Bright dahlias, cut fresh from your garden, speak of all the caring and anticipation that led to their blooming. Cut them for yourself, and you can enjoy your garden inside your home. Give them away, and others can share in your passion. Of course, a bouquet only fleetingly captures a moment in a season. After their flowers and foliage have faded, dahlias offer you another chance to save their garden beauty: dig and store their tender tubers for replanting in spring. And while it isn’t quite as pretty a gift as a bunch of dahlias, a bag of tubers is one that will last all season—or longer, if you share the technique for digging and storing them, too.
SEASON’S KEEPERS: Why save nonhardy bulbs?
A tuber saved is a penny earned: If you dig, store, and replant the bulbs of tender plants in the fall, you’ll save money and time the next spring. Instead of going out and buying new plants, you can just bring your tubers or bulbs out of your storage space.
A low-risk design: Saving and replanting tubers is the surest way to re-create what you loved about your garden this year, or make a better plan. You know just how your plants will look as they grow and flower, and you can place them where they were or in a new spot accordingly.
Diversify your plant portfolio: You can grow tropical and subtropical tuberous plants regardless of your zone and consider them perennials. Thinking of them this way, instead of as “throw-away” annuals, might help you feel free to buy more of them or try unusual (and more expensive) species and cultivars.
Dig, Dry, Stow
Besides dahlias, you can dig, store, and replant the tubers or bulbs of gladiolus, cannas, elephant’s ears, caladium, and tuberous begonias.
After the first frost has killed the top of the plant, cut back the stems and dig up the tubers. (Dig tuberous begonias before the frost.)
Wash off any soil and let the tubers dry.
Place the tubers in net bags, wrap them in newspapers, or pack them in peat moss. Be sure to package different plants separately and label each type. Store them in a dark, cool (35°-45°F] place, such as a cellar, garage, or bulkhead.
Check on your stored bulbs and tubers every few weeks. Throw out any that show signs of rot