Dazzling Dahlias

Dahlias are considered one of the most spectacular garden flowers as they can provide the colour and excitement of exotic species that we are unable to plant in our zone.  There are thousands of varieties of dahlias that range, from the showy dinner-plate size to the bright, little single ones.  The flower shapes and colour combinations are spectacular and some of the flower petal shapes are unbelievable.  From pompom to those with needle like petals, it is hard to pick just one favourite. 

Dahlias range in height from thirty centimetres to as tall as one and a half metres. The flowers can be as small as one centimetre or up to thirty centimetres in diameter. You should therefore consider the ultimate goal of what you want from a dahlia, as well as deciding on the available space when choosing the varieties you wish to grow. Novice dahlia growers may want to start by selecting a few plants of varying colors, sizes and types. Dahlias can also make a statement as the focal plant in the flowerbed or a large container planting.  I like to use a large robust Dahlias as a centre plant in my container plantings. 

Plant the bright, showy dahlia in your garden this summer

Dahlias should not be planted until all danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature reaches eighteen to twenty degrees Celsius and in a location that receives full sun. Prepare a large hole and mix in a scoop of compost and a handful of bone meal into the loose soil in the hole before planting the Dahlia.  Place the tuber in the hole in a horizontal position, making sure most of the eyes face upwards. Cover the tuber with your soil mixture and water thoroughly.

A dahlia in bloom is a heavy feeder, so you may want to consider regularly using a water soluble “bloom type” fertilizer starting about a month before the plants begin to bloom.  Read the directions carefully before fertilizing. Do not fertilize dahlias after mid-August.

Major pests of dahlias include aphids and slugs early in the growing season and mites in mid- to late-summer. Leafspot and dahlia wilt also can be problematic. Should the leaves yellow in a random pattern it should be removed from the garden immediately and disposed of in the garbage. Also, destroy plants with abnormal or deformed crowns.

Lift dahlias after the first frost or before the end of October.  For easier lifting make several cuts into the soil with the fork or spade around the clump and gently pry to raise the tubers intact.  Once the tubers are out of the soil, remove as much soil as possible without damaging the tubers and leave them to dry. Cut the foliage off so that all that remains is a short stem on the roots.  Soil may also be washed from the tubers with water. Cut off any small roots. Remove and discard tubers that are damaged or diseased and dust any cut surfaces with sulfur.  Make sure you label each one carefully before storing.  Place the tubers in wooden flats, bushel baskets, or cardboard boxes that have a few inches of peat moss, sawdust, or vermiculite in the bottom. Then cover them with the same packing material, leaving the stems exposed. A little moisture may be added to prevent shriveling. Place the packed tubers in a dry, and cool location.   Check tubers in a few weeks and again in January for signs of shriveling or fungal infection. Add a small amount of moisture if shriveling has occurred. Do not expect one hundred percent survival.

Bring the tubers out of storage in March or April and locate eyes on each tuber. With a sharp knife, divide the tubers with a portion of crown attached, so that each piece has an eye. Pot the divisions in a sterilized, soilless mix or porous potting soil with the crown above the potting medium and provide with direct sunlight

One of the greatest rewards from dahlias is that they make great cut flowers.  For the best cut flowers, cut them early in the day, when they are first opened. Immediately place them in water which has set for twenty-four hours to allow any chlorine to dissipate and change the water daily. Cut dahlias will last from five to seven days.

Stop at your local nursery supply and buy some dahlia tubers or potted plants and soon you’ll be dazzling friends with your dahlias.