What Do Dahlia Bulbs Look Like? A Complete Visual Guide

Do you not know what or where the eye is on a dahlia tuber? Is the eye on your tuber small and hard to see?

Identifying eyes on a dahlia tuber proves that it is able to grow. Ideally, dahlia tubers should also be planted with their eyes facing up. However, sometimes these eyes are pretty hard to spot. Learn how to identify dahlia tuber eyes below.

Dahlias are beautiful summer-blooming flowers that are loved for their diversity of colors, shapes, and sizes But to grow these stunning flowers yourself, you first need to get familiar with dahlia bulbs, also known as tubers. In this complete visual guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about what dahlia bulbs look like so you can grow and enjoy dahlias in your own garden

What Are Dahlia Bulbs?

First, let’s clarify what we mean by “dahlia bulbs” Dahlias grow from tubers, which are swollen underground storage stems that allow the plant to survive the winter While they function similarly to bulbs, dahlia tubers have a different structure.

Dahlia tubers can vary greatly in size, shape and appearance depending on the variety. Tubers store energy and nutrients to fuel next year’s growth. When you order dahlia tubers to plant, they will look dormant like potatoes with no visible growth. Once planted, eyes on the tuber will begin to sprout and grow into new dahlia plants.

The Anatomy of a Dahlia Tuber

To understand what you’re looking at when you examine a dahlia tuber, it helps to know the basic anatomy. Here are the main structures to look for:

  • The main tuber – This is the enlarged, rounded stem that stores nutrients. It can be long and skinny or short and plump.

  • The eyes – These are small bumps or growth buds on the tuber’s crown where new shoots will emerge.

  • The crown – This is the top center portion of the tuber where eyes are located.

  • The stem remnant – Where last year’s stems emerged from the tuber. Often cut off but sometimes still attached.

  • The new tuber growth – Smaller new tubers forming off the mother tuber.

![Diagram of dahlia tuber anatomy][]

Diagram showing the main structures of a dahlia tuber (Credit: GardenersPath)

Now let’s look at some real-life examples so you know what to look for!

Dahlia Tuber Size and Shape

One thing that surprises many gardeners is the variety of sizes and shapes that dahlia tubers can take on. They can be smaller than a finger or as large as a hand! Size and shape depend on the dahlia variety but also growing conditions like soil quality and moisture.

Here are some examples of different dahlia tuber sizes:![Small dahlia tubers][]

An example of small dahlia tubers. Tubers can thrive even if they are tiny!![Medium dahlia tubers][]

Some mid-sized dahlia tuber examples ![Large dahlia tuber][]

A particularly large dahlia tuber specimen

Shape can also vary drastically, from long and knobby to nearly round:![Dahlia tuber shapes][]

An assortment showing the range of dahlia tuber shapes (Credit: GardenersPath)

The main thing is that the tuber is large enough to generate growth. As long as the tuber is about as large as the tip of your pinky finger, it should have enough stored energy to sprout.

What Do Dahlia Eyes Look Like?

The key sign of viability in a dahlia tuber is the presence of eyes. But what exactly should you look for?

Dahlia eyes are small reddish or greenish bumps that form on the crown of the tuber. An eye that is just beginning to develop may be nothing more than a tiny nub. A more mature eye will swell up, sometimes with a sprout emerging from the center:![Dahlia eyes][]

Close up of dahlia tuber eyes at different stages of development (Credit: Evelyn’s Garden)

Eyes indicate that the tuber is alive and able to produce new growth. The eye is where new stems and leaves will sprout from when planted. You want tubers that have at least a few visible eyes.

The eyes always form on the crown of the tuber, where last year’s stems emerged. They will not develop on other parts of the tuber. If an eye gets damaged, new ones can form in its place. But if the entire crown is damaged or detached, no new eyes can form, making the tuber non-viable.

Signs of Healthy vs Unhealthy Tubers

When selecting dahlia tubers to plant, you want to inspect them closely to ensure they are healthy and vigorous. Here are some things to look for:

Healthy tuber signs:

  • Firm with some moisture inside
  • Minimal shriveling or hollowness
  • Fresh, white or yellow interior when cut
  • Eyes present on the crown
  • New smaller tubers forming

Unhealthy tuber signs:

  • Soft, mushy, or overly lightweight
  • Severe shriveling or hollowness
  • Brown or black discoloration
  • Slimy mold or rotten spots
  • No eyes present
  • Damaged or absent crown

Let’s examine some visual examples so you know what to look out for!

Healthy tubers:![healthy dahlia tuber][]

This tuber shows good firmness and multiple eyes emerging.![split healthy dahlia tubers][]

When split down the middle, healthy tubers reveal white, moist flesh.

Unhealthy tubers:![rotten dahlia tuber][]

This tuber is rotten and mushy throughout. Notice the lack of any visible eyes. ![damaged dahlia tuber][]

This tuber has dark mold and rot developing from a damaged crown.

As long as you plant healthy, vigorous tubers with visible eyes, you will have the best odds of success growing dahlias!

Storing Dahlia Tubers Over Winter

If you want to save tubers from season to season, proper storage is vital. Cold storage tricks the tubers into dormancy so eyes don’t begin to sprout too early in warm conditions.

