Recently I received a request to write about my dahlia storage. So here we go. The pictures are not all beautiful, but provide you the information you need.
Dig the dahlia tuber and shake off dirt but leave whatever sticks. Usually the dirt between the tubers sticks that’s fine, just let it be. I let mine cure in the sun 4-6 hours. We stop digging around 1:00 so tubers can sit for the remainder of the sunlight the day they are dug.
If it’s very muddy I bring the tubers in my basement and give them more drying time, a day or two. Sometimes with a fan. As fall nights freeze in Vermont, leaving them in an unheated greenhouse is not an option.
I do not wash my tubers. The fine soil provides a protective barrier during storage. A bit damp is ok but wet is not. The moisture slowly evaporates over time, keeping the tubers slightly hydrated and keeping them from shriveling. Some varieties are more prone to quickly shrivel up. Packing in crates snugly, by variety, helps. In the northeast we have dry winters so I find tubers are more apt to shrivel than mold. If your tubers do shrivel don’t give up on them–I have seen the worst looking tubers sprout.
As you can see I have these huge wooden crates that stack together allowing some air flow, though I do drape plastic over the top and allow it to droop over. Checking for mold is good any time you cover with plastic sheeting. My basement is 45-55 degrees. It has some moisture but not huge amounts. Some get too warm and send up shoots in early winter but still do fine.
If you’re having troubles with shriveling, running a humidifier one time per week might help. I have never done this but makes sense.
I am going to start dividing my dahlia tubers in March, allowing me to take some much needed rest December, January and little bit of February. Once divided, they cure till the cut dries so mold doesn’t grow (24-36 hrs max) then are placed in grain bags with a few handfuls of peat moss. I either tape or clothes pin bag shut.
Be careful not store your tubers directly on cement as it pulls the moisture out of the tuber. I put a grain bag or plastic down before putting a crate on the cement. Keep them labeled, either write the verity on the tuber or label the clump and the crates they are in. It can get confusing very quickly.
I prefer tubers with more than one eye so I divide a bigger cluster not just one tuber. When shipping for orders if a variety has huge tubers I might not be able to cut with a few eyes…but I aim for more eyes.
If you’re unsure of a viability of tubers when you return to them because they look dehydrated, place them in a plastic bag with moist peat at 60-70 degrees for a few days. You should see sprouts. If nothing happens by two weeks it may be a goner. I do this with my tubers before we plant that way we have less chance of empty space in the field.
Like all aspects of farming one should experiment and do what works for you. There is no correct way to store tubers, it really just depends on your soil, storing conditions, humidity levels. When you find what works, just stick with it. Ask others about their storage methods. The smallest thing could be a game changer. Experiment on a variety you have abundance of.
If you have any dahlia storage tips you would like to share, please comment below.