Lifting Dahlias?

josie_2(Maine)October 8, 2004

My first dahlias are still blooming and full of unopened buds.I only have 12 to lift and try to store.When should I do this?.We had our first frost a few days ago.Regards Josie _2

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maine_gardener(Z 5 Me)

I always dig mine up after the first frost that turns them black over night. Mine did turn black a few days ago when we had that frosty morning. So mine are dug up and drying out. Yours didn't get black the frosty night we had a few days ago? I'm just a few miles away from you. And mine turned black over night.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 12:44AM
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Hello maine gardner,no my dahlias did not get blackened at all,although frost was on our roof that morning.These are small dahlias that are planted right close to the house foundation.Been out just now to check them out for any signs of blackness there is none and the bees are are all over them.I thought I was in zone 4 ,but I guess it must be 5.See how much I know!!Regards Josie_2

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 2:46PM
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samuraisix(z4 Maine)

Hello - That frost got my dahlias (so sad to see first thing) that were planted in pots on the deck, but the ones next to the house are still going strong. Because I had my first tubers rot last year, I went looking for more info. The consensus seems to be to cut back the foliage to about 6" and let be for 2 weeks before lifting. Apparently this gives the eyes time to form (yes?). Any thoughts on the waiting period?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 9:02PM
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mikefrommaine(z5 ME)

Go to Google and type in how to lift dahlias, lots of advice.

The best plan is to dig the tubers and store them in a cool, dry place for the winter.
Prior to digging, your Dahlias will need about a week to produce new sprouts on the tuber. The production of these new eyes can be stimulated by cutting the stem back to a 6" stub, or will occur naturally when the majority of the plant has died back due to frost.The tubers will be easiest to divide if they are harvested after this one week period.
Using a garden fork to prevent damage, dig a circle about 12 inches around the plant stub, and lift the clump carefully out of the ground. (Be careful not to damage the tender new sprouts) Use a gentle spray from your hose to clean and remove the remaining soil from the clump. Allow the clump to dry for a day in a cool dry place. You are now ready to divide the clump, then store the individual tubers or store the clump and do your dividing in the spring.
To produce a new plant, each tuber must have an eye (the new growth bud) which appears at the point where the tuber connects to the main stalk. (Each tuber on the clump will not necessarily have an eye.) Using a sharp clean knife carefully separate tubers. Discard any damaged tubers and any that don't contain an eye. Place the tubers in a bed of sawdust or vermiculite, inside a cardboard or wooden box.
Store them in a dry area where the temperature will remain at about 40 degrees F.
Check your tubers periodically during the winter for signs of shriveling (moisten the storage medium), or mildew (treat with a dry fungicide such as Captan)

    Bookmark   October 11, 2004 at 12:24PM
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sue36(Z5 Maine)

I have had luck with lifting them after they turn black and then immediately putting them into a large Rubbermaid with peat moss surrounding them. Remember to label them.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2004 at 3:31PM
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Hmmmmm I tried giving you a link but apparently it's not allowed any longer. :( I've never had much luck at storing bulbs, but was reading the forums here, and read this interesting concept.
No Fuss: Store Your Tubers in Plastic Wrap
By Marian Mandella, Bernard Mandella, and Richard W. Peters, M.D.
Nothing is more sacred to an experienced dahlia grower than his/her method of storing tubers over the winter. This article is not for them, as they have found their favorite way already. However, if their curiosity or experimental impulses are strong enough, they may want to try a dozen or so tubers stored by this new method.
In any storage method, the ultimate goal is to preserve the tubers as closely as possible to the condition they were in when they were dug in the fall. Our method is devoid of any storage mediumno peat moss, vermiculite, sand, wood shavings or cedar chips. We use Saranwrap or other plastic wrap found in your local supermarket. The advantages we have seen are: no bother with a bedding medium, no worry about contamination of vermiculite with asbestos, much less storage space needed for your tubers and ease in locating your tubers in storage. In addition, this new method has a distinct advantage in that you do not have to check the tubers during the winter storage as is recommended for the vermiculite/plastic bag method.
Initially we had valid concerns about this new method, so the first year we packed 25% of our yearly supply of tubers (1,200 to 1,500) in plastic wrap and 75% in vermiculite/plastic bags, and the results with the plastic wrap were outstanding. Each successive year we stored 25% more in plastic wrap, so that now for the past two years, 100% of our tubers have been stored by the new method.
Digging, washing and dividing are thoroughly covered in earlier Bulletins as well by a comprehensive article by Alan Fisher on the ADS Website ( "Selected Articles of Interest). Therefore we will begin the description of our method starting with the freshly divided tuber. We recommend the use of a fungicide to reduce the numbers of fungal spores present on the tubers. We experimented initially with two fungicides: Daconil for liquid immersion and powdered garden sulfur for dusting. Daconil and other liquid fungicides are fairly expensive and hard to find, whereas powdered sulfur is reasonable and readily available.
Should you decide to dust with sulfur, which is the method we currently use, just add 8 quarts of vermiculite to one cup of powdered sulfur in a tall kitchen plastic trash bag and mix thoroughly. After the divided tubers have been washed and labeled, put a few in the mixture (they may be dry to slightly damp) and gently roll them aroundÂvery much like "Shake and Bake". This will apply a uniform coating over the entire surface. More sulfur can be added as deemed necessary. We have a lot of latitude here: the ratio of sulfur to vermiculite, the size of the plastic bag, or the manner in which the sulfur is applied is discretionary. Also, extenders such as very dry peat moss or fine white play sand can be substituted for the vermiculite.

