Dahlia winter storage question

sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)November 1, 2011

I have a cold cellar in an old farmhouse and I have successfully stores my big dahlias there every year. All the small sized ones and little pieces seem to dry out and shrivel up, so I don't divide them until spring. The bigger ones seem to survive better. Anyway, here's my question. Is there any reason I cannot pot up the little ones and just grow them all winter in a south windowsill? I pot them up in late Feb anyway and just keep cutting them back until I can plant them in the garden in late May. They seem to do fine potted from end of Feb-end of May.

Would they survive growing in a pot in the house all winter? I have some new ones that are small and I want them to survive. I realize I need to do something better to keep them from drying out.

To date I have wrapped each one in newspaper and put in cardboard box. The ones sitting direcly on the stone always survive, the others - not so much.

Last year I put them all in a Tupperware storage container, after wrapping in newspaper. The dahlias survived, not all of the cannas however. I may do the same this year but would like to pot up the new ones and take cuttings during the winter.

Has anyone grown them as potted houseplant through the winter? Would this work or do they need a rest period?

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I don't think they need a rest period so this may work. However, some people have tried this and the plants get very leggy and often get spider mites or some other pest.

I've heard of people keeping the tubers potted, but still put them in storage. I'd give them a small drink once a month or so.

You say you pot them up in late February anyway, however, if you do what you suggest, you'll be adding 3 or more months.


    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 9:33AM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

Thank you for the information! So I have decided to bring one very small one of each dahlia, potted, into the house to grow on the windowsill and put one very small one potted into the cellar and store the rest, as per usual, in the cellar. I'll see how it goes. I can't possibly grow them all as houseplants or pot them all up.

The large, undivided ones usually survive very well anyway they are stored so I don't divide them in the fall. The little ones dry up too quickly and rarely survive.

I intend to keep the indoor ones cut back severely. This should prevent the legginess and hopefully prevent any infestations too. If they get spider mites, I can always cut them right back to the ground and dig them up then. They go back into pots for outside in late Feb anyway, which brings sprouts in mid-late April when I can put them outside under glass.

I am going to root the cuttings :-)

It's a test. I guess I'll see how it goes this year.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 10:21AM
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I have wintered over a dahlia by putting it in a 5 inch pot that was on the window ledge of a south facing window in the kitchen. It never looked happy and it barely survived the winter. It had severe powdery mildew and spraying in the kitchen was not possible. In the early spring, the infected leaves were were removed and the plant grew a bit but was never very healthy. Considering all the work that went into this plant and the mixed results, we never did it again. Buying a new tuber in the Spring is a much better option.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 11:07AM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

Well, I grew one small dahlia piece of each kind, four in total, indoors in pots all winter with great success! All four have grown to be about 1' tall now and healthy. They didn't grow fast during the winter in my very cold kitchen and winter light, but they are healthy little plants!

I'll be doing this every winter with the little ones that don't usually survive.

Now it's time to bring out the big ones!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 1:43PM
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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

It's always nice when people come back and report on the success (or lack of) with their experiments. I wish I had thought to do that with 2 of mine...they were new to me last year, and hadn't produced much in the way of blooms or tubers...If I had thought of it, I would have tried what you did. As it turns out, neither of mine made it through the winter storing them traditionally...maybe I could have grown them at least a while and then set them outside to frost. Just a little more tuber growth, a little less time in the fridge...could have worked!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 12:25AM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

It is what I will be doing with all the little pieces in the future! My large ones always make it fine through the winter, it's the little ones that I usually lose. They dry out.

