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This time of year, I receive countless questions about digging and storing dahlia tubers. There is so much conflicting advice and uncertainly. Some people start to panic!

I get it. Tubers are a big investment and of course, you want to do everything you can to ensure your tubers survive over the winter.

I’m going to walk you through the process we use for digging and storing our dahlia tubers. After reading and watching the videos, you should feel more confident and ready to try it on your own!

Before we dive in, I want you to know 2 things:

1. There are several different methods that can be used to store dahlia tubers. When you hear “seemingly contradicting” advice, just know that different methods work for different storage situations. The way WE store them might not be best for YOU, since we don’t have the exact same storage spots.

2. If you are new to storing dahlia tubers, I highly recommend you try a few different storage methods and locations. This will help you discover the ideal methods for YOU. It’s never a great idea to “put all your eggs in one basket”. This way, if one method is a flop, you have a back up supply of tubers.

Got it? Good.

So, first… here’s a quick video that shows you what dahlia tubers clumps should look like AFTER you dig them up. Notice the big clump of tubers and the short stem. https://www.youtube.com/embed/MTbPPezNlpg?wmode=opaque&enablejsapi=1

Ok, now that you know what you’re going for and what the tubers look like, let’s get digging!

Digging and Storing Your Dahlia Tubers.


  • Dahlias are very sensitive to frost. You’ll know you’ve had a frost because one day your plants will look beautiful… and the next day they will be black and dead (see before and after photos below). Flower farmers call the First Killing Frost of the Season “Frostmas”. 😉
  • Feel free to go out by your dead dahlias and cry a little bit. No judgement here. Goodbye, my loves…
  • P.S. Frost covered dahlias are gorgeous, but they only look pretty for about an hour and then they turn to mush. Get out there and take photos! It only happens once a year!
Happy Frostmas! “Black Satin” after the first frost.
Happy Frostmas! “Black Satin” after the first frost.
BEFORE: Dahlia field the day before the 1st frost.
BEFORE: Dahlia field the day before the 1st frost.
AFTER: Dahlia field the day after the 1st frost. These photos were taken within 24 hours of each other!
AFTER: Dahlia field the day after the 1st frost. These photos were taken within 24 hours of each other!


  • Once the frost has killed the plants, go through with a heavy clippers or loppers and cut back the main stem and all the foliage, leaving a “stem handle” sticking up out of the ground about 4-6” long.
  • Once you have cut back the plants, it’s time to WAIT. You can relax for a week or two. Simply leave the tuber clumps in the ground, undisturbed.
  • Cutting back like this signals the tubers below the ground to set “eye” (sprouts) on the tubers. This is important, because you need to be able to see the eyes if you plan on dividing your tuber clumps right away.
  • Cutting back also signals the tubers to cure and toughen up, which helps them store better over the winter.
  • If you have not received a killing frost by November 1, you can start cutting back plants anyway. You want to leave yourself enough time to get them out of the ground before the ground freezes. Yup, I’ve been out there digging the last of the tubers out in the snow. 😉
We made “Cut Back the Plants” day into a work party and cut back the whole field in 1 hour!
We made “Cut Back the Plants” day into a work party and cut back the whole field in 1 hour!


  • After 1 -2 weeks of curing in the ground, you can begin digging.
  • Using a pitchfork, CAREFULLY loosen the soil on all sides of the tuber clump. Take care to NOT break the tubers. They are EXTREMELY fragile.
  • Do NOT yank up the tuber clump by the “stem handle.” Instead, place one hand on the handle and use the other hand to pry up the clump with the pitchfork.
  • Gently remove excess soil from around the tubers with a pencil, stick or paint brush. Clip off “root hairs” and any broken tubers.
  • Using a loppers or heavy clippers, cut off the “stem handle” near the base of the clump, leaving about 1-2 inches. Do NOT cut too low or you will cut off the “eyes”!
  • Place the clump in a bag or crate with the dahlia variety name clearly marked on it.
  • Bring the bags/crates to a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight (like a garage or covered porch) and allow them to dry for about a week.
A nice looking dahlia tuber clump!
A nice looking dahlia tuber clump!


