That'll be the dahlia

PUBLISHED: 12:05 16 February 2006 | UPDATED: 14:35 12 May 2010

Dahlias

Dahlias

IN mid-February it is time to get your dahlia tubers out of store and start them into growth for the coming summer. The tubers and stems should have been kept indoors in pots or boxes of damp compost to prevent them from shrinking and drying out. Examine

IN mid-February it is time to get your dahlia tubers out of store and start them into growth for the coming summer. The tubers and stems should have been kept indoors in pots or boxes of damp compost to prevent them from shrinking and drying out. Examine them carefully and if there are any signs of rot or mould discard the affected tubers since they will not develop into healthy new plants. The dahlias should then be planted in pots so that the soil or compost covers the tubers but leaves the severed stem sections exposed. The pots should be put on a greenhouse bench in full light and watered or placed on a sunny windowsill in a house. Keep the soil or compost constantly damp but take care not to over-water since this could cause the tubers to rot. In time, new shoots will appear and if you want to increase your dahlias some of these young growths should be removed with a sharp knife and used as cuttings. The bottom leaves of the shoots should be stripped and then they should be inserted into pots of compost with sharp drainage where they will root and form new plants. Leave enough new growth on the original plants which can be planted out again once there is no danger of frost, that is at the end of May or beginning of June. Over the years, I have given plenty of advice in this column and while I mostly practice what I preach, I must confess that this autumn I forgot to lift my dahlias despite advising readers to do so once the frost had blackened the stems. I lifted them last week, and to my joy the tubers were in perfect condition and ready to be planted up in the greenhouse. This leads me to believe that the real problem with dahlias during the winter months is waterlogging on heavy soil rather than low temperatures. My soil has certainly been frozen hard at times during the winter, but has been exceptionally dry owing to little or no rain and I think this is why my neglected dahlias have been unharmed.

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