Learning: Starting Tubers

Starting tubers is the first real sign that spring is on the way. If you are going to plant tubers then it is best to take them out of storage about the middle of April if you plan to plant out about May 20th. At this late date many tubers that have been properly stored will be showing some growth.

Photo 1  As you can see in the first picture I divide my tubers in the fall just before putting them away. I store in baggies with a little damp vermiculite. A tray with potting soil, some tags and a marking pen and we are ready to begin.

Photo 2 Here are some tubers that are firm with good eyes. As you can see I have completed a label and attached it.

Photos 3 & 4 Here is a close up of the growing eyes of the tuber. Note: there are several growing eyes each is marked by a yellow arrow. I plan to let these eyes grow on and in about a week I will remove all but the strongest one. We only want 1 growing sprout for each tuber. This makes for a stronger plant and also the plant is easier to groom. The eyes are growing from what is called the CROWN area. This is not the stem of the last year's plant. All stem material was removed last fall before storage. In most cases this is the only section of the tuber that has eye or growth material. All the rest of the tuber is food supply for the plant. This food supply will nourish the new plant until it develops hair roots for its food supply.

Photo 5 Now that eyes have been identified and the tuber is labeled it's time to plant the tuber in some moist (not wet) potting soil. Note in the picture the crown and growing eyes of the tuber are not planted below the soil surface. Only the rear of the tuber is placed deep in the soil. With the crow and eyes above the soil we can avoid rot and groom the crown area quite easily. With multiple eyes it's much easier to remove the excess eyes when the crown is easy to get at and visual. These excess eyes must be removed right down to the surface of the crown. If they are cut off any higher additional eyes will sprout forth.

Photo 6 Two weeks later we see the whole tray of tagged tubers growing well and with good room. The tags are easy to read and the spacing of individual tubers makes it easy to groom.

Photo 7 The well growing tubers are ready to be planted out or if the garden is not quite ready and there is a possibility of a late frost we can pot them up in 8" plastic pots for additional growth.

I find this system of getting plants started assures a very low loss of plants in my garden.

-Steve Nowotarski

See also our articles on Dividing Clumps and Taking Cuttings.

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Photo 1
A tray with potting soil, some tags and a marking pen and we are ready to begin.

Photo 2
Here are some tubers that are firm with good eyes.

Photo 3
A close up of the growing eyes of the tuber.

Photo 4
A close up of the growing eyes of the tuber.

Photo 5
It's time to plant the tuber in some moist (not wet) potting soil.

Photo 6
Two weeks later we see the whole tray of tagged tubers growing well and with good room.

Photo 7
The well growing tubers are ready to be planted out or potted.
Copyright 2009 Mid Island Dahlia Society