Once your tubers have dried for about a week, you need to decide:

Will you divide your clumps now or in the spring?

We usually divide in the spring (we simply don’t have time to deal with them in the fall!), so we store our tubers in clumps. We feel keeping the clumps whole as long as possible helps the tubers to store better… but obviously, it takes up waaaaaay more room than storing individual tubers.

If you do decide to divide in the fall, you will need to do a little more babysitting over the winter.


  1. Wash clumps and allow them to dry overnight… or simply brush off excess dirt with a paintbrush (this works best for light sandy soil. If you grow in heavy clay, you will need to wash them).
  2. Divide the clumps into individual tubers (watch the video below to learn how). Allow cut ends on tubers to dry and cure, about 2-3 days. Remember: ONLY tubers with “eyes” are viable!
  3. Store tubers in bins/boxes filled with vermiculite, peat moss, or wood shavings. Be sure that they are not touching each other! Fill the bin with about 1-2 inches of storage material and carefully place the tubers so they are not touching. Sprinkle another 2 inches of storage material on top and add another layer of tubers, and so on. They can also be wrapped in newspaper to prevent touching.
  4. Store at 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit, with about 70% humidity.
“Eyes” on a tuber.
“Eyes” on a tuber.


  1. Leave clumps unwashed. Brush off as much dirt as possible.
  2. Store in boxes/plastic or paper bags/crates at 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit, with about 70% humidity. If you are storing in a dry place, plastic bags may work best. If you are storing in a damp place, paper bags may work best.
Tubers in a paper bag ready for winter storage.
Tubers in a paper bag ready for winter storage.


THIS IS THE TRICKIEST PART OF GROWING DAHLIAS. Dahlias are relatively easy to grow, but proper winter storage can be a struggle!

Here are a few tips for storing your tubers over the winter, regardless if they are divided or not.

  • Store at 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. If the tubers freeze, they will turn to mush when they thaw. If they get too warm, they will rot.
  • Humidity at about 70%. Ensure that the tubers are not too dry (they will shrivel) and not too wet (they will rot). If your space is dry, you can control this by storing in plastic bins/bags and occasionally spritzing with water. If your space is damp, try storing in paper bags/cardboard boxes that will help absorb moisture. Peat moss, wood shavings and vermiculite will also help regulate humidity. In extreme cases, you may need to run a dehumidifier or a humidifier, depending on your needs.
  • Check on your tubers every few weeks. Remove any rotted, mushy tubers and discard. Mush is no good. If the tubers looks shriveled and dry, don’t toss them – move them to a more humid location. I’ve seen the most terrible dead-looking tubers come back to life in the spring.
  • Sometimes the tubers develop small amount of mold. Don’t panic. It means your spot is too humid. Move them to a drier spot and simply brush off or wipe off the mold.
  • FOR BEST RESULTS, we recommend trying a few different storage methods and locations. Keep notes and make observations. Until you discover what works for you, it’s wise to not “put your eggs in one basket.”

People are always asking me: “How/Where do you store your dahlia tubers?” I’m usually hesitant to explain, because unfortunately, our storage area is quite difficult to replicate.

Currently, we store them at my parent’s house, in their “underground garage” on the basement level of their walk-put ranch-style house. This garage is unheated, but stays right around 40 degrees all winter, since it’s surrounded by the house above and on 3 sides. The garage acts like a root cellar and is quite humid.

We’re not sure what we’ll do when my parents sell the house! We’ll likely have to dig a root cellar on the farm.


We haul the tubers over to their house and allow them to dry out for a week or so in crates and bags/boxes before packing them up.


Once the tubers are dried, they are placed in paper bags that are rolled up. The bags are placed in cardboard boxes and we stack them up. Over the winter, we check on them occasionally.

When it’s time to start dividing in the spring, we haul the boxes back to the farm.


