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Lifting Dahlias: How to Lift Dahlia Tubers in Fall

Rachel is a passionate plantsperson, YouTuber and author living in Ireland. She grows a wide range of hardy subtropical and tropical plants.

Protect your dahlia tubers by digging them up in the fall and storing them over winter.

Protect your dahlia tubers by digging them up in the fall and storing them over winter.

Do Your Dahlias Need to Be Lifted?

When autumn rolls around and the first frosts are expected, it's time to lift my dahlias. You may be wondering whether or not you need to lift your dahlias. If you live in zones 1–7, then the answer to this question is that you do. If left in the ground, your dahlias will rot.

Can You Leave Dahlias in the Ground Over Winter?

If you live in zones 8–9 like me, then your decision is less clear-cut because dahlias may survive outdoors. This will depend on how cold a particular winter is, the amount of rain and the variety of the dahlia. However, the safest way to ensure your dahlias' survival is to lift them in zones 8–9.

When to Dig Up Dahlia Tubers

Generally speaking, you should wait until the first frosts have blackened your dahlia foliage. But if bad weather is forecast, then you can do this before the frost—usually around October.

How to Lift Dahlia Tubers Step-by-Step

  1. Insert a spade in the ground near your dahlia, taking care to not dig too close and damage the tubers. Dig all the way around your tuber. The dahlia should lift easily out of the ground.
  2. Shake off any excess soil.
  3. The next step is to cut off top growth to about an inch from the tuber.
  4. Get a garden hose and blast your dahlia tubers with water until they're clean.
  5. You'll need to leave your tubers in a dry frost-free place for a few days to dry out before storing. Rotate your dahlias to ensure the underside also dries.
Dahlia tubers can be stored in a paper bag over winter.

Dahlia tubers can be stored in a paper bag over winter.

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How to Store Dahlia Tubers Over Winter

How you store your dry dahlia tubers will depend on what is available to you. If your tubers are thin as with some varieties, then they're best stored in very moist potting compost or sand so that they don't dry out.

Otherwise, dahlias can be stored in a paper bag, in wood shavings or in a dry newspaper. Keep your dahlias in a frost-free place over winter. This might be the greenhouse, the shed or even a cool room in the house.

More Tips for Wintering Dahlia Tubers

  • Check on them regularly for signs of rot, removing the rotting portion.
  • If there are signs of shriveling, water your dahlias lightly.
  • Don't forget about them. Dahlias cannot be stored like this indefinitely.
  • Dahlia tuberous should be potted up again in early spring to give them the best start for next summer.

More Gardening Tips

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Rachel Darlington

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