Article: The Beginners Guide to Dahlia Cuttings: Enlightening!

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Image The Beginners Guide to Dahlia Cuttings
By Ted & Margaret Kennedy on February 10, 2015

Dahlias can easily be grown from rooted cuttings.

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Feb 12, 2015 10:08 AM CST
Name: starlight1153 Zone 8a/b
Great article. Very informative. Now I know what I have been doing wrong in trying to grow cuttings and the proper way to remove them.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Big Grin
Feb 12, 2015 10:32 AM CST
Southern PA, Brandywine
Thanks Ted! Great writeup! So you don't use rooting hormone, have you tried it and just not seen any benefit to using it? Curious since I used it last year but it would be nice to not have to use it.

Also--you cover your tubers with soil past the neck so the eyes will sprout under the soil it seems. My local gal does it with the necks out, she actually sticks them in vertically to bulb crates. I might try both ways and see which works better.
Feb 12, 2015 11:02 AM CST
Name: Ted
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
(1) We used rooting hormone for a few years. Dahlias root just as well and maybe even better without rooting hormones. We quit because we did not want to be exposed to chemicals. I know of no experienced grower who uses rooting compounds. Some research could be done to see if it helps root leaf cuttings They are quite different from the cuttings we take from sprouting tubers as they have much less "root material". I have noticed that a leaf cutting takes about 10 more days to root. That process may or may not be helped by rooting compounds. I doubt it.

(2 Covering tubers with soil: Small tubers and small pot tubers need to be covered with potting soil. They are subject to drying out and when the eye totally dries out, it can die. I know of one person who killed 10 tubers by allowing the eyes to dry out. Once the tuber sprouts, it can easily be relocated in the pot so that the eyes are above soil level. By that time the tuber has roots below and the eye will not dry out. Large clumps and large tubers can have the eyes above the soil level but I am pretty certain that it slows down the growth of cutting material. Remember, the reason we are generally taking cuttings is that the variety makes poor tubers that are generally small and prone to rot. If you put the eye above the soil level you greatly increase the odds of killing the tuber before you take your first cutting.
We like to place a sign on our porch that says: We are in the garden. Really, we are always in the garden.
Feb 12, 2015 11:54 AM CST
Southern PA, Brandywine
Great thanks Ted! Makes a lot of sense.

You mention that the optimal temp for rooting cuttings is 72. What is the optimal temp for starting the mother tuber? About the same, or higher?
Feb 12, 2015 12:56 PM CST
Name: Ted
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
I have not read about any studies on the best temps for tubers to spout. I do know that the Dutch put tubers into a box or other container full of damp potting soil with a cover(no light)and keep it very warm, as I remember about 98 degrees. They are not doing cuttings like we do cuttings They want very long(12 inches plus), white sprouts and they cut these long white sprouts into pieces and root them. I believe they toss the tubers that produced the long sprouts. These white cuttings are in between our tuber sprouts and leaf cuttings. In other words, they take longer to root and they need to "green up" and grow some leaves. The Dutch are "production" oriented and want several thousand cuttings of one variety so they can plant them in the ground to produce their famous small tuber clumps.. All of these cuttings are taken at the same time and are the same size and ready to plant in the ground at the same time.

And back to the original question, what temp is best? My pots of tubers are not necessarily under the lights where it is about 72 degrees. Some flats are on the floor and it is a bit cooler there. They grow sprouts too but maybe just a bit slower. Perhaps temps warmer than 72 would be better but since they sprout fast enough for me, I have not experimented.
We like to place a sign on our porch that says: We are in the garden. Really, we are always in the garden.
Feb 13, 2015 8:18 AM CST
Name: starlight1153 Zone 8a/b
Quoting:Covering tubers with soil: Small tubers and small pot tubers need to be covered with potting soil. They are subject to drying out and when the eye totally dries out, it can die.

Ted... How much soil? That is what I did and I killed off alot more than ten thinking they needed to be done like potato sprout cuttings. *Blush*
Feb 13, 2015 9:21 AM CST
Name: Ted
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
Just enough soil to cover the eye. Soil should be very damp but not wet. Many people do an alternative method to "wake up" tubers and place them in a plastic bag with some damp potting soil and place the bag in area at about 80 degrees. The tubers cannot dry out in the bag and the warmth causes them to sprout within a week. This is a good method to determine if a tuber has a viable eye. Hollyhill Elcetra is always late sprouting for me. and I would place several in a bag to see if they had eyes. Eyes seen when you divide tubers often "disappear" in storage but are still there.
We like to place a sign on our porch that says: We are in the garden. Really, we are always in the garden.
Mar 9, 2015 12:11 PM CST
Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Very informative article............ I have some tubers on order and HOPE to have some luck growing Dahlias. If that works this year, I might try some cuttings next year. Just hoping I can get them to grow and do well here!

