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How to Store Dahlias for the Winter

Dahlias are tender perennials, hardy only to Zones 9 to 11, and must be dug out of the ground and stored over the winter. Gardeners in Zone 8 can overwinter dahlias in the ground with an added layer of mulch, but digging and storing is a safer bet. Here's how to overwinter dahlias:

Allow a week for the tubers to adjust to dormancy after the first frost has blackened their foliage.

Cut them back to within 6 inches of the ground.

Insert a spade carefully into the soil at a distance from the stems so as not to sever the tubers.

Gently lift the tubers out of the ground.

Clean the soil off the tubers, and allow them to dry for a day. They can be left in the sun but must not be allowed to freeze.

After drying, shorten old stems to about an inch for ease of storage.

To minimize the risk of fungus, cut away any skinny, hairlike roots.

Place the roots in crates or boxes, and cover with slightly moistened sand, peat moss, or sawdust to keep them from drying out. Store in a cool but frost-free place, such as a garage or unheated basement (40° F to 50° F is ideal).

Check on the tubers monthly to ensure that they aren't rotting (too cool or wet) or shriveling (too warm or dry). If too wet, remove them from the box and allow them to dry out before repacking them in fresh material. If too dry, add a little water to the packing mix.

All photos: Daryl Beyers
From Fine Gardening 121 , pp. 22-29

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