Storing and saving dahlias
Once or twice a year I visit my friend Amy Krut who is a self described “Crazy Dahlia Lady.”
She’s the person I trust to explain how to save dahlias over the winter. This same process would also work for cannas, caladiums, sweet potato vine, elephant ears and tuberous begonias.
She’ll probably be storing close to 500 tubers this season, with about a 75 to 80 percent survival rate.
First she lets the foliage blacken with a hard frost and then removes it, cutting close to the ground. If the frost only takes a few plants, those are cut down and the others stay until the cold finally does them in.
The tubers are left in the ground for two weeks. They will hopefully grow eyes (like on a potato). A tuber needs an eye to bloom next season.
The tubers are dried for a day or two. Some get rinsed off, others are left as is. When she has multiples, those are the tubers used for storage experimentation.
The tubers are divided by cutting them apart.
Krut labels each tuber with a sharpie to identify it and layers them in peat moss or vermiculite-filled plastic boxes with lid. The tubers are never allowed to touch.
She stores them underneath her porch where it stays between 50 and 60 degrees. The temperature can never drop below freezing or the tubers will be killed.
“That’s the dahlia room, she says with a laugh. “There’s no room to move around once I get everything stored.”
She will begin potting some tubers up as early as mid-February. They are stacked on movable metal racks she bought when the local Kmart went out of business. On warm days, she’ll push the rack out of the garage to give the plants some time to grow. The sooner they can get started, the earlier she’ll be able to enjoy the blooms. They can’t be planted in the garden until all chance of frost has passed.
They spend all summer growing, with some varieties blooming earlier than others. Her garden is covered with flowers as most dahlias reach their peak as fall begins.
“I love coming out and seeing everything bloom. It just really makes me happy,” she says smiling. “The colors just amaze me. There’s no end to the different colors out here. There’s purple, but there are 10 different shades and five different shapes of purple.”