Carol Siddall, Master Gardener
The dahlia, in my book, is one of the prettiest and showiest flower in the family garden. My mother could grow beautiful dahlias that would have taken prizes if she had ever entered them. Me, I am not so fortunate, but that doesn’t keep me from trying! Dahlias are gorgeous heat lovers that provide color summer through frost.
The dahlia was named in the late 1700s for Swedish botanist Andreas Dahl. The dahlia began to be popular in American gardens around 100 years ago with good reason. They are easy to grow in full sun and thrive in any soil type. Their blooms can last up to a week, and they make wonderful cut flowers and beautiful bouquets.
If you want performance in the hot weather (like the past few weeks), plant dahlias. These long-lasting plants put on a show all summer when many other garden plants “stall”. One of the best things about dahlias is they are an economical plant. You can dig the tubers after frost and save them for the following year.
The nurseries offer dainty and petite or bold and brawny with blooms bigger than a 12″ plate. There are also many colors to choose from making it hard to choose just one! Dahlias need to be planted in spring after all danger of frost is gone and ground temperature has reached 60 degrees.
Select a planting site with at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. Morning sun is best. Protection from wind is helpful, especially on the taller varieties. Dahlias thrive in rich, well drained soil. The planting hole should be slightly larger than the tuber. Place some compost into the soil. A handful of bone meal mixed in helps. Otherwise, do not fertilize at planting.
Plant the tubers whole, with the “eyes” facing up, about 6 to 8 inches deep. The crowns should be facing just above soil level. It is best not to water them right after planting as this encourages rot. (I learned this the hard way!) Wait until the sprouts have appeared above the soil to water.
It may be a little late to plant for this year, but put dahlias on your list for next year. With such massive flower power and budget wise ways, they deserve a place in our gardens.