Concluding Remarks

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I know, it’s a lot of overwhelming information and some of you are wondering if it’s worth all the time and effort. And maybe now you understand why dahlia blooms cost more than most other flowers! They are a real labor of love!

You don’t HAVE to dig up your tubers every fall. Some people simply decide to purchase new tubers every spring and that is fine! If you are on our email list, you’ll be the first to know when we have dahlia tubers available in the late winter/early spring.

You also can try experimenting with “overwintering” you tubers in the ground, depending on where you live. Here in Zone 5b in the Great White North (Michigan), dahlias will not survive over the winter, but… let me tell you what happened to us last year!

We had several “Blizzard” variety dahlias that we did not need to dig up (because each plant produces about 20+ new tubers!) so we left them in the ground. Our neighbors gave us huge loads of maple leaves and they ended up in a giant heap (2-3 feet deep) over the dahlias. We meant to move them but didn’t get around to it before the snow came.

Come spring, I lifted up that thick layer of leaves… and found a dozen healthy dahlia plants sprouting! We transplanted them and they did GREAT this season. So, it IS possible to overwinter them, but it might have been a fluke.

It’s worth experimenting with though, if you have large amounts of leaves you can mulch with…

That’s it, folks. If you have any more questions, please ask in the comments below or send me an email at: lori@threeacrefarm.net

Have fun digging your tubers!


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Carol McLean 2 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi! Thank you for your video. I’ve been given such bad advice about dahlias. You videos are very helpful. My question is do you keep the stalk from the original plant?

Lori Hernandez 2 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Carol,
We keep a few inches of the stalk on the tuber clump.

Kassidee 5 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi! I’m in zone 8a (western SC) and I decided to try overwintering my dahlias. It was my first year, so I was nervous to try to store them all winter.
I decided to dig them up today so I could divide them. The stocks were dead so I just cut them off and dug up the clumps. They’re much more potato-ey than yours or than when I received them. (Round balls vs long tubes), and I can’t discern eyes. Look very healthy though! This close to spring, should I try to store them whole for the next few weeks or divide them?
Am I wasting my time with tubers that don’t look like tubes? I’ve never seen potato shaped ones. Haha

Lori Hernandez 5 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Kassidee,
What great news to hear they look good! I would not worry about the tuber shape. Dahlias tubers some in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It could simply be that your soil is more dense and the tubers were a bit more compacted as they grew.

I’m unfamiliar with growing dahlias in your Zone, but it seems to me like you could divide them and plant them out soon??? I know in our area, it’s best to wait until the soil has warmed up to about 60 degrees and has dried out a bit.

Nancy S 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

I think I waited to long to dry the tubers after washing them and now some are wrinkly. Are they still salvageable? If I spray them and put them in paper bags will they rot?

Lori Hernandez 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

I would not give up hope yet. Some varieties are more prone to drying out than others. I’d suggest storing them in slightly dampened peat moss. Make sure they are stored in an area that is quite humid, to prevent further drying out.

Nancy S 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

I don’t have peat moss, but I have wood chips, will storing them in plastic bags filled with wood chips sprayed with water help? Thanks so much Lori!

Lori Hernandez 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Nancy,
It really depends on how humid your storage area is. The wood chips do tend to dry them out… which can be good if your storage area is very humid. But most of us have storage areas that are quite dry, so in that case, peat moss might be the better option. You could certainly try slightly dampening the wood shavings and see how that works…
Storage is tricky! I wish there was a “one-size-fits-all”, tried-and-true method!

Rachael 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Lori! I’m up in Mt. Pleasant, MI, and I dug last weekend and set my tubers in cardboard boxes in my (cool but not cold) basement, until I could have time to divide. This weekend, I found my tubers slightly shriveled, but still felt like they had moisture. I put cinnamon on the open wounds and packed away with a few different media to see what works best for me. If they were already shriveled, though, did I already blow it?

Lori Hernandez 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Don’t panic! Some varieties do tend to shrivel up, but as long as they are not completely dried out and desiccated, they will likely be fine!

