Dahlias in winter! The pros and cons of digging them up…

Dahlias in winter! The pros and cons of digging them up…


Hi there it’s Alexandra from the Middle
sized Garden YouTube channel and blog and unusually for me I’m about to dig up
my dahlias. My video on ‘don’t dig up your dahlias’ has been very popular and I’ve
had a lot of comments and questions over the years so I thought it would be
helpful to talk about what those questions are, and give you some answers
and then go on to how to dig up your dahlias
if that’s what you decide you’d prefer to do. Now the first thing to start with
is undoubtedly the weather – the middle-sized garden is in southeast
England in Kent and that’s roughly what would equate to a USDA hardiness zone of
about 8 or 9 – what that means is that we don’t get snow very often – sometimes
we’ll only get it one in three years. We also don’t get as many frosts so the
soil doesn’t stay cold for very long and I think that’s the key. Now my dahlias
have stayed in the soil even when there has been a harsh winter and they’ve come
out fine on the other side but I would say that if you have frost and snow for
long periods regularly there’s much more chance of the earth getting too cold for them so that
is really the main thing to think about. The other thing to think about is how
wet your soil is – dahlias don’t like sitting around in the wet and the cold
and I don’t really blame them. And although we do have much more rain here
in the winter than we do in the summer, it is still I think a relatively dry
part of the world. If you want to leave your dahlias in the ground, cut off the
vegetation and protect the dahlia with a pile of garden compost or well rotted
manure. In one of our many Twitter conversations about whether you leave
your dahlias in the ground or not Dahlia growers Withypitt Dahlias said
that if you actually want blooms that you can exhibit or really prized blooms,
you do have to dig them up every year and certainly if you’re thinking of
selling flowers or you want to be a flower farmer, dahlias need to come up
every year and I can completely see that, because after all we all have different
reasons for growing dahlias, and so that’s really something to bear in mind
Over 10 years probably nine-tenths of my dahlias have come through
in most of the winters, so people have asked me can I move dahlias in November?
If the Dahlia is going to be fine at one end of the border underneath a
pile of mulch or why don’t I dig it up move it to another side of the border
and equally cover it with a pile of mulch? Surely that will be just as good
well? I tried that last year and it didn’t work – I dug up a
Con aAore Dahlia that had come through several winters including a very cold
one in the border, covered with mulch. I moved it to another part of the same
border and covered it with mulch, but it did not emerge in spring so I do not advise that you move your dahlias or plant dahlias in the
autumn. Let’s now go over to Steven Edney who is the award-winning head gardener
of the Salutation hotel in Sandwich in Kent and whose gardens are open every
day of the year Steven’s family actually grow dahlias
professionally so he is a great expert. So mornally I’d say lift the dahlias will when the frost blackens the foliage but actually these days that can
be almost Christmas, so we’ll wait until some point in no late November, and then
we’ll cut the foliage back first,
actually to a just a couple of inches off the ground, fork up the tuber, being
careful not to damage the tubers and then we’ll gently dry them. Now people do
say about tipping their dahlias upside down
so that any liquid in the stems can drain out so it doesn’t rot the
tubers. You know I’ve been growing dahlias for 25 years now and my
experience has been that people tend to leave them just tipped upside down and
then just forget about them. Then when they come back to them in the spring, all
the new shoots that are formed are facing the wrong way when they go to
turn the tuber the right way up to plant it. So we actually only tip our dahlias
upside down overnight just to let any real liquid – real water
just sort of come out of the stems but in terms of the kind of juice in the
stems that’ll naturally dry out during the winter. We turn
the right way up – you can store them in crates or boxes as long as there’s a
decent airflow we actually use our old spent multi-purpose compost from plants
that have died – obviously if they’ve died for anything that’s a bit nasty then
we wouldn’t be using that compost because you don’t want to contaminate
your tubers with anything – but over the years we’ve used sand, straw -we’ve used a whole myriad of things. We used to use peat back in the day
of course but nobody likes peat anymore – it’s a great product, it’s
just a shame that it has such a high environmental cost, so I completely
understand why people don’t store in peat anymore. They need to be somewhere
dry and they need to be in the dark and they want to be just frost free, so they
could go under a bench in a greenhouse and or they
could go into a shed or garage if you don’t have a greenhouse and and they’ll
be completely dormant and quite happy there all winter until you remove them
in the spring and kickstart them into growth. The problem with leaving any
plant in the ground for years on end is that it grows and it spreads and it gets
a bit out of control and the center dies and in the end you will get something
scrappy. I literally have dug up hundreds of
small tubers from just one Dahlia that I planted eight years ago – so it has
thrived being in the soil for eight years although I think perhaps some of
these tubers could be a bit larger and that I might do better next year to pick
out the healthiest and then replant them. I’d strongly advise using a fork rather
than a spade as you can see I started off with a fork – all that went well and I
thought it might be quicker and easier with a spade – with the spade, I cut
across some tubers and I broke the Spade! so even if you leave your dahlias in the
borders over winter protected by mulch, there will come a point when you need to
dig them up, but don’t let that put you off growing dahlias after all many many
beautiful plants are grown as annual, so you could replant new dahlias every year. I think gardening and learning to garden
is a journey and you find out what works for you and I know that generally what
works for me is to leave my dahlias in the ground, but I’ve learned it should only be for two or three
seasons. I think leaving these orange cushioned dahlias in the ground for
eight years has been too long. If you found this helpful please do hit like
because then I’ll know you’d like more garden how to’s and if you’d like tips,
ideas and inspiration for your garden do subscribe to the Middle-sized Garden
YouTube channel, thank you for watching! goodbye

10 thoughts on “Dahlias in winter! The pros and cons of digging them up…

  1. Thank you again for these useful tips. And it is all about experimenting and finding out what works for our gardens. Interesting to see a dahlia originating and named after the city where I live (Portland Oregon) and growing in your garden so nicely. . The term "RIP City" was coined by a local sports announcer who used to live across the street.

  2. I'm only doing pelargoniums, split 3 ways–1/2 in pots against house foundation/protected, 1/2 in ground against south brick foundation, and saving seed as insurance.
    Your videos are always excellent & friendly. Your garden is always beautiful, year-round. Thank you.

  3. This was very helpful. I had no idea you need to dig your dahlias up after a few seasons even if you can normally leave them in the ground. Thanks!

  4. That's a big milestone, congratulations on hitting 10,000 subs Alexandra. I've never had much luck with Dahlias but perhaps 2020 is the year !

  5. Such great info, I Love Dahlia's. I'm in U.S. zone 7 an I mulch mine over winter. Side note…I've just signed up for Britbox, and I think I seen you shopping on Gardeners World 2018, ep. 8, @ 16.53,. At the Malvin Flower Show…I think that's the name they said.?

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