Mar 11, 2015 7:50 AM CST
Name: Em
Hi Gen,
Welcome! What zone are you in? We are from many different growing areas and would love to help you succeed with your dahlias!
Em in NY
Dahlias -- the gift that keeps on giving!
Mar 11, 2015 10:04 PM CST
Name: Jon George
Gainesville, FL
...crazy enough to grow dahlias in
Gen, dahlias are fun and pretty easy if you follow the basics. Best of luck to you!
"What is a weed?" asked Peppa Pig. "A weed is a cheeky plant growing in the wrong place!" replied Grandpa Pig.
Feb 18, 2018 8:42 AM CST
Name: CMCramer
Rochester, NY
Ted - going to try cuttings this year. thanks for the guidance. Chris
Feb 18, 2018 1:19 PM CST
Name: Noni Morrison
Warren, Oregon
retired flower farmer
Making cuttings is addictive... Big Grin So much fun to take a wee little spout and turn it into a multitude of big healthy plants! If I can get one difficult sprout to form I figure I can get a minimum of 3 plants out of it and usually as many as I want. I now have 7 Bloomquist Tory's growing and will be taking new cuttings off all of them as soon as they are big enough....KA's Cloud I have at least 6 going and more to follow...
Salish Dahlias
Feb 18, 2018 3:34 PM CST
Name: Ted
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
It would be very impractical to be a dahlia breeder without the ability to build up stock by taking cuttings. If the perfect flower appears in your seedlings and makes only 2 tubers you would only have 2 plants of it the next year. I have been know to take over 20 cuttings of a really nice first year seedling and many more from second year seedlings. Yes, plants grown from cuttings do not grow as many tubers as those from tubers but as the late Phil Mingus said at a dahlia club meeting, two or three tubers is a lot more than none.

And for the people who want to make some extra cash to feed their dahlia habit, you can buy new introductions that cost even as much as $30.00 and propagate the "h***" out of them and get 20 or even 30 plants that first year. A grower that sells a tuber for $30.00 the first year will drop the price the second year to something like $20.00. If you sell the same one for even only $12.00, you make your money back after selling only 3 tubers and when you sell 20 or so more, it is all profit. Do this with 10 or more new hot varieties and you can make a tidy profit and have lots of product left over for you to grow. And if you sell cut flowers, the flowers from the 20 or 30 plants of the new introduction will more than pay for that $30.00 tuber.

Mike Iler of Blossom Gulch knew of the economics of taking cuttings and to thwart people from taking cuttings, he refused to ship any tubers until April. But that did not bother me much because I start many of the new ones in April and plan on getting at least 5 or so cuttings from that tuber even starting so late in the season. With 5 cutting plants plus the original tuber, one can count on getting about 15 tubers to sell the next year and it is still a profitable proposition.
We like to place a sign on our porch that says: We are in the garden. Really, we are always in the garden.
Feb 22, 2018 3:06 PM CST
Thumb of 2018-02-22/vikingcraftsman/fba22e A cutting I just took out of the cardboard box propagator.
Mar 19, 2019 11:27 PM CST
Name: Brenda
Orcas Island, WA
What a great article! oh, to have a greenhouse!

I do have a question and not sure if it belongs here or in another thread somewhere. i received some pot tubers with an order from an importer of dutch dahlias. I have never grown them and don't know how to treat them. Glad to edit this and move question to where it belongs; hoping one of you "old timers" on this forum can direct me and give me some info on how to deal with these. thanks.

Mar 20, 2019 9:37 AM CST
Name: Ted
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
All Dutch dahlias are, are clumps from plants grown about an inch or two apart in a field with very little fertilizer and harvested by a huge machine and loaded by conveyor belts to huge dump trucks and dumped onto a sorting belt where workers put the clumps into small bags with nice pictures and then are stored for few months and then shipped in containers in container ships to every country that will allow them in. Count your blessings if you can see one or more eyes on your "Dutch bulbs" .

They are dahlias and I have always started mine in a pot as I would not want to waste a spot in my garden if it does not grow. The accuracy rate of the variety can be atrocious with an error rate of as high as 30%(just a guess as that was my results from the few I have bought over the years). I suppose high level Dutch growers are better and I bought some of mine for $.99 at a grocery chain store. If you order from a mail order company, I cannot imagine them allowing a really low accuracy rate.

We like to place a sign on our porch that says: We are in the garden. Really, we are always in the garden.

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