Will Broken Dahlia Tubers Grow & How to Determine Their Viability

Accidentally broke it and wondered, will broken Dahlia tubers grow from this point? 

Dahlia tubers can break for various reasons, such as during transit or accidental cuts while transplanting
Dahlia tubers can break for various reasons, such as during transit or accidental cuts while transplanting

Well, this occurrence is more common than we might assume, especially during transit or replanting.

But fret not; most of the time, the tubers remain as robust as ever, and you can still witness new sprouts emerging.

What Are Dahlia Tubers

Dahlia tubers serve as the plant’s energy reservoir, fueling its growth in the upcoming spring.

As they sprout, they emerge from around the base of the stem, just above where the tubers are attached.

Often referred to as the eye, these sprouts exhibit a purple or deep pink hue, creating a delightful contrast with the pale-ish color of the tubers.

Will Broken Dahlia Tubers Grow

In most cases, you can rest assured that the tubers are healthy and ready for a new Dahlia
In most cases, you can rest assured that the tubers are healthy and ready for a new Dahlia

Concerns may arise about broken or detached tubers.

However, rest assured; since the sprouts originate at the base of the stem, there’s no need for worry if some tubers experience breakage.

Before planting, you have the option to either snip off the broken tubers or leave them attached, as the resilient nature of Dahlia tubers ensures successful growth.

Assuming your stem broke off above this area (which is likely if it broke off at ground level), it will probably develop new eyes and re-sprout, ensuring that your original plant will still produce blooms this year.

What if the eye somehow broke off the tubers?

The outcome depends on the size of the tubers.

Larger tubers generally have a higher likelihood of containing more than one eye (sometimes it’s 5!).

As long as the neck (the crown) of the tuber remains undamaged, you can have high hopes
As long as the neck (the crown) of the tuber remains undamaged, you can have high hopes

However, with smaller tubers, it can be challenging to discern the presence of multiple eyes.

In another scenario, if the developing shoots are damaged but the eye remains attached to the tubers, there’s a straightforward solution.

Simply trim off the damaged part, and new shoots will emerge from the eye.

Dahlia Tubers That Won’t Sprout

Dahlia tubers consist of tissue lumps with a top neck and roots at the opposite end.

The neck houses one or more eyes, crucial for initiating new plant growth.

The crown, situated at the neck’s top, is pivotal for eye formation, making it essential to preserve as much of the crown as possible when dividing tubers.

Without a crown, there are no eyes, and consequently, no dahlias.

This is because the crown is exactly where Dahlia eyes (or sprouts) are clustered
This is because the crown is exactly where Dahlia eyes (or sprouts) are clustered

For successful growth, Dahlia tubers need intact necks, a portion of the crown, and at least one eye.

Even seemingly undamaged tubers without scars won’t sprout without these essential components.

Discard tubers lacking the crown, neck, or eyes, and choose ones with all three for optimal growth.

Identifying Dead Dahlia Tubers

Although dahlia tubers may appear similar, you can still determine whether a tuber is dead or too damaged to grow.

Unlike potatoes, you won’t observe eyes emerging from other parts of the tuber
Unlike potatoes, you won’t observe eyes emerging from other parts of the tuber

Here are the signs to look for:

  • Mold: Mold on the tuber’s skin is a bad sign, indicating that the tuber is either dead or dying. Even if the tuber appears fine otherwise, the chances of it growing are slim.
  • Dry and Brown: Healthy dahlia tubers are dark yellow and filled with life. If the tuber looks withered, dry, and has brown skin, it’s most likely already dead and should be discarded.
  • Bad Odor: Funky or rotten odors emitting from the tuber indicate that it is dead or diseased. A healthy tuber has an earthy smell or no odor at all.
  • Soft Texture: A good tuber feels firm and won’t yield under pressure. A squishy texture suggests loss of moisture, which can occur due to damage, fungal infections, or decay. To ensure there is no internal rot, you can cut off a piece from the bottom of the tuber.

Tubers Without Eyes and Soft Dahlia Tubers

Therefore, a tuber without a crown means there is no chance for any new shoot whatsoever
Therefore, a tuber without a crown means there is no chance for any new shoot whatsoever

Dahlia tubers rely on eyes as the growing points where shoots develop into full-fledged plants.

