Small Dahlia Tubers Versus Dahlia Clumps

Is a bigger Dahlia tuber better than a small one? If you are in a State Fair tuber size contest, yes, but otherwise a smaller one will deliver flowers just as readily.

This early August heat wave in July has got me thinking about planting a Dahlia clump versus a small Dahlia tuber. A clump can take a bit more stress, heat or moisture or lack of moisture, better than a tiny tuber planted out in the field. Don’t throw rotten tomatoes yet. I’ll explain my way out of this.

All of the my Dahlia clumps I planted this Spring shot up regardless of heat or lack of moisture. The single, little Dahlia tubers can actually dry up in this heat without enough moisture. I often plant them a little shallower since here in Maryland we get rain usually twice a week…until this year. We’re in a dry spell right now. And I am having to irrigate some of the Dahlias.

I dug a shovelful of soil that had been tilled a month ago the other day, put my hand down in the soil to feel the moisture (or lack there of) and was shocked how hot the soil was 4 inches down. Way hotter than my hand. I could probably cook eggs in it. That would only attract raccoons and I definitely don’t care to see anymore near the Dahlias.

Raccoons are notorious for unwrapping and unearthing things. One year I had potted up some tubers and put them near the barn, away from the cats who tend to want to lay or sit on them, and the next morning they were helter-skelter turned over all of the soil emptied our, tubers missing. If I’d never seen red before I did that morning.

One thing about gardening and farming you learn a lot of life lessons. Never take things for granted. Lesson number one. Lesson number two, protect your goods. I detoured down a side road here so I’ll get back on the Dahlia tuber size highway again.

I have to confess some of my little Dahlia tubers dried up. Had I known the forecast would have been weeks w/out rain I would have planted them deeper. But the forecast kept showing thunderstorms spread out through the week ahead every time I checked. (Every 30 minutes.).

Dahlia Tuber size is optional.
Proof that a small Dahlia tuber can deliver flowers.

Ironically some of the Dahlia clumps I did not dig up last year are looking all the better for negligence. The reason being they are a clump of tangled (not to be confused with the word “entanglement”) tubers and have an established root system. They are the green, thriving celebrities out in the field. Can’t keep a good thing down comes to mind. This is an exception as our Winters are usually wet and cold. Next year could be different and most likely spell disaster for any overwintered in the ground.

To summarize the difference really just boils down to correct moisture, and healthy soil. Little tubers like 90-95 F weather if they are buried deep enough 4-6 inches and have free draining soil and moisture.

A little tuber can develop around five additional tubers when it comes time to dig them up in the Fall. When you receive a clump you can divide it into individual tubers with eyes, plant each individual Dahlia tuber and they will each multiply as well. The great thing about Dahlias is they multiply themselves underground without much help from us. They must know that we fail sometimes.

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