Dahlia Duvet

Monica from Garden Faerie's Musings asked me last week if I lifted my Dahlias for the winter, so I thought I'd show you today what I've been up to over the weekend. The usual garden advice for the UK is to lift them, trim off the top foliage and any rotting tubers, and store them in sand or peat (or an alternative, more eco-friendly compost) in a frost-free garage or shed for the winter.

Being a gardener of the lazier sort and fortunate enough to live in the south west of England (I reckon it's about zone 8, for those of you reading this over the pond), I've decided to leave my Dahlias in the ground to overwinter, just like I've done for the past few years. They're in the terraced part of the garden, so this is a warmer, more sheltered spot for them anyway. In order to ensure their survival until the spring, I give them a thick snuggly duvet like the one shown in the picture. I've cut off the blackened foliage and stems from last week and then covered the plants with a few inches of thick mulch - the used pet bedding from next door's pet guinea pigs and hamster in this case. The wood shavings and straw are ideal and will rot down sufficiently over winter, so the emerging plants in the spring won't suffer a nitrogen deficit. I reckon the rotted pets' poo will also give them a boost.

Of course with this method, eternal vigilance is needed come April/May next year to ensure the emerging foliage is not attacked by pesky slugs and snails. I reckon it's worth it though, otherwise I'd have to tidy up my shed so I can fit them in somewhere for the winter.


  1. Anything to save you from cleaning up the shed, right? giggle

    For a long time gardeners in the Netherlands were advised to dig up their dahlia's before the frosts set in but nowadays we are advised more and more to just cover them up with a nice duvet and keep our fingers crossed that all is well come spring. And most of the time it is.

  2. I'm going to try the duvet idea over my Canna as it's done so much better in the ground this year. No handy guinea pigs or spent compost so I'll have to buy something!

  3. That looks like such a snugly nest VP- mine are still out! Yikes.

  4. I still dig mine up and put in trays of dry sand. The wet over winter seems to do for mine as much as the cold. Also easier to pot up and propagate cuttings from them in the spring. They do look snug though - hope they make it through.

  5. Wow, you're in a Zone 8? Just shows I need to study my geography more, or perhaps it's the tides in the ocean that create a warmer climate there. I definitely couldn't leave dahlias here--we're a zone 5.

    That has to be the most creative use of hamster debris I've ever heard of!

  6. Great information! Here in US zone 7b, I cover tender perennials with a mountain of mulch. A "duvet" sounds so much more elegant! :-)

    I want to try dahlias next year. My garden is only 3 years old, so I'm still working on my "wish list" of plants to grow.


  7. Oh.. that look great, I wish that I could do like that. I dig up all of Dahlias each year and store them in the garage (my husband hates it) / LOL Tyra

  8. That dahlia duvet is a great idea! And a super cool name for the blanket.

  9. What a clever name for your mulch... and what a great reuse of resources! Cheers for making the most out of what you have and for finding another way to avoid the drudgery of cleaning up. LOL

  10. Dahlias are frost-hardier than you think, perhaps two degrees below. It's the wet that does for them in the winter. I always leave mine in the ground, stuff a large plastic flowerpot with the leaves that blow round the garden at this time of year, and put it upside down over the tuber, fixing it with a bit of stick or a stone. Almost never lose any. Always get ants if I use terracotta pots.


  11. There shall be no unnecessary tidying of sheds is what I say! Leave 'em in the ground...If a system works why change it!


  12. I'm even lazier I dont even mulch mine just cross my fingers!

  13. In south east England here..my Dad used to put sacks of leaves on top of the dahlias. Always seemed to work.

  14. Riko - nice to see you here. And yes I've had a little peek :)

    Yolanda - absolutely. Shed cleaning's an absolute no no.

    EG - good for you. Sadly no pet stuff for me next year as they've just met their demise. Unless I import from my niece in Yorkshire. We did discuss a whole post about the uses of spent bedding the last time she was here...

    Karen - protect them or yank them out soon!

    Zoe - yes the winter wet's the main problem here too. And that's a very good point about not being able to take cuttings with my method

    Rose - it's the Gulf Stream we have to thank for our mild climate. Otherwise we'd be shivering along with the whole of Canada!

    Cameron - glad you do the same and I look forward to seeing Dahlias in your garden next year!

    Tyra - thanks for visiting! Our garage is in a worse state than the shed!

    Tina - thanks :)

    Shibaguyz - thanks! It's kinda more fun this way. And thanks for adding me to your Following list :)

    Joanna - we're a clay soil, so winter wet's going to be a problem. However, the duvet seems to regulate the moisture better too.

    Gail - absolutely!

    PG - I don't trust my fingers to stay crossed for long enough! Hope your hectic few days go well.

    Lottie - that might be the replacement I'm looking for for next year. I have a mountain of leaves to rake off the lawn at the moment...


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