- Author: Amy Breschini
If you have visited any of the local garden centers during the past month, you may have noticed the most amazing variety of dahlias available! Don't miss out on viewing the dahlias at the Midstate Fair! The BEST day to visit the dahlias in the Horticulture Still Exhibits is TOMORROW, Wednesday, July 18, 2012! The Master Gardeners are growing some dahlias that were donated by Corralitos Gardens and we are hoping to have quite a few on exhibit this year! I was just shuffling through some old articles and found some great advice from Master Gardener Maggie King. You may want to share some of your spectacular dahlia tubers with your neighbors!
by Maggie King, Master Gardener
A garden full of colorful dahlias is one of summer’s greatest pleasures. As autumn comes, however, even the best-tended plants began to suffer from fungal disease and the inevitable (alas!) aging process. A few of us may have salvaged a blossom or two for the Thanksgiving table, but in general, most dahlia plants are looking pretty forlorn about now. Our care of these plants in the fall can greatly affect their future seasons.
Dahlias are grown from tubers which are very sensitive to cold wet soil. In areas with mild winters, the tubers can be mulched and left in the ground through the winter, hopefully to return the next summer. Over time, if left undivided, they develop into a massive clump that sends up many weak, less productive stalks. For this reason, most dahlia enthusiasts recommend digging the tubers up, dividing and storing them carefully through the winter and replanting them the following year. This has the added advantage of giving us more tubers to plant and to trade with friends.
Individual dahlia growers have different techniques for lifting dividing and storing, but some general rules apply. As plants begin to fade they should be forced into dormancy by withholding water. The stalks should be cut back and the tubers carefully removed from the ground. They should be cleaned well and left to dry in the sun for a few days. Damaged or diseased tubers should be removed and a fungicide applied. Tubers can either be divided at this point or stored and divided in the spring. Regardless, they should be stored in a cool dark location buried in peat moss, vermiculite or sawdust, checked on periodically, and misted lightly if they appear to be drying out. Dividing should be done carefully, with an eye present in each section.
The extra time and effort spent caring for dahlias in this way will pay bountifully next summer when the garden is full of these extraordinary blooms. For additional information contact the Master Gardeners.
And on a side note, Dr. Joe Sabol said that if you leave them in the ground, you may dig them out in the early spring while the sprouts are tiny. Each one of these sprouts are an "eye" and you must have an eye on each tuber to have a stem initiate. It takes out some of the guess work when dividing the tuber. Sadly, there's always some tubers that just don't survive when dividing dahlias, but the rewards make it all worth it! Happy Gardening!