Michelle 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Lori – loved reading through your tips and responses to questions! I hope you have been enjoying this gorgeous week of weather here in Michigan!! Today is my “deal with the dahlias day”! So nice to be out in shorts and a tee in November!! I have been growing dahlias for a number of years now in pots on my very large and sunny southwestern exposure deck in East Lansing, MI. When I first started growing dahlias quite a few years back, I fell in love! I have had mixed results with over-wintering them in my garage, but I think I found a good spot last year in a storage closet that backs up to an inside wall. At least, I had a bumper crop last year! Whether or not it was a mild winter that did it, I’m not sure. Anyway, as always as I’m preparing my dahlias in the fall, I always doubt myself on how to prepare them properly for storage. I have always washed them thoroughly of all the dirt (even in some nasty frigid temperatures outside!) then waited for them to dry in the garage before I put them away. This is the first year that I’ve read about just storing them in clumps and not even worrying about too much dirt being left on them, so I’m going to try it this year. Last year I think I separated all the tubers and laid them on layered newspaper in cardboard boxes. This year, I’m going to try the paper bag method. So I’m curious, do you put peat moss into the bags with the tuber clumps? Do you leave the bags open at the top or roll them over? And as I’m cutting off the stems from the clumps, most of them are still green and moist inside. I let them stay in the pots for a couple weeks after the frost, dug them up earlier in the week and left them out on the deck to dry. Do the stems have to be completely dried up before I put them away? Also a particular variety called Daria in Love has really tight clumps of tubers with lots of dirt in between that I can’t even begin to get out without washing them. Do you wash clumps like that in the spring before dividing them? Lastly, do you dust them with sulphur before storing? I have a new variety that I planted this year, Firepot (gorgeous!) and one of the plants developed some powdery mildew late in the season. Would love to be able to save that one! I know I have a lot of questions but I’d really appreciate your insight!!

Lori Hernandez 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Michelle,
I’ll try to answer your questions!

  1. No, we do not use peat moss. We’d go broke 😉
  2. We roll the bags shut.
  3. Yes, I would let the stems dry out before storing.
  4. We don’t wash, we simply brush off the dirt with an old paint brush. We have sandy soil, so this works. If you have clay soil, you may need to wash them off.
  5. No, we do not use sulphur.

Hope this helps!

Darlene 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Lori,
This is my first year growing Dahlias and I am in love!!! They are just so darn pretty! I had no clue about what to do now with my Dahlias, but thank goodness, my dear friend Maxine, emailed me about you and your lovely farm. I live in Oregon and we haven’t gotten a frost yet, but thanks to your advice, I now know that since it is November, I need to cut back the plants and wait. Thank you so much for your wisdom. I can hardly wait to dig those babies up!

Lori Hernandez 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Darlene,
Aren’t dahlias so addicting?!? I can’t get enough of them 🙂

Glad to hear this blog post was helpful! Best wishes digging and storing those babies.

Lesley 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

I have been given a sack of alpaca fleece (second grade) can I use this as packing material for my tubers

Lori Hernandez 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

I have no experience with that…. but you should try it out! Do an experiment where you try a few different storage methods, then compare the results in the spring!

Lindsay 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Lori – Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I dug, cleaned, and then divided my tubers all today. However, because several of the clumps were so tight, some tubers were still dirty, can I clean them again with the hose? Or should I clean them another way before I store them? Thanks in advance!

Lori Hernandez 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Lindsay,
I wouldn’t worry about it too much. We try to brush off as much dirt as possible without wasting too much time 😉 We find that the dirt actually protects them from rotting over the winter.

Some people like to wash them off, but if you do that, it’s important that you let the clumps dry completely before moving them to long term storage.

Hope this helps!

Rhonda Huismann 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Lori!

Year two from us and still learning curve. It’s been about a week to 10 days since killing frost, we didn’t get out to cut and clear foliage until today. We will leave in ground for a week as recommend but wondered if we caused issues with not cutting right away. Thanks for your advice!
Rhonda H.

