Why Are My Dahlia Bulbs Shriveled?

Dahlias take full bloom in springtime, but they are not frost-hardy, so come winter, they tend to die. To save them for next spring, storing the bulbs is the usual solution. In some instances, you may find they shrivel during storage. What causes this? Can you still revive them? Here's what we found!

Dahlia bulbs that look dry and shriveled mean they have lost their moisture during storage. To revive them, spray water into the storage medium or soak them thoroughly to allow the bulbs to rehydrate.

We gathered information to help you ensure that your dahlia bulbs will never go dry. Please read below because we've also added tips on proper storage, preventing rotting, and planting instructions.

dahlia tubers white box dry dehydrated need water and moisture, Why Are My Dahlia Bulbs Shriveled?

Why Do Dahlias Shrivel?

Did you order dahlia bulbs (also called dahlia tubers) online that arrived looking dry? Or did you put them in storage, and when you took them out, they were shriveled?

You might be wondering what happened and if you can still use them. Shriveled dahlia bulbs are a result of moisture loss during storage.

It could happen because of several factors:

root dahlia on white background

  • The storage medium you used is not moist or does not retain moisture
  • The storage location temperature is too warm

Check out this video below to see what shriveled dahlias look like and how to store them properly to prevent moisture loss.

Can you rehydrate shriveled dahlia tubers? The answer is yes.

If the bulbs are not crumbly dry, you can still revive them. However, don't expect all the bulbs to grow when planted, as some may have already been damaged.

How Do You Store Dahlia Bulbs?

Dahlias are bushy plants that grow beautiful red, yellow, purple, and white flowers.

They are a pleasant sight to have in any garden. Unfortunately, these perennial plants are susceptible to frost, so in areas with winter, they won't last the whole year round.

To save dahlias from the cold weather and snow, you need to overwinter them. To do this, dig the bulbs that grow underneath the plant and store them until the weather is ideal again for replanting.

Storing Dahlia Bulbs

Proper storage is where most of the problem begins. It may seem easy, but if the storage medium is not suitable for long-term storage, you may be faced with the following:

  • Shriveled bulbs - lacks moisture during storage
  • Rotten bulbs - excessive moisture during storage

People have different ways to store dahlia bulbs. Storage methods can vary depending on where you live and available resources.

Here are some storage ideas you can try:

  • Fill a cardboard box with a mix of shredded newspaper and pine shavings and bury bulbs in the center
  • Line a cardboard box with shredded newspapers at the bottom, then place the bulb in the middle and cover it with compost

Other storage mediums you can try include peat moss, sawdust, vermiculite mixture, and potting soil.

Check out this Harris 8 quarts vermiculite from Amazon.

The video below shows a woman living in Zone 5A of NW Iowa who stores her bulbs simply by wrapping them in plastic cling wrap, then placing them in a box and storing them in a cool, dark room.

The ideal temperature to store dahlias is around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. If you experience fluctuating temperatures, check the bulbs several times throughout winter for any physical changes.

In some instances, you may need to change your storage medium entirely. If you notice the medium soaking up too much water and not draining, you may need to change it into something looser and airier.

How Do You Revive Shriveled Dahlia Tubers?

If, during storage, you check on the bulbs and find them dry and shriveled, don't worry because there is still a chance to revive them. Here's what you can do.

1. Spray With Water

If you're not ready to plant them yet, put the bulbs back in the storage box and spritz the storage medium with plain water. The medium just needs to be a little wet so the bulbs can slowly soak in the moisture.

Recheck the bulbs every few weeks and repeat the spraying above and around the storage medium to keep it moist. Avoid overwatering it to prevent rotting.

2. Soak In Water

If you're ready to plant them, but the bulbs are shriveled, get a basin of water left at room temperature. Soak the bulbs in for several hours or overnight if you want them to plump.


One thing to note is that once the bulbs have shriveled, it lessens the chances of growing into a full plant. Even if you soak them and they become plump, the plant will not be guaranteed to live.

Nevertheless, it's still worth planting and just seeing what happens.

Should I Wet Dahlia Tubers Before Planting?

gardener sorts out dahlia tubers

If the dahlia bulbs are still plump, there's no need to soak them up before planting. You can soak them for a few hours before planting if they appear shriveled.

When planting pots, some suggest soaking them in tepid water for about an hour to help with hydration. This will encourage faster growth and flowering.

When planting them directly on the ground, you will need to choose a location that is reached by full sunlight. This plant loves to soak up the morning sun and requires at least 8 hours of sunlight to keep healthy.

Dahlias also prefer rich, loose, and well-draining soil with an acidic pH level of 7.

How Do You Wake Up Dahlia Tubers?

storing dahlia tubers vermiculite overwintering bulbs

After being in cold storage for a long time, it's important to "wake up" your sleeping dahlias slowly so they won't go into shock when you plant them.

Waking them up encourages the development of dahlia eyes, where the sprouts will grow. This process will help your plant grow faster once planted.

To wake up your dahlias, take the box out of the cold storage room and bring them inside the house for 7 to 14 days before your planting date.

Never leave them out in the open. Keep them covered in any medium. Otherwise, they will shrivel and dry up.

The idea is to bring them to a much warmer temperature and slowly wake them up as they start to sprout. The ideal temperature should be more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Below is a video on how to wake up dahlias:

How Do I Know If My Dahlia Tubers Are Dead?

Before you store dahlia bulbs, you may want to inspect their current state. After all, you don't want to make all that effort only to store a dead tuber.

Here are the usual signs that the bulbs are no longer fit for storage and planting:

  • It has a foul smell
  • It feels limp and squishy
  • Its completely dry, light, and shriveled
  • There are hints of fungus and mold

If you find your dahlias dry and shriveled, you can try to soak them in water to see if they will plump up and renourish. A dead dahlia bulb will not retain more moisture and will wilt.

What Temperature Kills Dahlia Tubers?

closeup dahlia plant flower bulbs

Temperature is important for dahlia tubers because even a hint of frost can kill the bulbs.

A temperature of 35 degrees Fahrenheit and below can kill the bulbs, so never leave them outdoors during cold weather.

They also cannot tolerate cold soil, so ensure the ground temperature is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit or higher before planting.

To show you how sensitive they are, here's a scenario. When handling tubers, never put them down and leave them on cold concrete because the chill from the surface can kill them.

Always place tubers on top of a table when working with them. Place them on top of old newspapers, towels, or wooden surfaces if you need them to air dry.

So to summarize, dahlia bulbs should not be exposed to frost and cold 35 degrees and below, or they will die. If you need to overwinter them, maintain a temperature of around 45 degrees.

And finally, when planting them, ensure the ground is warm at 60 degrees or higher.

To Wrap Up

dahlia tubers white box dry dehydrated need water and moisture

Shriveled dahlia bulbs mean they lose moisture during storage but don't throw them out. The best way to revive them is to soak them in water overnight and wait for them to plump up.

Thank you very much for reading through. We hope you were able to renourish your shriveled dahlia bulbs.

Made it to the end? Check out these related posts below:

When To Cut Back Dahlias (And How To Do That)?

Why Are My Dahlias Dying?

Dahlia Buds Not Opening? Here’s What To Do

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