Winter Storage For Tubers, Rhizomes


Proper storage for dahlia tubers and canna bulbs/rhizomes will mean many years of blooms.

Dahlias start producing new tubers in the spring but the roots don’t mature until late in the growing season. The longer they are in the ground, the more mature they will be, which will improve the likelihood they will survive in storage. The same is true of canna lilies.

Wait to dig the tubers until the foliage is killed by frost. Delay cutting dahlia stems until right before digging – the hollow stems collect water which promotes crown rot and decay. Canna stems can be cut before digging. 

During the growing season, both tubers and rhizomes have grown beyond their spring planting size. Use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the plant and gently lift the tubers from the ground while being careful not to cut into or skin the tubers which can allow disease organisms to enter and lead to rot. Remove soil from the tubers and rhizomes. Clumps can be divided in the fall or spring. Let tubers and rhizomes dry and “cure” out of direct sunlight and allow loose soil to fall away before storage. Label stored dahlias—you can use a felt-tipped pen to write the name/color directly on the tubers.

There are many ways to store the tubers. I wrap dahlia tubers in newspaper and put them in a cardboard box. Canna rhizomes are also wrapped in newspapers. The containers are covered to keep freezing temperatures from reaching the stored tubers/rhizomes when the garage door opens. Our heated garage keeps the stored tubers/rhizomes from freezing. Check tubers occasionally to remove any that have started to decay.