Over Wintering Dahlias
(Last Updated October 8, 2009)



Hello from the Colorado Dahlia Society.

At this time of year we receive many questions about digging, dividing and storing dahlia tubers. Most of these inquiries are variations of the two basic questions below. Hopefully, our answers will be useful to you.

Question #1: Do I have to dig up my dahlias?

Dahlia tubers grow very close to the surface and will be lost if they freeze. So, unless you live in an almost freeze proof area you will lose them if you don't over winter them in a protected environment.  

However, if you have only a few dahlias you may find that the cost of replacements is so reasonable that you may not want to bother.  With dahlias costing only $3 or $4 each you really don't have to feel guilty if you just grow your dahlias for enjoyment, and then replace them or try new and different varieties the following year.  Click here, to sign up to be notified about spring dahlia society tuber sales.

Question #2: If I want to give it a try, how do I go about it?

Digging, dividing and storing dahlia tubers is a process that varies greatly from grower to grower. If you want to know how some of us do it in Colorado, there is a well illustrated, step by step, article on this subject on the web site of the Colorado Dahlia Society that you can view here

In addition, there are four online articles and three online videos on digging, dividing and/or storing dahlia tubers that I would recommend to you.

The web site of the American Dahlia Society contains an excellent article called "DIGGING, DIVIDING, AND STORING TUBERS". The author, Alan Fisher, is an expert dahlia grower from Maryland. This article can be found here.

One of the better personal web pages on dahlia care is by Wayne Holland, a dahlia grower and breeder from British Columbia.  Among the topics Wayne has addressed is an article called "TUBERS" which covers lifting, dividing and storing dahlia tubers. This article has illustrations covering key points and is located here.

There is also something a bit different in storing dahlias. It is called the (Bernie) "Mandella" or "Saran Wrap" storage method, and it is a technique for reducing storage losses by storing dahlia tubers wrapped in plastic food wrap.

The "No Fuss: Store Your Tubers in Plastic Wrap" article describing this method was published in the September 2001 Quarterly Bulletin of the American Dahlia Society. An online version of this article is now available on the website of the American Dahlia Society.  Click here to read it.

Finally, right out of the September 2006 Bulletin of the American Dahlia Society we have an article called “Tuber Storage For The Small Grower”.  In this article Heather Drope of Halifax, Nova Scotia documents how she has successfully over wintered dahlia tubers in her refrigerator.  This article is located here and could well be an answer for smaller growers looking for a cool place to store a limited number of dahlias.  

Using online videos to provide “over the shoulder” looks at the various aspects of growing dahlias is still in its infancy. 


The Elkhart Dahlia Society has become sort of a leader in this area with short videos on their growing tips webpage including:

Digging Dahlias (2 min 20 sec) Steve Kuiper of Goshen, IN, a member of the Elkhart Dahlia Society demonstrates how he cuts down and dig dahlias for winter storage.

Dividing Dahlia Tubers (2 min 30 sec) Cammi Waggoner of the Elkhart Dahlia Society demonstrates how to divide dahlia tubers and wrap them in food wrap for winter storage.


And, for two almost classroom like presentations on dividing dahlias, I highly recommend the following videos by Lance Williamson, “The Dahlia Guy” of Graham, Washington.

How to Divide Dahlias (3 min 49 sec) by the Dahlia Guy, demonstrates how to divide dahlias with emphasis and close ups on important details like what’s a good tuber, where the eyes are and what is a mother tuber.


Dividing Dahlias grown from cuttings – (8 min 40 sec) by the Dahlia Guy, addresses how to divide dahlias grown from cuttings. Cuttings include the commercial dahlias generally sold in nurseries and big box stores as well as cuttings hobbyists make from tubers they have over wintered.    


Don McAllister