Bulbs

Never Lose a Dahlia Name Again!

Just write the cultivar name on the tuber so you won’t forget it! Photo: Swan River Dahlias

You’ve started to build up a nice collection of dahlias: ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, ‘Kelvin Floodlight’, ‘Night Butterfly’, etc. In the garden, each is clearly distinct: the flowers are of different colors, different shapes, different sizes, even the size of the plant itself varies. There is no risk of confusion. But in the fall, when you dig up the tubers in order to store them dormanct indoors for the winter? Or in the spring, when you go to plant them? Well, you have to admit it: without their flowers and leaves, all dahlias look pretty much alike!

Obviously, you can write the cultivar name on a plant label and place it with the tubers of that variety when you store them for the winter. But labels have an unfortunate tendency of falling off, becoming misplaced or even disappearing entirely. And it only takes a few seconds of distraction to totally forget which dahlia is which. 

The result? A whole series of unnamed dahlias you’ll probably never be able to correctly identify. What confusion!

So, why not solve the problem the simple way and just write the name of the cultivar directly on the tuber?

The tuber should be dry and relatively clean. Take an indelible marker (one designed for garden use is best; I find standard Sharpies smear all too readily!) and write the name on the tuber. In spring, when it’s time to plant the tuber for a new season, its cultivar name will still be perfectly legible (even if the tuber is now a bit shriveled) and you’ll immediately be able to distinguish it from the other varieties!

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

5 comments on “Never Lose a Dahlia Name Again!

  1. It works well for bearded iris too, but is written on the leaves, can be lost if the leaves shrivel. The rhizomes are not so easy to write on. I have done this with plumeria stems.

  2. Patricia Evans

    A friend gave me some dahlia tubers this spring and that’s how she had labelled them which was very helpful. What brand marker do you suggest? The one used in the photo appears to be a Sharpie.

  3. can you share the name and where to purchase the indelible garden marker, please. I’m reading Amazon reviews and they are all bad

    • That’s because they fade in sunlight, although they’re not supposed to. On dahlia tubers, not a problem. For outdoor marking, I use one called Staedler permanent. It’s both waterproof and UV resistant.

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