Without eyes, the tuber functions solely as a storage unit to nourish the plant during dormancy.

If a tuber lacks eyes, there’s no point in digging it up or attempting to plant it—it simply won’t grow.

Soft or squishy dahlia tubers have lost moisture due to exposure to high temperatures or insufficient moisture in the soil.

They can also become soft due to damage, fungal infections, or general deterioration.

Discard any soft tubers when dividing your clumps.

Weird… But You Can Try

But there are also cases that may seem impossible but are actually possible
But there are also cases that may seem impossible but are actually possible

What if the tuber broke, and the sprout is still attached to the tiny crown? Will the eye continue to grow?

Interestingly, many gardeners suggest using duct tape to keep the broken parts together.

Having tried this method myself, the results are akin to rolling a dice—sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

However, I can attest that there’s a window of opportunity for success with this approach.

When to Dig Up Dahlia Tubers

Even in unfavorable weather conditions, dahlia tubers continue to grow underground.

While the crown of the plant dies back during winter and is unlikely to survive frost, the tubers remain viable.

This makes winter the perfect time to dig them up and store them through the season, ready for planting the following spring.

If the shoot is damaged due to accidental cuts, etc., simply trim off the damaged part, and the eye will continue to grow
If the shoot is damaged due to accidental cuts, etc., simply trim off the damaged part, and the eye will continue to grow

When to Divide Dahlia Tubers

Dividing dahlia tubers should be done every two to three years.

Over time, the original tuber of the plant decays, causing growth to halt and eventually leading to the plant’s demise.

Dividing your dahlia clumps in the winter or early spring is recommended.

If you experience frost, dig out the clumps and divide them once the first frost has killed off the foliage.

How to Separate Dahlia Tubers

When separating dahlia tubers, it’s vital to handle them with care, as they are quite sensitive and can lose crucial parts during the process. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide:

1. Dig out the tubers

Begin by digging around 1 foot away from the dahlia stalk, being cautious not to damage the roots.

2. Use water if needed

Use a hose to wash away the dirt and expose the root system, revealing the tubers.

3. Dig out the entire root system

Slowly dig out the entire root system, including the tuber clumps. Only pull out the roots after you have cleared the soil from around the entire root ball.

4. Find the mother tuber

Locate the mother tuber and remove it from the mix. Usually, it is the tuber with the darkest color.

5. Separate

Examine the neck of the tubers for eyes. Use sterilized shears to cut off individual tubers, aiming to keep the neck intact and retain as much crown as possible on each one.

6. Make sure you won’t damage the healthy tubers in the meantime

To prevent infections, treat any cuts or scars on the tuber’s body with sulfur.

Planting Dahlia Tubers

Of course, you may also come across infertile tubers
Of course, you may also come across infertile tubers

Sensitive tubers cannot withstand frost or harsh cold conditions.

Plant them indoors during early spring to give them a head start on the growing season.

Once the threat of frost has passed and the soil becomes workable, you can transplant them to your garden.

When planting the tuber, ensure the neck faces upward.

If uncertain, placing the tuber on its side and covering it with soil works; the shoots will naturally find their way to breach the soil’s surface. For optimal conditions:

  1. Soil temperature should exceed 60ºF (15°C).
  2. Soil should remain moist but not overly damp (as it may lead to rot).
  3. Cover the tuber with 5 inches of soil.
  4. Keep it in the shade.
  5. Refrain from watering until the sprouts emerge above the soil or reach a height of 15cm.
Apart from lacking a crown, soft and smushy tubers also indicate that no new Dahlia will emerge from this tuber
Apart from lacking a crown, soft and smushy tubers also indicate that no new Dahlia will emerge from this tuber

Conclusion

To maximize the chances of growing healthy dahlias, choose tubers with intact necks, crowns, and multiple eyes.

Always inspect tubers for signs of mold, dryness, bad odor, and soft texture before planting.

Remember that tubers without eyes are better off left in the ground, and soft tubers should be discarded.

By following these guidelines, you’ll have a better understanding of how to identify viable dahlia tubers and successfully propagate these stunning plants in your garden.