Starting tubers inside and transplanting to garden questions

elle-nhMay 9, 2009

I apoligize for posting what is an oft repeated question, but I've spent hours on the Internet and over an hour searching this site and am still confused!! I am obviously a newbie :-) but am so excited to grow dahlias - I bought 6 'bags' of tubers at a small garden show in Vermont last month.

1) Starting indoors: do I plant w/ last years 'stem' (when it exists) sticking slightly above the soil, an inch below the soil, or at the depth the tubers should be planted outdoors (4").

2) What does it mean to plant tubers 'on their side'? So that the roots are sideways - parallel to the top of the soil?

3) When I have new growth and am ready to plant outside, do I just bury the 1st 4 inches of new growth when I plant the tuber 4" deep?

Thank you so much in advance for your advice!

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Poochella(7 WA)

Welcome to the world of dahlias, elle. Do your new tubers show signs of growth? A pale shoot or bulging light green or purplish eye? Try the baggie method to encourage them, if not.

Once you see a bulging eye or shoot you can pot them up leaving a bit of stem exposed. Cover the rest with soil, water lightly and keep in light/warmth. When transplanting outside, I aim to keep the tuber/roots at least 4" deep, more often 6". It isn't really the old stem, but the new growth and the roots that you want protected in their holes at that depth. Some people plant much deeper.

2)Planting on their side- in the case of a single yam-like tuber you want to plant them eye upward, lying flat like a carrot on a cutting board, in the bottom of your hole. Sometimes the shoot comes off at a funny angle and I angle the tuber so the shoot aims up straight. It doesn't seem to matter that much. The tuber will develop roots and the shoot will find it's way upward. If a clump, just plant so the shoot can grow upward; the stem and root position doesn't matter so much.

3)4-6" down for the base of new growth would be good. Some plant deeper.

The important things are: verify growth before bothering to plant, prepare your soil well, wait til the soil is warmed to 60 degrees or so and horribly wet. Protect from slugs and snails. See Care and Culture for more advice.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 9:59AM
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Thank you so much Poochella! Just to confirm: When the soil is warm enough I should plant my tubers 4 - 6 inches deep - and the new growth will be completely 'under-ground' unless it is taller than 4-6 inches?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 12:45AM
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Poochella(7 WA)

You've got it, elle. The base of the new growth planted 4-6" under the top of the soil would be good enough, regardless if some green sticks out above ground. I usually mulch another couple inches on top of the soil once the plants get a foot or more tall.

Would like to add the word NOT to 'horribly wet' in the last paragraph of my previous post. As in 'not horribly wet' like my beds are now, and the rain begins yet again. Too bad they don't offer an edit feature here.

Good luck with your dahlias! They should do fine considering they can grow forgotten in a compost pile or garbage can for weeks on end.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 10:47PM
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corgicorner(Mass 6/7)

If you will send me your name and e-mail address I will send you an illustrated set of directions. Be sure to tell me what you want, and KINDLY put the word "GardenWebber" in the subject area to keep your e-mail to me out of my junk pile. THANK YOU.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 8:19PM
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