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How To Tell If Dahlia Tubers Are Dead? A Complete Guide!

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Dahlia is a tuberous plant member of related species like the daisy, zinnia, sunflower, and chrysanthemum. It is grown in the mountainous regions of Mexico, where the tropical climate reigns.

When the plant grows, it produces the tubes. Dahlia tubers are fragile, do not tolerate dampness, are susceptible to various diseases, and are damaged by pests like rodents, bears, and wireworms.

Some gardeners risk leaving the underground part of the plant in the open field for the winter. They insulate the soil above the dahlia growing area to prevent it from freezing.

However, tubers do not tolerate even temperatures close to zero. The appearance of these tubes may be confusing because they look dry, and it cannot be clear whether they are alive or not. So, continue reading this article to understand how to tell if dahlia tubes are dead.

How To Tell If Dahlia Tubers Are Dead
Dahlia Tubers via Wikimedia

Dahlia Species

  1. Collar dahlias

They have petals of various sizes. They are short and rolled into tubes in the middle, and on the outer part of the inflorescence, they are long and flat. 

  1. Needle dahlias

They differ from all other varieties in thin petals, which are twisted into a dense tube. Their length can vary greatly. In addition, it is worth noting one of the subspecies, which is semi-needle dahlias. Their petals are not more like needles but like graceful cones.

  1. Globular dahlias

Globular dahlias are the owners of lush and round inflorescences. The petals are large and fleshy. Each of them is slightly rolled into a tube. The inflorescence is loose and soft.

Globular dahlias How To Tell If Dahlia Tubers Are Dead
Globular dahlias via Pixabay

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  1. Pompon dahlias 

They are closely related to globular dahlias. They also have fluffy inflorescences, consisting of slightly twisted petals. But in size, pompom flowers are noticeably inferior to their counterparts, and their inflorescences are denser to the touch.

  1. Nymphae dahlias

Nymphae dahlias are strikingly different from other species. They have flat inflorescences. In the center, there is a fluffy center of short tubular petals. Most often, they look convex. The edging of the flower is a series of broad flat petals. 

  1. Anemone dahlias 

They are somewhat similar to collar dahlias. There are short graceful tubes inside. Along the perimeter, there are broad flat petals.

  1. Peony dahlias 

Peony dahlias are the owners of lush inflorescences. There are several rows of broad oval petals in each of them, and in the middle, there is a group of short ones twisted into graceful tubes.

How To Tell If Dahlia Tubers Are Dead

You can tell the dahlia tubers are dead if they have an unpleasant odor, squishy texture, and are covered by mold. If there are no sprouts or they are brown and dry, then they are dead. Also, the dahlia tubers are dead if there is no moisture left in the tubers.

How To Dig Up Dahlia Tubers And Don’t Harm Them

If you don’t want to harm dahlia tubers, you’re required to know precisely how dig them. Only if specific rules are observed, dahlia tubers are saved so that they can sprout next year.

Typically, many flower growers advices against digging dahlias before the first frost. However, there is a risk that the tubers will freeze in this situation, which makes them rot. That is why you should not wait for frost. 

It is better to dig up the dahlia tubers a few weeks before the onset of cold weather. To determine this, look at the weather forecast before. 

Also, before digging out the roots, the stems should be cut off the plant, leaving a small stump at about 10 centimeters from the tubers. Dahlia tubers need to be dug out carefully to prevent damaging the roots. 

If you want to preserve these tubers, grab more soil when you are digging. It’s better to retreat from the roots by 25 centimeters. 

After digging, the tubers should be dried a little in the sun. Do not rinse the dahlia roots with water. This will complicate the drying step. 

It would be best not to store the tubers of those plants that had an unhealthy appearance. The last step in the preparation is the cleaning of the tubers from roots and soil. Everything should be done carefully and slowly.

How To Store Dahlia Tubers To Prevent Them From Dying

It would be best if you don’t postpone the processing of tubers for a long time to prepare to store them. Better to do everything in a couple of days. 

This is because the tubers deteriorate and dry out very quickly. Today there are a considerable number of methods to store dahlia tubers until the next planting.

  1. Storing in the wooden boxes

The simplest method is to store the dahlia tubers in wooden boxes. Beforehand, the tubers must be well dried, and the packages must be covered with newspaper. 

Dahlia boxes should be placed in a cool room. This could be a garage or a barn. Here tubers should be stored for no more than a week. After that, the boxes should be covered with newspaper and placed in the basement or where vegetables are stored.

  1. Storing in the apartment

If you do not have a basement, then a method that allows you to store dahlia tubers in an apartment is suitable for you. To preserve the dahlia tubers, you will need nets or crates, candles, or paraffin wax. 

Make a water bath over medium heat and melt the paraffin in it. The tubers should be dipped into the melted paraffin on both sides. This must be done quickly enough since the paraffin hardens very quickly. 

Processed tubers should be carefully folded into separate boxes, sorting them out in advance. After that, boxes with dahlias can be placed on the balcony or in the pantry. 

The place where the boxes with tubers will stand should not be damp but cool. This method lets you to preserve and protect the dahlia tubers and from drying out or rotting. 


The dahlia tubers look dry, and it is unclear whether they are alive or not. This can often lead to the loss of the entire collection. It’s time for the hostesses to visit the storage and look at the dahlias.

The surest sign that the tubers have died in the dry neck of the rhizome. If the neck is dry, all tubers will almost certainly be brown, rotten at the cut.