Lori Hernandez 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Don’t sweat it! Same here for us. We usually try to cut immediately following the killing frost, but instead it ended up being about 7-10 days afterward. I’m not concerned. 🙂 Things don’t always go as planned and that’s ok!

adam glick 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Lori
Growing Dahlias in central PA near PennState, and this year for first time selling some to local florists. We had an unexpected cold snap of 4 days on Sept 15 ( I was away that weekend…) which you probably experienced also. After that it warmed up again for a month. All the flowers were killed but the plants wern’t and started regrowing leaves but not enough time to reflower by the real killing frost on Oct 15. My question is do you ever put some sort of row cover over your dahlias to protect the buds/flowers from a fall cold snap? thanks!

Lori Hernandez 9 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Adam,
We don’t have the ability to cover all our our dahlias, but if there is an early frost, we do try to cover a couple rows with tarps or sheets. If it’s just a frost, this method might be successful… but if it’s an actual freeze, it won’t. Unfortunately, a freeze changes the cell structure in the plants and turns them to mush.

Nicola 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

It’s been my first year with just six different dahlias on my allotment… they’ve made me so happy over the summer and now we are starting to have light frosts I need to make a plan… will I get more flowers if I separate off the tubers? One friend just leaves alone all year round and mulches over the top … must get crowded underground right ?

Lori Hernandez 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

Depending on where you live, you COULD leave them in the ground, mulch heavily, then dig up and divide in the spring and replant. If you are growing them as a perennial, they will need to be divided every year or two, or they will get out of hand.

Here, we have to dig them up and store them over the winter. I then divide up each clump into individual tubers. You only need 1 tuber to create a new plant! It’s entirely possible for me to get 15 new plants from 1 tuber clump.

Bonnie Peters 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

Thanks for all the advice. I don’t have as many as you but there task is for sure daunting. Need to start soon as we had frost a month ago already and I haven’t dug them yet.

Lori Hernandez 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

You’re welcome, Bonnie! Yes, it is a daunting task. I set aside a few weeks in the fall and just buckle down and do it. 😉 I try to get them up by the end of November, but I’ve been out there in December in the snow digging up the last of them! As long as the ground hasn’t frozen yet!

Kimberly Jeltema 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Lori,
First of all thank you!! I was given about 20 clumps of Dahlia tubers. I helped dig them up. They had not been cut back until we pulled them up so I’m wondering if I just let them dry before brushing g off the dirt and storing? The kind lady that gave them to me said she just put them in plastic bags, stacked them and left them until Spring. I’ve never grone them before air I don’t want to blow this opportunity 😊 thanks so much!!

Lori Hernandez 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

Yup, just make sure they are dry before storing them. You’ll have to figure out the best place to store them at your home. This is BY FAR the trickiest part of growing dahlias – figuring out how to store them. Unfortunately, what works for one person won’t work for everyone. It’s time for you to experiment!

Erica Cook 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

How do you know when frost is coming? What constitutes “frost”? (I am located in Chicago)

Lori Hernandez 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Erica,
You can Google “Chicago Average Frost Dates” and it will give you a date in the spring and the fall.

Last Spring Frost = the date it’s considered “safe” to plant out your annuals
First Fall Frost = the date all your annuals die 😉

Sometimes, you’ll get a patchy frost that just damages the plants, but they bounce back. However, if you wake up and have to scrape frost off the windshield of your car… that is a hard frost and all the plants will likely die.

Maxine 11 months ago · 0 Likes  

Once again, great information! It is very hard finding a storage place. I am still struggling with that issue. But I am not going to give up. When you do your dividing in the spring, when do you begin dividing? Right before you plant? Or, if sooner, how do you store them once they are cut?

Lori Hernandez 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

Maxine, yes, finding a good storage spot is the HARDEST part of growing dahlias!

We divide in the spring, a few weeks or days before planting them out. We cut them up, then place them back in the paper bags/cardboard boxes until planting time. Peat moss would be good too.