Here are a few key tips for storing dahlia tubers:

  • Allow tubers to cure in a dark, well-ventilated area for 1-2 weeks after digging them up.
  • Remove all soil but take care not to damage the tubers.
  • Sort tubers and discard any that show signs of rot or damage.
  • Place cured tubers in cardboard boxes, paper bags, or trays filled with slightly moist sawdust, peat moss, or vermiculite.
  • Move to a cool location with consistent 40-50 degree temperatures, such as a basement, garage, or refrigerator.
  • Check periodically for mold or rotting tubers which must be discarded.
  • Begin forcing tubers 6-8 weeks before your planned planting date.

Proper storage keeps dahlia tubers dormant and healthy so they are ready to sprout when the time comes to plant them in spring!

Dahlia Tuber Preparation for Planting

In early spring, you’ll want to prepare last year’s stored tubers for planting. Here are some tips:

  • Check each tuber for eyes, mold, rot, or other damage. Discard any that are not healthy.
  • Carefully divide large clumps into smaller tubers, keeping at least one eye with each division.
  • Allow divided tubers to sit at room temperature for a few days to callous cuts.
  • Place tubers eye-side up in flats or pots. Keep moist but not soggy until eyes sprout.
  • Plant the sprouted tubers outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
  • Or plant dormant tubers directly in the ground 2-4 weeks before your average last frost date.

With proper preparation, your dahlia tubers will reward you with vigorous growth and gorgeous blooms during the summer months!

Key Takeaways on Dahlia Bulb Appearance

Hopefully this guide has helped demystify what dahlia tubers look like and given you confidence to start growing these stunning flowers yourself! Here are some key takeaways:

  • Dahlia tubers can vary greatly in size and shape depending on variety. Even small tubers can grow successfully.
  • Check for eyes on the crown to gauge viability. Eyes indicate sprouting potential.
  • Select firm, healthy tubers free of mold, rot, or other defects before planting. Discard any that appear damaged or diseased.
  • Store tubers properly over winter in cool, humid conditions to maintain dormancy.
  • In spring, divide tubers carefully and look for eyes and new growth.
  • With good tubers and proper care, you can enjoy vibrant dahlias year after year!

Growing dahlias from tubers is extremely rewarding. We hope these tips help you know what to look for when starting tubers or buying them for planting. Before long, you’ll have a thriving dahlia garden of your own!

Where to Find a Dahlia Eye

First, keep in mind that dahlia tuber eyes will always be in the area where the stem meets the tuber. This is different from potatoes, which have eyes all over the tuber. This is called the “collar. ”.

Dahlia tuber eyes will never develop farther down the neck of the tuber than the collar.

This is bad news because it means that if your tuber has broken off from this active growth area, it won’t grow into a plant. This is why tubers need to be carefully divided.

Eyes may also show up on the stem, but this depends on the type of plant.

What is a Dahlia Tuber Eye?

Dahlias are similar to potatoes. Both dahlias and potatoes have tubers. They also both get little “eyes” that sprout into the next year’s plants.

A dahlia eye is small, and usually just looks like a little bump. Once an eye becomes more developed, it becomes easier to see. At that point, it will be green, red or purple, depending on the variety. Interestingly, the color of the eye will not accurately reflect the bloom color. Some varieties simply have different colored eyes.

How to Plant Dahlia Tubers From Start to Finish


What is the difference between dahlia tubers and dahlia bulbs?

Dahlia tubers are sometimes called a “bulb”, but they are technically a tuber, similar to a potato. Similar to a potato, the tuber sends up a shoot that becomes the plant, which produces leaves and flowers. Underground, the tubers multiply each year (again, like a potato).

What should dahlia tubers look like?

Dahlias produce different-sized and shaped tubers; surprisingly, even small ones can produce large, beautiful blooms come summer. The tubers can be small and round or long and skinny and they do not have to be very large to get the dahlia plant started.

Which side of the dahlia tuber goes up?

Identifying eyes on a dahlia tuber proves that it is able to grow. Ideally, dahlia tubers should also be planted with their eyes facing up. However, sometimes these eyes are pretty hard to spot.

What does the eye of a dahlia bulb look like?

They often resemble small, round bumps or slightly raised areas on the surface of the tuber, near the crown (where the tuber connects to the stem). The eyes may be whiteish to pinkish or reddish in color, but they can also be a similar hue to the rest of the tuber.

What does a dahlia tuber look like?

The picture below shows you exactly what a dahlia tuber looks like. You can see all the parts of the dahlia tuber: the crown of the tuber, where the plants shoots stem from, the individual tubers themselves, and the feeder roots. At the top of the tuber structure are the dried stems from the previous year’s growth.

Do dahlia tubers have eyes?

Tubers have multiple growing points, called eyes. These originate from the crown of the tuber. It is from these that the dahlia stems grow. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether a dahlia tuber has or will develop eyes, and which is the top or bottom. In that case, it’s best to plant the tuber on its side and see what happens.

What if a dahlia tuber doesn’t grow?

If you receive a tuber or pull one out of storage and it does not have an eye actively growing on it, don’t panic. Let’s first talk about the structure of a dahlia tuber. There are three important parts of a dahlia tuber. The tuber itself, the neck, and the crown.

How do you know if a dahlia is growing?

Avoid planting dahlia tubers that appear wrinkled or rotten. Pink “eyes” (buds) or a little green growth are good signs. Plant large dahlias and those grown solely as cut flowers in a dedicated plot where they will be free from competition from other plants.

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