Dahlias are some of the most magnificent flowers to grow, and they make incredible cut flowers too. With hundreds of species, dahlias work in any garden from the country house to the formal English garden. “Dahlias come in almost every color of the rainbow, come in an incredible variety of shapes and sizes, and produce plenty of flowers and bulbs,” says Erin Benzakein, author of Discovering Dahlias and flower grower and co-owner of Floret Flower Farm. “Due to the spectacular variety of this flower, there is something for every garden space and personal style.”

Here’s what you need to know in order to grow these gorgeous flowers.

What type of dahlias should I grow?

With so much variety, from large plate plates to tiny pom-poms, it can be difficult to pick just one type! But if you’re a newbie, stick with the spherical strains that are easy to grow. “Cornel”, “Crichton Honey”, “Jomanda”, and “Snoho Doris” are all good choices for beginners.

How do I plant dahlias?

Find a spot in full sun, equivalent to 6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day. They do not tolerate the cold and therefore plant when the danger of frost has passed. Plant in rows, raised beds or in areas of your garden that have a few feet of space for the plants to spread out. They can be grown from seeds or from tubers that look like sweet potatoes. Seeds are inexpensive and require more patience, but they are a great way to add dahlias to your garden at a low cost.

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Dahlias need good soil. So before planting, get a soil test from your local university co-op extension service (find yours here) to find out what your soil may be missing. The results will tell you what types of changes you should add, such as: B. bone meal or lime, and in what amount. Spread at least 2 to 3 inches of compost on your beds, then sprinkle an all-purpose fertilizer over them and work into the soil with a shovel or pitchfork.

Next, dig a hole or trench about 4 to 6 inches deep and place each tuber with the eye up. Each tuber looks different, but generally has a plump body, a thinner neck, and an eye at the top where the sprout forms. The eye looks like a small bump, and it is sometimes easy for beginners to miss it. Do your best, but don’t worry if you can’t find out! If you accidentally plant with lowered eyes, your dahlia will likely sprout, although it may take a little longer.

Many types of dahlias will get heavy and will try to tip over. So put stakes in the ground early so you don’t disturb the roots later. Use string to tie dahlias to the stakes every foot or so, Benzakein says.

Do not water dahlias immediately after planting.

After planting the tubers, wait about a month after planting for the first green shoots to appear. If you water before sprouts appear, the tuber may rot, Benzakein says. Don’t worry if it rains, but don’t water alone. It is a good idea to mulch young plants as well to prevent weeds and conserve moisture. Once they take off, water them well once a week or more often if it’s very hot or your soil dries out quickly. A drinking hose is a good option.

Can you plant dahlias in pots?

Yes! Dahlias can be planted in large pots or containers that are at least a foot deep and 2 feet wide. This is a good choice if you don’t have a garden or terrible soil. Don’t forget that pots need more DC as they dry out faster, especially in summer heat. Container plants must also be fertilized monthly with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Be sure to choose strains no taller than 3 feet so they don’t tip over, Benzakein says.

Push back your dahlias to encourage strong, sturdy stems.

Dahlias will grow well on their own. But clamping back stimulates the plants to grow more branches and produce tons more flowers! It’s not as scary as it sounds: if plants are about 8 to 12 inches tall, use sharp scissors to cut off the top few inches of the plant just above a set of leaves.

Can I cut my dahlias for bouquets?

Absolutely! That’s part of the joy of growing these beauties. Dahlias will no longer open after being cut. So choose the ones that are mostly open but don’t fade or look papery. Trim them during the coolest part of the day when the plants are most hydrated. Immediately after cutting, put them in a bucket of water or a vase. Remove the lower leaves so none are submerged.

Do I have to dig up my dahlias?

In USDA zones 8A or higher, you can leave tubers in the ground through the winter. Cut off the dead leaves and isolate them with mulch or straw. Pull the mulch away from the plant in spring.

In cold climates, you’ll need to dig up dahlia tubers after a hard frost. Wait about two weeks after freezing for the skin to harden on the tubers, Benzakein says. Remove the stakes, cut the dead plant material to the ground, and loosen the area around the tubers with a pitchfork. Dig around the plant about a foot away.

Using your pitchfork, carefully lift the tubers out of the ground, shaking off any excess dirt, and gently placing them on the ground. Attention! You are fragile. Now divide your tubers with a sharp knife so that the best flowers and more tubers will expand your flower garden or pass them on to friends. Then keep in a cool, dark place until next spring.

Types of dahlias for your garden

“Colorful Investment” Dahlia Tubers

'Cornel Bronze' dahlia bulbs

‘Cornel Bronze’ dahlia bulbs

'Fire Pot' dahlia bulbs

‘Fire Pot’ dahlia bulbs


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'Mignon' seeds

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Arricca SanSone has written on health and lifestyle topics for prevention, country living, womens day and more.

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