and are most productive into the Fall.  Luckily we have not experienced a frost yet, but when we do the tips will die back in a signal to wait a week, then dig the tubers.  I noted the winter care instructions from a wonderful heirloom bulb company below......
WINTER CARE – IF you want to save tubers for re-planting the next spring, after
the tops have been “blackened” by frost, wait a week or so for the tubers to
harden and fully mature in the ground. The soil will generally protect them from
freezing. Then cut the stalks off a few inches above ground level. You’ll find
that the tubers you planted in early summer will have increased into much larger
clumps, so be careful when digging – start at least a foot away from the stalks.
Tag each clump with its name, wash off all soil, and allow it to dry upside down
in a cool, dry place for a day or two, no more.
Divide the clumps with asturdy knife in fall or spring. Be sure a piece of the “crown” – the thickened area where the stem meets the tuber – remains attached  to every clump, because the eyes (often more visible in fall) are located there. You may want to dust cuts with a fungicide such as garden sulfur. At the least allow cuts to air dry for a full day before storage. Store in plastic grocery bags, in plastic garbage bags inside boxes, or in covered plastic storage boxes to help keep the tubers from dehydrating. Pack in coarse vermiculite, peat moss, wood-shavings, or something similar. Store in a cool, dry, dark place, ideally at 40-45ยบ F.
Check every now and then. Allow excess moisture to escape (look for
condensation) or sprinkle some water on tubers if they seem to be shriveling.
Or here’s an easy way recommended by Marian and Bernard Mandella and Richard
Peters in the Bulletin of the American Dahlia Society, September 2001. “Tear off
a sheet of plastic wrap 20 or more inches long and lay it flat on a level
surface. Place a [divided, dusted, and dried] tuber on one end and roll the
plastic wrap over one complete turn. Lay another alongside and roll again. Be
certain that no tuber is touching another…. You may wrap up to five tubers or so
per package, but in the last 5-7 inches, fold over the side portions of the
plastic wrap and continue to roll to completion. Fasten with a piece of masking
tape that is labeled with the cultivar’s name…. There is essentially no loss
from shriveling or drying.” Some of our customers who grow dahlias in pots
just bring them inside and let them dry out and over-winter right in their pots.
Others grow them in 5-gallon or even 1-gallon black plastic nursery pots that
they bury in the garden and then dig up and store in the basement through
winter. You may want to experiment with these extra-easy storage methods, too!
I will need to remember to dig my glads as well, I hope the tubers will store well over the winter.  How do you keep your tubers once dug?


Michelle said...

Oh my goodness...these dahlias are incredibly beautiful. Gorgeous. Dahlias are one of my most favorite flowers...good going!

Thomas said...

The previous owners of our home had planned dahlias. I had no idea that you could do this. Thanks for info, Kelly?

One question though, the dahlia plants they left behind are still fairly small. Should I still divide? And is their any chance that they will overwinter where they are in the lawn?

Kelly said...

Thomas- I believe dividing is an option. I am assuming mine will not need it either. You could take a gamble leaving the tubers, they may survive....I wish I could be of more help, but this is my first year with them so I am learning as I go too.

The previous owners here had glads planted along the foundation and they were fine through the winter. I assumed this was from being up against the concrete.

Thomas said...

I think I'm gonna take the lazy way out and leave them where they are. :)

ThyHandHathProvided said...

Beautiful, beautiful flowers.

Ruralrose said...

I did not know you could leave them in the ground, i am going to have to try next year. The pictures are awesome, peace for all

Sue said...

Thanks for the information. This was my second year to grow the larger sized dahlias. I have grown smaller ones in pots, but didn't try to save the tubers. Last year, my husband threw away my sack of tubers I had dug. This year, I forgot the name of my dahlia, but had 3 clumps of it. I left one in the ground to see if it survives our 5b winter.

I tend to be unorganized and scatterbrained, so I did follow the leave them in a week after the foliage is killed by a freeze. I didn't see that information when I looked up how to store the tubers. I haven't gotten the dirt off, though, so I messed up on that part. I'll have to see how they are doing and get them taken care of.

Your dahlias sure are pretty!

Kelly said...

Laughing over the unorganized and scatterbrained part- I can relate all too well! I had a perfect memory before having my children and it now it all seems to have been lost.

It will be interesting to see how your tubers overwinter in the ground, seems as though many people do this with few losses.