Jim 11 months ago · 0 Likes  

do you store the tubers in air tight containers? Like the plastic storage boxes? obviously packed with vermiculite.


Lori Hernandez 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

We do not. We store in paper bags, in cardboard boxes. This works for our storage spot.

Steph A year ago · 0 Likes  

Oh this is so informative! I have some that I want to store over the winter (trying for the first time). Thanks for the great info!!

Brittany Tourville 3 years ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Lori,

Where do you suggest storing tubers when you don’t have a space that gets to 40 or 50 degrees in your house? I’m afraid the garage gets much colder than that in the midst of winter. In the past I have always stored them in the basement but lose quite a few to rot… any suggestions?


Lori Hernandez 3 years ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Brittany,

Finding a proper storage spot is THE HARDEST part of growing dahlias. You might want to invest is small thermometer and place it in a few spots to figure out a good location. I have no idea what kind of layout/options you have, so it’s difficult for me to give instructions. 🙁

Some people store in the garage, with the box pushed up against a warm wall. That might work. Maybe a cooler in the garage, wrapped in blankets and snugged up against the wall.

If you don’t have a ton of tubers, is it possible for you to store them in a refrigerator?

Or maybe you know someone with a root cellar or good place to store? Ask around. Maybe someone can help.

Good luck!


Audrey 3 years ago · 0 Likes  

Dear Lori,
Thank you for sharing your Dahlia Dividing knowledge! This is THE mot helpful information that I have read on this dreaded task. I am now to the storing part in the life of my first year dahlia trials, as well as first year Flower Farming trials. There is SO MUCH to learn!

Lori Hernandez 3 years ago · 0 Likes  


Oh my, thank you for the compliment! Yes, it can be a daunting task. Storing is the hardest part!

Yup, SO MUCH to learn, but the best way to learn is to just do it and learn from your mistakes… and take notes 😉

Best wishes!

Anna Scholten 3 years ago · 0 Likes  

Hi! So I was a little over-zealous, and on Monday I cut down my dahlias AND dug them up on the same day. I’m not seeing any of the “eyes”….am I up a creek or might they show up still?

Lori Hernandez 3 years ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Anna,
No worries! For sure hold onto the tubers and store them for the winter. In the spring, they should start to “eye up”/sprout and then you can easily divide them up.

They should be fine! Some tuber varieties set eyes right away and some take a while to show up. With practice, you’ll be able to see where the eyes will start to grow.

Best wishes!

Kathy Vimont 3 years ago · 0 Likes  

Thank you, Lori! Great information. It’s not Frostmas yet here in Missouri; we’re still enjoying the flowers from your tubers I bought this spring. Lovely!

Question: you said to make sure the tubers aren’t touching each other if you store them after you’ve divided them. If I decide to store the whole tubers until later, would you suggest then only putting one clump in a box or bag, or could you put whole clumps together to save space?

I know that you divide yours sometime in the winter/early spring because you have a ton of dividing to do. If it’s still too early to plant, would you then store the individual tubers in peat moss, etc as you’ve described until it’s time to plant?

Thanks again! So fun to see your farm through your videos.

Lori Hernandez 3 years ago · 0 Likes  

Hi Kathy! Glad you are still enjoying your dahlias. I miss mine desperately!

When we store them whole, we usually have about 3-4 clumps per bag. There really is not a big risk of rotting with whole tuber clumps because they are still intact.

The divided, individual tubers can rot though because they have an “open wound”. That’s why allowing them to heal/dry/cure before storing is important.

Yes, we divide in early spring and I usually put the tubers right back in the paper bags. They can breath and don’t get moldy.

If I was storing the cut tubers in plastic bags, I’d for sure add some wood shavings/peat moss/vermiculite. That’s what we do when we start bagging up tubers for sale. I keep the bag open until shipping time.

Hope this helps!Newer Post“Frostmas” 2020Older PostSeed Saving for Beginners

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