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Caring for Dahlias in the Winter

November 17, 2023

Dahlias, with their vibrant and stunning blooms, are the star of the summer garden. However, as winter’s frost approaches, it’s crucial to ensure the survival of these beautiful plants for another season of colour and splendour. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to successfully care for your dahlias in the winter, safeguarding their bulbs until they can burst forth once again in the warmth of spring.

Step 1: Prepare for Winterizing

Before winter arrives, it’s essential to prepare your dahlias for their winter dormancy. This involves some critical steps:

  • Clean Up: As the growing season ends, remove all dead or withered foliage and blooms. Prune the dahlias to about 4-6 inches above the ground with sharp, sterilized tools.
  • Curing the Tubers: After pruning, allow the tubers to air dry for a few days. This process toughens them and helps prevent rot during winter storage.
  • Digging Up the Tubers: Once the first light frost has arrived and the dahlias have thoroughly dried, carefully dig up the tubers. Be gentle to avoid damaging them. Shake off excess soil.
  • Labelling: It’s a good practice to label the dahlia tubers if you have different varieties. This will help you remember what you’re planting in the spring.


Step 2: Storage Options

After your dahlias are prepared for winter, it’s time to choose a suitable storage method. Here are some options:

  • Potted Dahlias: For those with ample indoor space, consider storing your dahlia tubers in pots. Place them in a cool, dry, dark location that won’t freeze. Do not water them during this dormant period.
  • Refrigeration: Some gardeners successfully place their dahlia tubers in a spare refrigerator. Keep them in a cool but non-freezing location. Ideal temperatures range from 35 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Store the tubers in a container with damp peat moss, sand, or shredded newspaper to maintain moisture without an airtight seal.
Step 3: Caring for Overwintered Dahlias

Once you’ve successfully stored your dahlia tubers for the winter, you can relax and look forward to the spring. But there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Resurrection Time: Around St. Patrick’s Day is the signal for you to bring the tubers out of their dormancy. Place them in a warm, well-lit area, and give them a small amount of water (about two cups). New growth should appear within a couple of weeks. However, refrain from excessive watering, which can lead to root rot.
  • Planting Outdoors: Once the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed, you can transplant your dahlias back into the garden. Remember that dahlias are sensitive to cold, so wait until the temperature is consistently above freezing.
  • Pinching Growth: As your dahlias grow, consider pinching back the growth at the third node. This will encourage bushier, healthier plants and a more abundant display of blooms.

By following these steps and storing your dahlias carefully over the winter, you can ensure that these magnificent flowers return to grace your garden with their vibrant colours and striking forms. With a little effort, you can enjoy dahlias year after year, making your garden a true spectacle of beauty.