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Give dahlias a chance to shine for another season

By Pinky Fredericks
For The Times, Beaver Newspapers
Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I have developed an addiction for dahlias. Check out some of the mail order catalogs. They are incredible. Dahlias put on an amazing display from May through frost but what about storing them?

There are several options but here is my uncomplicated method. After the first frost, cut back stems to two inches, then dig the tubers and clean off the excess soil. I prefer using a hose. There will be many tubers with each plant, even if you planted only one tuber in the spring.

Place the cleaned tubers upside down on newspaper in your garage or other airy space for two weeks (or longer) to dry. Once dry, just drop each tuber into a plastic grocery bag along with an appropriate label. Tie the handles loosely, but do not knot. Store the bagged tubers in a cool, dry, dark place. A temperature of 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal, just don’t let them freeze. I keep mine in an unheated bedroom with black plastic on the windows.

Here is the big trick to success: You must check them at least once during the winter. You will need a spray bottle of water and a bucket of peat moss. Many of the tubers will look the same as when you last saw them and will need no further attention. For those that look shriveled, spritz them with water, add a couple handfuls of peat moss and retie the bag. If any tubers show signs of mold, remove the mold and add some peat moss but leave the bag open.

By using this method I have had some of my dahlias for 10 years, they get divided in the spring and given away to friends. Your dahlias work so hard for you. Be kind to your hardworking friends and give them a chance to shine another season.

Note: Not all tubers will produce a new plant; you must wait until spring to see which tubers show signs of life.

Pinky Fredericks is a Master Gardener with the Beaver County Extension