Dahlias are tuberous plants that belong to the same family(Asteraceae) as Daisy and Chrysanthemum. They will bloom in midsummer or late summer until first frost. It’s difficult to select a single variety, because they come in lot of varieties/cultivars – tall to dwarf with giant blooms from dinner plate to pompoms.
Dahlias can be growth in both container as well as in ground. Some varieties are specifically bred for compact growth which does well in container gardens. Tall varieties can also be grown in container with proper staking, but the size of the pot will limit the growth of the plant.
How to grow
Dahlias grow from eyes(small growth) of the tuber. Dahlias are perennial in warmer climates, but in cooler climates they are grown as annuals. The tubers should be planted in spring and then dug up in fall to enjoy the plant for next season. Follow the planting instruction that comes with the bulbs. The tubers can also be started indoors four to six weeks before frost and then transferred to the garden location/ outdoor. If planting directly in the garden, the tubers in spring when the temperature is over 60 F(16 C), in midsummer you will be rewarded with abundant blooms.
Dahlias do well when they are planted in full/ part sun and in a well-drained soil. They don’t bloom well in shade. Dahlias don’t like wet/ soggy soil, so water moderately. Dahlias respond well to fertilizer. Use low nitrogen fertilizer to encourage blooming. If you are growing tall varieties like dinner plate staking is necessary. The stems of the dahlia plant is soft and the stems can’t hold the weight of blooms like dinner-plate. Heavy rain with wind or even the weight of the flowers once they have opened can break the stem of the plant. Staking or tomato cages will work fine.
They bloom from midsummer to early frost. Deadhead any spent flowers to encourage new buds. In my opinion the spent flowers usually turn brown and don’t look good on the plants. Dahlias are famous for its cut flowers. Plant more to enjoy in the garden and to bring indoors to enjoy in the vase. The double bloom and dinner-plates will take about a week to bloom from bud to flower, once the flower is completely opened it will fade away within a day or two.
They cannot tolerate frost, so be sure to dig up the tubers before first frost and store them at cool temperature. Cut back all the stems leaving few inches above the bulb. When digging up the bulbs be careful not to damage them. You will be amazed to see more tubers in ground than what you have planted to begin with. That means more plants and blooms to enjoy next summer. Store them in a cool place like garage where temperature will be around 40F. If the temperature gets warm around 60F the bulbs will come out of dormancy and start growing. It can be a pro or con depending upon your interest.
If you don’t like digging, plant dahlias in pots tuck them in garden among other plants, foliage of other plants will hide the pot. Nobody knows your plant is in a container. Before frost bring the container indoors, you can dig up the tuber when you have time. The care and growing methods for container garden are very similar to in ground planting.
Only pests problem that bothered my plants were the caterpillars. They chewed my leaves along with the very first first flower bud. Those two caterpillars did so much damage to plants in like two days. Since my plants were in balcony in second floor, I didn’t face any slug damage. But if caterpillars like them slugs may also like to munch on them.
Dahlias are definitely addicting. They are like roses, once you get one you want more, so be sure to label the bulbs with color and type, since they all look alike.
Some of the single flowered varieties are compact and is suitable for container, deck or patio or garden border. The variety I have grown is not container specific, but they did well in a 12” pot. Here is one of the flower stalks from my container garden.
What is your most favorite experience with Dhalia’s? Do let me know in the comments