I love my dahlias. I bought some tubers from Zulily a few years ago, planted them as soon as they arrived, and several weeks later was delighted with beautiful pink and sunset-orange blossoms. They bloomed throughout the latter part of summer right up until the first frost. I left them in the ground for the winter and they returned the following year.
After that, I wanted to learn more and started to research growing dahlias on Pinterest. I was surprised to learn that they don’t “winter” well and are often killed by freezing cold weather…I was fortunate in that the first winter was an especially mild one and my tubers survived.
I don’t want to run the risk of losing my beautiful dahlias, so this year, I’m going to dig up the tubers and store them properly over the winter. Since we’ve already had a couple of frosts, now is the time! Cut off the stems and leaves. It’s a good idea to let the tubers cure (dry out a little), especially the larger ones. Shake the dirt off, but it’s not necessary to completely clean them. They may be okay wrapped in newspaper, and/or stored in a paper bag. But, it’s even better to store them in dry-to-slightly-moist packing material such as peat moss, coco coir, wood chips, pet bedding, or sawdust. You could also use a mixture of vermiculite and perlite. Use whatever you have on hand.
Line the bottom of a box with newspaper to keep any packing material from falling through the cracks. Layer the packing material on top of that. Lay the tubers in the box so they will be surrounded by the packing material. You can store several clumps in the same box as long as they are not touching. Fill the box with packing material so the tubers are completely covered. Close the box and put on a shelf. It’s important that your dahlia storage space is cool and dry. A basement or the inside wall of your garage should work. If it is too warm, the tubers could rot.
You’re all set! After the last frost next spring, you’ll be able to replant your tubers and enjoy beautiful dahlias from late summer through fall.
Cooler temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight throughout the fall initiate the cold-acclimation process which enables plants to withstand winter temperatures. The best way to prevent cold damage is to select plants that can tolerate temperatures where you live. Georgia has different climatic zones, so it’s important to select plants that meet the minimum cold-hardy requirements for our area. For North Fulton that’s zone 7B.
Cold temperatures and wind can damage all parts of the plant including fruit, stems, leaves, trunk, and roots. Carefully selected plants can survive a freeze but may not survive a prolonged period of below-freezing temperatures.
Healthy plants have a better chance of surviving cold weather. A soil sample is the best method to determine what nutrients plants need. Contact the UGA extension agent to get information about soil testing. Pruning and/or fertilizing in late summer or early fall encourages tender new growth which leaves plants vulnerable to freezing temps. Check publications B961 and B1065 for information about feeding and pruning ornamental plants. Mulch is important too. It reduces heat loss of the soil, retains moisture, and protects the plant roots which also can be damaged by a freeze.
Covering plants with sheets, blankets, or cardboard boxes helps protect them from low-temperature injury. Plastic sheeting is not recommended; temperatures under the plastic rise quickly which can result in burned leaves or worse. Remove the cover during daylight hours to provide ventilation and allow the release of the trapped heat.
Plants have water requirements during the winter months. Make sure plants get at least 1” of water per week which is essential for a healthy, cold-hardy plant. If a cold snap is predicted, water the plants. Moist soil absorbs more heat and helps maintain an elevated temperature around the plants.
GA Extension offers more than 600 free, research-based publications to help you learn about everything from planting the perfect vegetable garden to raising a backyard chicken flock, and from identifying stinging and biting pests to determining if your agribusiness is feasible. For more information, go to http://www.caes.uga.edu/publications.