How to Split Dahlias in Your Garden

By Allyn Paul, filed under Landscape Tips, Planting Flower Bulbs.

Many people mistakenly assume that dahlia plants are bulbs. In actuality, dahlias are grown from tubers. You are probably familiar with another kind of tuber, the potato. Tubers are planted in the ground and then produce plants from their eyes. Unlike potatoes, dahlias only have eyes near the ends of the tuber. They do multiply over time and can be split. Here is a guide for splitting your dahlias if you haven’t done this before.

When and How to Split Dahlias

Dahlias should be split in the fall. Wait until the first frost strikes. This frost should kill off the greenery on your plants and make digging them up much earlier. Plus, you might as well enjoy your beautiful dahlia blooms as long as possible. If a frost hasn’t killed off your plants by November, split them at this time.

To begin, cut your plant stalk down until only 3-4 inches above the ground. Once you have cut your stalk back, wait at least one week. This allows the eyes to set. It is very important to wait between cutting back the stalk and digging up the tuber.

After a week has passed, carefully dig around the tuber. Tubers can be very delicate and so you need to carefully loosen the dirt around the tuber to ensure that it will not be broken or damaged. Once it has been gently removed from the ground, rinse away any excess dirt. Using clean scissors, trim off any roots that remain. Clean off the tuber using clean water and set aside to dry for at least 6 hours.

The Eyes Have It

To divide the plant, use clean garden shears or a knife to cut each individual tuber off of the clump. Each tuber will need a visible eye which can be found at the end of the tuber. These can be small and hard to see; if you have trouble finding the eyes, ask an experienced dahlia gardener to point them out, or use a magnifying glass for up close inspection. They are only found near the stem, so be careful as you remove them. Any tuber without an eye will be unable to grow.

Dahlia tubers are very delicate and susceptible to bacteria and disease. Once you have divided the plant, it is a good idea to soak your tubers in clean water with a little bit of bleach added. This will sanitize your tubers. Only soak them for about 10 minutes, any longer will damage the tuber. Once dried, these tubers are ready for winter storage and spring planting.
Dahlias are a beautiful flower that will truly brighten your garden. They should be split once every three years to ensure that they will keep looking and growing their best.


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