This year I also took them all out of storage in Jan and soaked them in water for a few days. I dried them out again and restored. I am hoping that will help too. I haven't looked at them again yet, but will soon.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 1:52PM
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One thing you might want to try is to place your tubers in a very, very slightly moistened medium like peat moss, then pack them away for winter, that way they are much less likely to dry out. I had mine in 3 different containers this winter, 2 cardboard boxes, and a plastic box. I separated them with newspaper(didt work, as the newspaper disentigrated). But each level of tubers was covered with slightly moistened peat moss. None of the tubers dried out or shriveled up at all.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 5:12PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

I have considered using peat moss but went with shredded cedar, since that is what I had, but I didn't moisten it first. Next year I will try that. I like growing them potted in the kitchen too.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 5:46PM
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well everyone how goes the dahlia situation this year
Still no frost and my plants look good

I have been thinking though about storing them this year

Always is a chore I might try them in some peat moss again Just I now do not have such a good spot to keep them Wish I had an old fridge or something like that A big insulated type of something to keep the tubers in

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 11:48PM
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I am vowing to take more care storing my dahlia tubers this winter. Our first frost is predicted for this weekend. My dahlias are all in pots, close to the house. I plan on trying peat moss with plastic wrap in our spare refrigerator. I keep thinking we will get rid of this refrigerator--it takes up so much garage space--but it sure comes in handy for storing plants, seeds, cut flowers, etc.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 10:43AM
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What is the thinking of putting the tubers in peat moss in a cooler? Should the top be closed? Or cardboard boxes? I have no where to go but the garage.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 12:41AM
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I have found that temperature shifts are the number one reason for tuber rot in my storage situation. The more constant the temp, the better.

Other long-time growers believe that running refrigerators are the kiss of death for tubers, as the constant cooling cycle dries and stresses the tubers. I see posts every spring from an unhappy camper who tried storing in the fridge. An unplugged fridge might do better... I don't know about that.

I have heard lots of negative talk about peat moss, as it has a tendency to dry out tubers too much. Adding moisture would only invite the tubers to break dormancy and sprout. Personally, I would avoid that medium, sticking with sawdust, cedar chips, vermiculite or perlite to dry-pack the tubers.

One gent at my local dahlia club always splits the tuber clumps in half, cleans out the pith inside the stem to avoid rot, and stores in open shopping bags in his root cellar. He divides in spring.

There's many ways to store, but keep them between 40-55 degrees if possible. The key things to avoid is:
- changing temp
- too much dryness or wet
- light exposure

Here is a link that might be useful: Tuber digging, dividing & storing

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 7:55AM
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I used to do the same Just dry the bunches off and split them a little then put them in bags with maybe dry leaves in the bags . or torn up newspapers That did seem to be okay most times
Now I do not have a basement as it is now an apartment.
If I didhave an old fridege not pluged in and in the garage I would think that the insulation in the fridge would keep things constant in temperature But then maybe it would be to sealed in there and rot would occur

I do have some lovely Dahlias
A big bouquet sitting on my kitchen table right now and I am just admiring them and my good fortune in having them

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 9:22AM
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Hi Sheryl, I have a way to store cannas that has been fabulous. when I dig them up I leave the dirt around them put them in a plastic bag slightly moist and put them in the basement. they are ready to go in the spring with large eyes and take off like crazy. I treat them like the dahlias ,I let them get frosted then leave them in the ground for a week. My basement is around 65. they are different from the dahlia tubers because they need to be a little moist. You might try doing this with one to see if it works for you:)
For your small tubers try separating them, wash them ,soak them in a one part bleach and water for a few minutes, then dry really good then wrap them in saran wrap. I only lose about 5% of my tubers this way and I store a 1000. Like with the cannas ,maybe try a couple to see if it helps. Cindy

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 9:40AM
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Thanks for the tip about the Canna! Mine were getting too dry with the dahlias, I guess, because they had a pretty slow start, too. I'll try what you suggested this year.

It's good to hear another grower storing in the 60-65 degree range, as that is what I have to contend with, as well. The long-time growers often say no more then 55, but obviously that's just not feasible for many of us.

With the Saran Wrap method, if there is temp fluxuation, I would not use it. I played with a portion of my tubers last season on the cold porch, and condensation got trapped next to the tubers causing some to rot and some to sprout. The growers I know that wrap with great success all have cold cellars that are a constant temp.

Here is a link that might be useful: Saran Wrap method

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 11:41AM
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