After the tubers are divided, washed, labeled and treated with a fungicide method, set them aside to dry overnight. We advise wrapping them as soon as they are sufficiently dry, since tubers tend to get spongy and subject to drying out if permitted to sit around in the open for long periods of time. With this method you will also note that those tubers with slender necks can be preserved.
Tear off a sheet of plastic wrap about 20 or more inches long and lay it flat on a level surface. Place a tuber on one end and roll the plastic wrap over one complete turn. Lay another along side and roll again. Be certain that no tuber is touching another; plastic wrap must separate all tubers. 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 cultivarÂs name and any other information.
The wrapped tuber bundles should be stored at 40-45 degrees F in corrugated boxes or other containers that you would ordinarily use. The tubers emerge very firm, and the losses to tuber rot have been in the order of 3-6% per year. There is essentially no loss from shriveling or drying.
When you are ready to plant or pot your tubers, simply open the package, remove the tubers and check for eyes. The tubers tend to eye up earlier with this method, but some will be blind stock with no eyes. Some cultivars, like Walter Hardisty, are notoriously slow to eye up. These can be placed in shallow nursery flats, covered with damp peat moss and placed in 70-75 degrees F. In a week or so the tubers can be rechecked for eye development.
A pertinent question arose as to whether the close packing would encourage and spread tuber rot, very much like the "rotten apple in the barrel". We have found that the rot fungus is slightly more transferable in the vermiculite/plastic bag method. During our experimental years we put half of the tubers from the same clumps in vermiculite and half in plastic wrap. Interestingly enough, those that rotted did so by both methods, which leads us to believe that the clumps were infected prior to storage and were unlikely to have survived in any storage method. There were also occasions in plastic wrapped bundles when one or two tubers would rot but the others would not. We believe that the thin layer of plastic is protective when the package is wrapped so that no two tubers ever touch.
Another question was whether the close packing would cause the tubers to "sweat". Condensation is a function of temperature and humidity and occurs when warmer humid air comes in contact with cold air. Tubers are generally stored in garages at fairly uniform temperatures ranging between 40 and 50 degrees F. The garage temperature and the storage box temperature are quickly equalized. Therefore, without a great temperature differential, it is unlikely that any appreciable condensation would occur.
Other questions and comments will surely arise as more growers share their experiences, but for getting started with our method just remember: dig, wash, divide, label, treat with fungicide, wrap in plastic wrap, pack in boxes and store at 40-45 degrees F. Dahlia growers are very inventive and resourceful and will most certainly be able to expand, improve and adjust this method to suit their own personal preferences.

Just did it, was fun, and love how neatly everything stores. I have mine in the garage in a frig we only use in the summer. I'll be very interested in hearing if anyone else tries this, and how you make out in the spring.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 7:19AM
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dahliameister(5 Maine)

I have used the saran wrap method for 3 years. It's the best method I have found. Tubers do not shrink or shrivel up. You don't have to check on them over the winter and when you take them out in the spring they look just like they did when stored in the fall. You will at times still get some tuber rot but if wrapped correctly they won't affect the other tubers in the package. I usually store 8000 or more tubers.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 3:07PM
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8000 tubers DM! I thought I was doing good with 35, LOL. I was checking on ours this morning. They weren't affected by the frost we had. They were planted in full sun near the sidewalk. Around 20 feet from the house. They are still blooming greatly. I'm happy so many made it through the Mother's Day flood we had. We had over a foot of water in our basement and the tubers were stored in a cardboard box. Besides the rainwater, oil from the paint cans and a small amount of kerosine was mixed in with the water. I hoped that they would be okay. We peeled away the box, let them air dry a bit. Planted them and hoped for the best. Only three tubers didn't make it. So I'm happy with what we have. They are one gorgeous flower! NancyLouise

    Bookmark   October 7, 2006 at 2:54PM
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mikefrommaine(z5 ME)

We had a frost about a week ago cause I had to scrape the windshield, but the dahlias escaped and are still blooming their heads off. Soon am gonna have pictures af dahlias with snow on them!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 9:05AM
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Here am I after digging up my Dahlias.I have gained lots of clustered tubers.I do not know how to divide them.What instrument do you use to cut them apart?.Can you just leave them as is and plant the clusters in the spring?.Josie

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 4:44PM
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