A love affair with dahlias, bargain plants bought now will last for years

Written by Doug Oster on .

dahlia yellow pom pomThese yellow pom pom dahlias have actually been perennial for the last two seasons. Photos by Doug Oster

Summer is the time for dahlias to shine. They are easy to grow and come in all shapes an sizes. It's great to have a flower coming into its prime this time of the year.

I fell in love with them years ago and have had so much joy growing them. The yellow pom pom flowers in the photo above are supposed to be on stems six feet tall. Since I never staked the plant it flopped over and the flowers are only about a foot tall. But they still make good cut flowers. I wish I would have staked it, but that's the life of a busy gardener. This variety has actually been a perennial the last two seasons. It was never dug up and has reliably returned.

Some gardeners won't grow them because most need to be dug and saved over the winter, then replanted is the spring. Don't deny yourself the beauty of dahlias just because you don't want to store them. Grow them as annuals and let them freeze when the weather changes. You might get a nice surprise, like my yellow pom poms.

But I love to save them.

I've seen lots of potted dahlias on sale right now. They are in full bloom and can be put right in the garden for instant color.

Since I do save them, it's deal to get the plants now.

I learned from the Greater Pittsburgh Dahlia Society how to save dahlia tubers.

After frost has blackened the foliage, remove it and cover the hollow stems that remain with foil. Leave the tubers in the ground for two more weeks. They'll form eyes and each tuber needs at least one to grow the next season. They are almost invisible unless they are left in the dirt for a couple of weeks after cutting back the foliage. Discard tubers that don't have eyes. Over the past couple of seasons I've skipped this step. I just store all the tubers and most of them sprout the next year.

Keep the tubers dry, gently shake off the dirt and lay them on newspaper for a day. Using sharp pruners, cut the clump into individual tubers. This job is much easier in the fall while they are soft. The dahlias are now ready to be packed away.

I lightly water vermiculite to make it moist but not dripping. Then fill a cardboard box with 2 inches of it. Next, lay the tubers in the bottom, making sure then don't touch. Add another 2 inches of vermiculite and repeat the process until the box is full.
Close up the box and store it in an area that never freezes, but stays cool, 40 to 50 degrees if you can. If not, the coolest dry place in the house should work.

Check the tubers once a month watching for rot or the reverse, drying out. Remove any tubers that shows signs of deterioration. Add a little water to the vermiculite if the tubers are shriveling.
Next spring they can either be potted up in early May for a jump start on the season or planted directly in the ground after danger of frost has passed.

Dahlias are one of my favorite summer flowers.

blog red dahliaHow can you not love these blooms, they make great cut flowers.

blog dahlia bg'Mystic Illusion' grows in Steeler's colors.

dahlia back sideEvery part of the flower is beautiful in my eyes.

blog dahlia budThis tight bud will open into a beautiful flower.


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.