I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that dahlias are one of my very favorite summer flowers. While they come in all shapes and sizes from the tiny to the huge, it’s hard to beat the magnificent dinner plate varieties that practically need their own vase for display. And the list of accolades continues: they bloom all throughout the summer and fall if you treat them well, they’re pretty easy to grow, they make terrific cut flowers, and it’s pretty easy to save the tubers from year to year and even divide them as they multiply.
But did you know that you can also get more bang for your buck by forcing your tubers to sprout early, and then taking cuttings from the new sprouts? Once rooted, the new cuttings are ready to be planted out into the garden pretty quickly and will flower around the same time as any tuber you plant. By taking up to four cuttings off of each tuber throughout the course of a few weeks, you can save between $20 – $40 on new tubers and additionally clone hard to find or expensive varieties.
It’s easy to do at home, or you can come join me out at B-Side Farm on April 8th for a dahlia cutting workshop. Below are the time-tested steps I’ll be teaching.
How To Take Dahlia Cuttings In Ten Steps
- Gather your materials:
- One or more firm, intact dahlia tuber with the neck attached (if you just bought the tuber from a reputable source, it will have a neck. If you dug it from your own garden, just make sure that some of this ‘neck’ – or, the space between the tuber and the stem-is attached).
- Sharp clippers or a knife
- One 4” pot per tuber (or any pot that will fit it, just make sure there’s a drainage hole)
- Well-draining potting mix
- An additional small pot or plug tray for your new cuttings
- A heat mat (not necessary, but helpful)
- Rooting hormone such as Dip N Grow (again, not necessary, but helpful)
- Fill a 4” pot half full with slightly moistened soil mix, and then stick in your dahlia tuber with the roots pointing down, neck pointing up. Fill the rest of the pot with soil mix, leaving the top inch or so of the dahlia tuber sticking out.
- Put the pot in a warm place such as your windowsill, on top of the fridge, or better yet, a heat mat. Check on it every few days and add a little water if the soil dries out. You don’t want it to be sopping wet.
- After about ten days, start looking for signs of a sprouting eye. The eyes are sometimes hard to see, but they’re located somewhere on the neck. You’ll first notice a tiny purple bulge, and then a green sprout. Rejoice!
- When the sprout is about 2 inches tall and has a few sets of leaves, you’re ready to take your cutting! With your sharp shears or knife, cut off the entire sprout just at the point where it meets the tuber. You can clean up the cutting a little if need be by cutting off any excess leaves on the bottom half of the sprout.
- In a pre-filled pot of moist potting soil, make a hole in the middle a few inches down. If you choose to use a rooting hormone, this is where you now dip the bottom of your cutting into it, according to the specifications on the bottle (they’re all a little different). Then simply stick the cutting into the hole in your new pot and firm up the soil around it.
- E voila! The main thing to remember about your cutting as you’re waiting for it to develop roots is that you don’t want it to dry out. Keep it out of bright light and try to mist it once or twice a day to keep the leaves moist.
- After about 10 – 14 days your cutting should have started to develop roots. It’s always fun to give it a little tug and if it resists, you know it’s becoming rooted in the pot. You can plant it out into the garden a few weeks later when roots have started to fill up the pot.
It’s so easy! I take cuttings from my dahlias from February through April and have found it to be a great way to grow lots of dahlias in the garden. Let me know how it goes!