I fell in love with dahlias by accident back in 2012. I had no idea what a dahlia was, back then I just chose things to grow because the picture on the seed packet captured me. That’s how my journey with dahlias started. It’s was dahlia Yankee Doodle dandy.
I just grew these flowers from seed knowing absolutely nothing about them, but they were beautiful.
Unfortunately, not having learned about the specifics of these gorgeous plants, I didn’t know that our wet, clay soil wasn’t the ideal place to leave those dormant tubers over winter. So the next year, no more dahlias. They had rotted in the soil.
But I’ve learned a lot since then and now I have lots of healthy tubers to bring out of dormancy after their winter storage.
Now let me reassure you, there is nothing to it. I know there is an awful lot of info and opinions out there in the internet, and I know it often contradicts itself. But I’m going to give you the super simple method to give you a reliable way to “wake up” your dahlias and get yet another year of stunning blooms.
Whether you you’ve bought new tubers or you’ve stored your previous year’s over winter, the first thing you need to do is to check the health of each of them. You simply go around all of your tubers looking for any signs of rot or disease. If anything looks even slightly suspicious, cut it off. Keep cutting those rotted parts away until you are back to firm, white flesh.
You can also give each of your tubers a squeeze to make sure they haven’t gone soft. If the have, discard those ones as they have likely rotted. Ok, now you have checked and you have nice healthy tubers, let’s get them planted.
For me, I start mine off in pots in my greenhouse. Dahlias are tender plants and will not tolerate frost, so given that we can see frost in our garden until late May, I start mine off in the greenhouse where it is nice and safe for them.
I simple bury the tubers in some fresh compost with a little bit of vermiculite mixed in. Now the trick is to find what was once the plant stem. It’s a nice firm stump. Simply busy your tubers with the stem upright just poking through the compost.
You will often see advice that you should only half cover your tubers to reduce the chances of them rotting. You absolutely can do this, but I find that also brings in the chance of the tubers drying out. So I cover mine completely but I don’t water them until they begin to show signs of growth. I let the moist compost provide the moisture early on.
Now you just need to put them somewhere warm and light and wait for them to grow.
I start mine in small pots and come June they will either be transplanted to the garden beds or into a larger container to live in the garden.