Assessing Effectiveness of Various Methods for Overwintering Dahlias in Zone 6 and Subsequent Effect on Bloom Time

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2024: $10,176.00
Projected End Date: 02/15/2026
Grant Recipient: Rudy Lane Flower Farm LLC
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Megan Rudroff
Rudy Lane Flower Farm LLC


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal summary:

Digging and planting dahlias
tubers represents a huge labor expense for dahlia growers. 
Though some have successfully overwintered dahlias in warmer
climates, little information is available for our growing
zone.  The vast majority of flower farms in the US employ
just one person.  This makes dahlia digging, washing,
storing, and replanting a huge portion of their available time
and labor.  Alternatively, leaving dahlia tubers in the
ground over winter can be an enormous financial risk as dahlia
tubers are relatively expensive. 

In addition, flowers that bloom
earlier than their traditional season command a higher price due
to their rarity, specifically dahlias which do not ship well and
are highly sought after in the wedding flower sector. 
However, there is very little specific data on how much
difference can be seen in overwintered dahlias, especially
between various methods and planting locations. 

Project objectives from proposal:


By evaluating the success of
various techniques for over-wintering dahlias, I seek to give a
more definitive answer to whether it can be successful and which
methods work best in zone 6. 

Furthermore, in warmer climates,
it is generally accepted that successfully overwintered dahlias
bloom earlier than their spring-planted counterparts. 
Additionally, those overwintered in a high tunnel bloom earlier
than their field grown counterparts.  This study will record
whether that is true for our growing zone and, if so, is that
difference statistically significant.

In this study, I will have 5 test
plots, each with 50 dahlia plants: 

  1. control/traditional method:
    dahlias are not overwintered and spring-planted instead
  2. high tunnel covered with leaves
    or straw mulch and then topped with reusable weed barrier as a
  3. high tunnel with no mulch, only
    weed barrier fabric as a tarp 
  4. field grown (outside high
    tunnel) with mulch layer and weed barrier as a tarp
  5. field grown no mulch, only weed
    barrier fabric as a tarp

I intend to plant two varieties
of 25 dahlias per test plot for a total of 50 dahlias per plot.
Different varieties of dahlias bloom in fewer numbers of weeks,
so this will help determine if bloom time can be optimized within
specific varieties or forms of dahlia (ie: border dahlia vs
dinner plate dahlia).  I will record the success rate of
overwintering for each plot.  I will also record the first
bloom date for each plot.  I will then determine the
significance of any difference between the

High tunnel space is valuable,
and this data could help determine if it is worth using high
tunnel space for this crop, or conversely, if the difference is
not significant enough to devote this space to dahlias and would
be better spent on other crops.  

If at least some varieties of
dahlias could bloom in early June, or better yet, May (peak
Spring wedding season in this region) this could make a high
value flower, even more valuable for local cut flower
farmers.  This research will give growers more data to
consider if overwintering their dahlias is beneficial to their


  1. Evaluate the effectiveness of 4
    methods of overwintering dahlias
  2. Record first bloom dates for
    dahlias among the 4 different methods as well as of the control
    group of Spring-planted dahlia tubers.
  3. Share findings through
    (minimum) 2 blog posts, 2 social media posts, a published
    article in a cut flower specific publication, and 1 field
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.