Winterizing Dahlias Prematurely
Posted: Oct-05-2004 at 9:30pm
In well-drained areas, I usually leave my dahlias in the ground, but I cut them back after killing frost and put a tin can over the cut ends of the stalks to keep water from running down in them and rotting them. In spots where I'm worried about the drainage, I dig and store them after they're frost killed. Since it doesn't look likely that we'll have a killing frost before I leave, would there be in any harm in cutting them back while they're still in full bloom and covering the cut ends? Any ideas on how to deal with this would be appreciated.
Posted: Oct-06-2004 at 8:05am
Do you have clay soil, HL? I leave my dahlias in the ground, do nothing special other than give them a little extra mulch and they are fine. I don't cut them down until January/February when I can't stand to look at the dead husks any more. They came through last winter with no problem. I have more of a loam though.
Here's a link I found discussing the Winterization process at the bottom of the page. It says to dig after new eyes have sprouted. Maybe by cutting them back you can stimulate this process and then dig them up without a frost.
Posted: Oct-06-2004 at 11:12am
Hummmm, do you have to dig them up to see if new eyes are forming? Some dahlians (Kiss, for example) are almost impossible to identifiy the eyes this early in the fall, It is easier to cut them before they dry out, but probably it would be better to leave them to insure that they are mature enough before you dig them out. If they are dug too early they do shrivel badly. How long will you be gone? I have a neighbor, who never digs his dahlias and even though he has the same kind of clay soil as we do, they seem to thrive--drives me nuts!
Posted: Oct-06-2004 at 12:37pm
I have some in heavy clay and some in areas that have been well-amended. In the past, I would only dig the ones in the worst clay, some that were expensive and/or I only had one, and a few that are very special (sentimental) to me. When I sold the motel, I dug at least one of each, totaling several hundred tubers. I stored them from end of October til early June. I use the saran wrap method of storage now recommended by many of the dahlia societies and have had 99% success in storage using this method, but I've never done it before frost. Saran wrap is great 'cause they don't shrivel or get too wet, and if one is bad, the whole barrel isn't spoiled.
So, I'm thinking that those in good soil, I'll just leave and let mother nature take care of them til' end of March when I get back, Jeanne-style. If the stalks die back naturally, maybe I won't have those hollow stems funneling water into the tubers. I have multiples of most that are in the worst clay and not too many favorites there, so I think I'll go ahead and dig one of each, clean and cut them, dry them, and saran wrap them. That way I've got a backup in case the ones in the ground don't make it but I don't put myself through a bunch of (possibly) needless digging.
HarleyLady zoning out in 10
Posted: Oct-06-2004 at 8:14pm
I haven't heard of using saran wrap for dahlias, although I've bought daylilies that way.
I was going to try dipping my tubers in parafin this year, but the saran wrap method seems like less trouble. After you wrap them up do they need any sort of special care, or do you just stack them in a box in a cool spot and forget about them?
Posted: Oct-06-2004 at 8:51pm
Susie, no special care at all. Some folks powder them with sulfur or fungicide but I don't like to handle that stuff. After wrapping the tubers, I put a strip of masking tape around each bundle and write the name on the tape. After that, just store as you mentioned and forget 'em til spring.
For anyone interested in the specifics, here's a helpful article:
No Fuss Dahlia Storage
HarleyLady zoning out in 10
Posted: Oct-06-2004 at 9:05pm
Very cool! I'll do that. Thanks!
Posted: Oct-07-2004 at 4:35pm
Thanks, Harley, I had never heard of using suran wrap. Wow! what a great solution. Thanks so much for sharing that info.