By Leah Allen
Beautiful, stunning, showy, dramatic, alluring, colorful, WOW! Yes.... I’m talking about dahlias!These magnificent plants have made a comeback in recent years and I invite you to jump aboard the dahlia train with me! Dahlias, for anyone not familiar, are flowering plants that can be planted in ground or in containers, that bloom non stop starting in late July until the frost kills them off in October. The American Dahlia Society (yes, that’s a thing!) recognizes 15 different colors or color combinations, 21 flower forms, and 6 sizes of dahlias. They are broken down into groups based upon their amazing flowering characteristics. Needless to say, there are a ton of dahlias to choose from. You may trust and believe that no matter which one you go with, it will be a showstopper in your garden! Despite the stuffy reputation dahlias have acquired over the years, they’re easier to grow than you may think. They do require a bit of effort, (I call it love!) but are totally worth it!
When you plant your tuber, look for the “eye” or bud. Plant your tuber with the eye FACING UP
towards the sky and cover with 2-3” of soil. It’s important to note that it is not necessary to water when planting. This will cause rot to the tuber. Start watering 2-3 times/week once you see growth appear through the soil. As far as fertilizing, it is recommended to use a low nitrogen, high potassium and phosphorus fertilizer such as 5-10-10 or 10-20-20. This can be used once growth sprouts and again every 3-4 weeks until Fall. Dahlias do not benefit from over-fertilizing, especially if it’s high in nitrogen. The result may be little or no blooms, weak tubers etc..
Staking your dahlias is definitely a must and if you’ve ever tried to grow a dahlia without a stake, you will never forget to stake it again. Some dahlias produce “dinner plate” size blooms- these blooms get heavy and need support! You can use a tomato cage or use wooden stakes tied to the main stem of the plant continuing to tie up as it grows. Dahlias under 2 feet don’t require staking.
Plant larger dahlias 3 feet apart and smaller dahlias 2 feet apart.
Dahlias will bloom around 8 weeks after planting. Many gardeners will get a head start and plant tubers in containers a month ahead of normal outdoor planting time before planting in the ground. Dahlias grow quickly and flower in first season.
Once the frost kills them, around late October, the “effort” part comes in. You prune back dahlia plant to about 4 inches and dig up. Then, wash off the dirt and let it air dry for a few days before packing it away for the winter in a brown paper bag and stored in a cool dark place such as a basement or garage. Remember to label your bag identifying which variety of dahlia it is. You won’t remember next Spring, trust me! Then....simply forget about the dahlia until next May when it’s time to plant them again!
And that’s it- that’s dahlias in a nutshell! They’re absolutely beautiful specimens and every gardener should try their hand at growing one dahlia plant at least once. When the end of summer leaves most gardens faded and spent, the dahlias march through with vivid color, stamina, and magnificence. Dahlias require some “effort” or love with staking and digging up, but ultimately they are totally TOTALLY worth it!
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