Monday, May 6, 2024

Dahlias I Have Known and Loved and Tried to Keep Alive

So, a few years ago (7 years ago), back when I had a bit more space, my husband and I were walking through our local Home Depot and on an impulse bought some dahlia tubers. I knew nothing of dahlias at the time, but I planted them, and when they finally bloomed, they were very pretty.

Dahlias 2017

The next year, I planted some different ones. 
Dahlias 2018
They were nice, have to wait a long time for dahlias to bloom, and some of them barely come into flower before the weather turns cold. Also, I had no luck overwintering them. I live in zone 5B, and since dahlias are originally from Mexico, they don't care for the cold. You have to dig them up, pack them away with the right temperature and in the right medium, so that when spring comes, your tubers haven't either dried out or rotted, and you also need to make sure that they have eyes to generate new plants. I decided to take a break.

Fast forward a couple of years and I decided to get back in the game. I ordered some tubers, planted some in pots this time and had moderate success. (Still no success at overwintering, though).
Dahlias 2021

The next year I opted to skip the hardware store tubers (often they would be in groups with no way of identifying the individual plants) and ordered dahlias from two places, one a company in Oregon whose reputation preceded them, and one that was local (just trying to help a fellow Midwesterner) where the owner took a bunch of orders and money, got overwhelmed and apparently couldn't manage the influx of orders by people ready to garden (this was while Covid was still going on), and then just closed up shop and disappeared. Okay, lesson learned. I received the orders from the company in Oregon (Swann Island Dahlias) and planted my tubers. Yay! Success, more dahlias than ever (and a bit more showy), but I still didn't manage to overwinter them. Despite checking them religiously during the winter, I had a problem. My garage was unheated, so too cold, and my basement seemed to be too warm. I was storing them in individual paper bags in a box, and that didn't work well.
Dahlias 2022
Last year (2023) I had the biggest group of dahlias ever. I stuck to Swann Island Dahlias, except for one flower (Labyrinth), because by the time I decided that I wanted that one, Swann Island had sold out of them and I had to find another seller. 

Dahlias 2023

So here we are in 2024 and I'm almost ready to plant again. What have I learned? Well, it's important to stake them, because they're very tall, and the wind will break them. And stake them when you plant, because if you wait, you won't know where the tubers are underground and it would be easy to spear one of them. Because I have a squirrel and rabbit problem, I do cage most of mine, but not all. That proved to be a problem last year when a squirrel ate a potted one down to the ground. Hopefully, that won't happen again. 

Also...drumroll...last fall I did something different when I was storing the tubers for the winter. I shook the loose dirt off of the tubers I dug up, put each one in a labeled quart Ziploc bag (leaving the top open halfway or a bit more). Then I put as many of the Ziplocs as I could fit into a cardboard box that I stored off the ground beneath my laundry tubs as close to the outside (colder wall) as I could get. The ones that wouldn't fit in the box went (also in individual Ziplocs) in a bucket in an out of the way place as close as possible to an outside wall. Then I checked them every two to three weeks. And with the exception of one mother tuber that started to rot and I quickly tossed in order to save the remaining tubers, every one of the tubers made it through the winter. A few weeks ago I brought the bags upstairs and put them in a box near a window, and they're all sprouting. Hopefully, they'll all survive and thrive once they're planted. 

But...I (assuming they would die like they have every year) had already ordered a dozen tubers last fall, so now I have dahlia tubers coming out of my ears and it's going to be a tight fit (I'm giving a few of them to family). Still, I'm happy. I'm learning, and hopefully this will be a great dahlia year. 

To be continued...

Best Wishes,



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