20% survival rate on my stored tubers...sigh.

linnea56(z5 IL)April 8, 2007

For the last 2 weeks I've been buying dahlias here and there, in hardware stores and such places: all the while telling myself I should wait and see how the ones I stored had survived. 2 autumns ago ago I had carefully dug and divided and individually wrapped everything in plastic wrap, only to have everything rot over the winter. So last fall I tried a different approach, digging whole clumps, washing off the dirt, drying, dusting with sulphur, and packing in vermiculite in plastic grocery bags, one clump per bag. Then all those bags were placed in a paper bag and stored in my basement sump pump closet, where it stays cooler than the rest of the basement.

Following my Easter tradition, today I started potting them all up, starting with the 15 new ones. Then (with bated breath) I started unwrapping the stored tubers from last year. Out of the ~ 18-20 stored I think I have 4 survivors. Better than last year but still not great. The best looking ones (no eyes, but still firm) were in the bag that was on the top. Of the rest, about half are dessicated and the other half rotted. Though all were stored the exact same way (?!) 2 others have almost all shrivelled tubers but yet have obvious sprouts or eyes. Of course, the ones I liked best last year (Bishop of Llandaff, Akita) look deadest. I potted them all up anyway, since I had already made the paper pots: though the least likely to be alive are shoved together into a big pot.

Oh well: call it a learning curve: I guess it's going up. Though not much repayment for all the work I did. Plus now I have no guilt over buying 15 new ones I thought I didn't need.

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Alas...I'm in a bit of a survival funk too. My first year dividing then storing via saran wrap method. About 80% looked great when taken out of the saran wrap. The rest were mush. I put tubers on top of some soil in some pots about a month ago and only a couple look like they are going to make it. The other tubers just look back at me...taunting me with my obvious dividing failure. . At least I bought 6 more new ones - for now.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 12:34PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Someone here has a baggie method for testing if ones are going to grow: have to look that up.

I decided after the first year I was no good at dividing; mostly because I couldn't see any eyes at all. Plus it was so much work when everything rotted anyway. The "store the whole clump" method I read about here.

I have no areas that will hold them at the right temperature; I think that is the crux of the problem. Last fall I went around with a thermometer and tested every place that felt cool. The sump pump closet was about 55 F. I stored the bag leaning against one cement wall to keep them colder. But it is dampish in there: I seem to have no dry AND cool areas.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 2:01PM
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Move south, no need to lift.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 6:10PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Thanks, Raul, are you offering? I may take you up on that. I will lounge in your garden and watch the dahlias grow. I just came back from a week's vacation in Yucatan: loved seeing the lush growth and the bright flowers everywhere. Never see anything as bright here as the bougainvillia. And hibiscus everywhere! I need one of those. Not sure I could take the humidity for long, though. Even in March it was getting too hot and muggy, at least at midday. Family tuckered out fast whever I tried to take them anywhere. I was running around Chichen Itza like a kid in a candy store, while they were laid out in the shade. Maybe as a gardener I'm more used to being outside.

Came home and bought myself a palm tree. Everything turned green here while I was gone, but it's actually snowing a bit today.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 6:28PM
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Hope this will help those with a storage problem.
I store mine in a plastic bin and layer with
shavings that you use for hampster cages. You can get this at pet stores or even at Wal-Mart. It absorbs the excess
moisture and keeps them from rotting. Just make sure that
they are not kept at under 45 degrees. Works for me.
And some of my tubers are 5-6 years old. Out of 35 I might lose 2 a year. Good Luck.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 8:38PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Jan, stored loose in the shavings? Just layer in with the shavings and then seal up the plastic bin with a lid?

Some of the new ones I just got came with wood excelsior tangled up in the tubers: I wonder if that was what they were stored in.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 9:12PM
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Dahlias are showing up Linnea, they are about 4 inches tall right now, you don´t have to worry about moisture where I live ( central Mexico ) it´s hot and dry and "winter" is just a word, we don´t really know what that word means. From the gardening point of view we only have two "seasons", dry ( Oct -> Feb ) and rainy ( March -> Oct ), or let´s say, from the outdoor activity point of view we do have 4 seasons: pre-spawn, spawn, post-spawn and hunting.

Kidding aside, I personally don´t like the saran wrap method, Jan´s method is what I use when I lift to divide the clumps ( every 4-5 years, it takes a 5 gal bucket just to hold the clump ) and they do fine, the wood shavings used for hamster cages is usually cedar. Yes, you close the container with a lid, just be shure to ocassionally take a peep at the tuber to see how they are doing and to feel if there´s no moisture forming inside the container. Divide when you see the sprouts, then allow a the tuber to heal for about a week or week and a half.

Do not wash the tuber after lifting, just allow the soil to dry out and crumb appart on it´s own.

The enemies of dahlia tubers in storage are:

1.- Moisture ( fungi )
2.- Low temperatures ( keep above 45° )
3.- Dryness ( shriveling )

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 2:21PM
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I know it is early to talk about this, but the method i was going to try was. Dig up the clumps, put them in paper bags(like grocery bag size that i can get, put a little bit of cedar shavings, close the bag (but not to tight) and then but them in am open cardboard box in the basement(which stay around at least 15C or 59F. DOes that sound like a good storing method?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 8:34PM
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I use the Saran Wrap method but use the new product Press & Seal and wrap each tuber individually. Make sure you divide getting enough of the crown material on each tuber so you have a high chance for an eye to form. Not all will have eyes. Yes, some will rot. We use a 30% replacement rate after planting so when tubers, for whatever reason, decide to rot they do. The quality of the tuber including age and how it was grown previously has a lot to do with it.

Open storage, other than the wrapped method, depends on the amount of moisture and the transfer of it. The sump pump house would be to much moisture. Another method is to divide in halves or quarters and store in boxes lined with 8-12 folds of newspaper on all sides and the top of the box and then put coarse vermiculite about half full.

When the dry winter air arrives you must protect the tubers from shriveling so the boxes need to be closed with enough coarse vermiculite or cedar shavings to provide moisture. I would store at a lower temp than 59 degrees if possible.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 10:08PM
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I over wintered my calla and elephant ear bulbs in my basement at 59F and they produced eyes like crazy. I am not sure but i could put the dahlia bulbs in the attic but i don't know how cold it gets. Would sealing the bulbs in saran or a plastic bag trap in the moisture creating the perfect environment for fungus to grow? Could i put some holes in the plastic bag to let it vent a little and also put some vermiculite in with them?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 4:36PM
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As you can see this methode does work.Just layer in shavings and seal! Now my only problem is waiting
for the snow to melt so I can plant.We got 5.5 inches today! That's Wisconsin for you.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 8:00PM
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After having most of my tubers dry up badly 2 years ago when placed into shavings in a cold room, I wrapped them into saran last year and placed them into my crisper of my fridge which is a constant 40 degrees. I removed them and laid them out into trays 2 weeks ago. Some had eyes beginning to grow. Out of 200 I lost about 10 to rot. I had so many tubers from each plant it didn't matter that I lost them. They are just as firm as they were when I put them there last November.

Halloween day I cut the stocks down to 6" and waited 2 weeks before digging them up. Out of 40 Dahlias I could clearly see where the eyes were on most of them. I used an exacto knife to cut them.

The other tip I read once is never place Dahlia tubers directly on a cement floor. Place several layers of newspaper under them first.

I hope this has helped.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 11:32AM
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