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Caring for Dahlias in the Colder Months

Caring for Dahlias in the Colder Months

Dahlias get fussed over a lot, whether they need it or not, because of the way they swan around, their enormous blooms nodding at you from elongated Audrey Hepburn necks. But are how do you keep them thriving, especially when temperatures drop? Read below for a few tips gleaned by Michelle, editor of Gardenista.

Above: In mild climates such as the San Francisco Bay Area, dahlia tubers can stay in the ground year round. In colder climates, dig up your dahlia tubers before the first hard freeze.

Above: The first step is to cut down the stalks, to a height of two or three inches. Photograph by Gardeners Supply via Flickr.

Above: Dig up a whole clump of tubers at a time and be gentle; the tubers are fragile and break apart easily. You can store the dirt-covered clump in a bucket in the basement or, if you plan to divide your dahlias, rinse the tubers before working on them.

Above: Look for tubers with “eyes,” swollen buds that indicate the plant has plans to bloom next year. When you divide dahlias, make sure each division has an “eye.” A healthy division will spawn its own clump of tubers after you plant it next year. Photograph via SC Dahlias.

Above: To cut apart and slice tubers, you can use a knife, scissors, or pruners, depending on the size of the cut. A pair of Felco No. 8 Pruners, a precision tool good for separating a nest of tubers at the base (the blades will make cuts as big as 1 inch), is $47.99 at The Felco Store. Photograph by F.D. Richards via Flickr.

Above: Return bulbs to the garden in late spring, after the last frost date. Hollyhill Chloe, one of 500 different clumps of dahlias at Golden Gate Park’s Dahlia Dell, will grow to a height of five feet, with blooms as big as eight inches in diameter. It’s $7 from Corralitos Gardens. Dahlias like heat, dry feet, and lots of sun. A red and white Skipley Spot dahlia is $7 from Clearview Dahlias.

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Gardenista is a one-stop sourcebook for cultivated living, a guide to outdoor design and gardening. Helmed by former New York Times columnist Michelle Slatalla, Gardenista features inspiration, garden visits, and advice for all things outdoor living, from patios and peonies, to tables and terraces. Gardens matter, and Gardenista celebrates tomatoes on the fire escape as much as rolling acres of green.


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7:50PM PDT on Oct 26, 2012

dahlias are beautiful....thanks, but we don't even try to grow in MN.....

1:37AM PDT on Oct 24, 2012

Thanks for sharing.

11:46PM PDT on Oct 23, 2012

Good information, especially the dividing bit. Thanks.

11:40PM PDT on Oct 23, 2012

I hope to be I have to deal with these plants.thanks so much for this article .

11:22PM PDT on Oct 22, 2012

Thank you for these helpful tips.

12:21AM PDT on Oct 22, 2012


12:05PM PDT on Oct 21, 2012

Yesterday on Cisco's radio program, here in the Pacific Northwest, USA...he was saying he leaves his in the ground, but covers them with fern fronds, so that they donot drown and rot in all of our rain (though we just experienced the 2nd driest 2 months on record, except 2088 was longer)....if you do not have time to digup or a place to store, try this! might work for you!

1:37AM PDT on Oct 21, 2012


10:59PM PDT on Oct 20, 2012

Thanks for sharing!

10:07PM PDT on Oct 20, 2012

I love dahlias. They come in so many colours and really pack a punch in the garden. In the spring I have to cover the newly-planted tubers with a grate or the squirrels will dig them up and feast on them.

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