Dear Dahlia Doctor – Must I Dig Out My Tubers?

Dear Dahlia Doctor,

Just planting those tubers was a lot of work. Do I really need to dig up each and every single tuber and then go through the process of storing them? I don’t have space nor do I have all the necessary supplies to store them.

What are my options for leaving them in the ground?


- Tired of Digging


Dear Tired,

Yes, you can leave your tubers in the ground. Just be aware that as dahlias grow, so do the tubers – and having a large clump isn’t necessarily a good thing if you want healthy flowers the following year. Tubers also suffer when Jack Frost comes along or when the ground gets soggy, like it frequently does here in the PNW. These are all things you need to take into account when planning your garden. It is perfectly alright to leave them if you’re just growing them for fun, but if you have any intention in showing your flowers, well then, it would be best to dig them up. If you have questions about that, just come to one of our Seattle Dahlia Society meetings and we can walk you through the process of digging up, cutting and storing your tubers for winter. Just shoot us an e-mail in August or September and we will let you know at which meeting we will be discussing and showing how to do this.

In the mean time, if you are okay with just keeping your tubers in the ground, you can leave the ground as is or you can cover the area where your tuber is planted with leftover Bubble Wrap from any recently purchased fragile items or packages that come; heavy duty plastic works well, too. You can also use old table cloths – oil cloths work well, too. This will add a layer of protection for when Jack Frost comes to visit. You can probably do this in November/December, depending on when winter actually comes to the PNW. This may not fully protect your tubers, but it will help insulate them from the cold.