It’s Time To Tackle Dahlias

By Mary Ellen Ellis | March 14, 2021
Image by Billy_Fam
by Mary Ellen Ellis
March 14, 2021

I fell in love with dahlias after visiting the Dahlia Garden at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It’s a small corner of this huge park, and I accidentally visited when all the hundreds of varieties were in full bloom. I spent nearly an hour checking them all out and only left when dragged out by my sister. I decided I would grow dahlias at home, but I haven’t yet tackled this garden dream. 

What I Love About Dahlias

Dahlia is a large genus of tuberous plants and are related to daisies, sunflowers, and another favorite of mine: zinnias. If you have ever seen dahlias, you know why they are a favorite. These are spectacular blooms that come in a huge range of sizes, colors, and petal textures. 

There are the ball and pompon dahlias with their nearly perfectly round petal clusters. The single petal dahlias are simple and elegant. Collarettes have two rings of petals, including a smaller collar around the center. Waterlily dahlias are stunning blooms that look like the name suggests. 

There are even more types, like anemone dahlias, cactus dahlias, and peony dahlias. They can be nearly any color of the rainbow, from pure white to almost black. Dinnerplate dahlias produce flowers truly as big as a dinner plate. 

Tips for Growing Dahlias

I haven’t grown them yet, but I’ve gathered some tips for when I’m ready to add them to my garden. Dahlias are tender perennials where I live in Michigan. To keep them over the winter here and in any zone colder than 8, you have to dig up the tubers and store them in a cool spot. Of course, I could also grow them as annuals, but I haven’t decided. 

Dahlias require rich soil that drains well, and it’s best if it’s just slightly acidic. They need full sun, which is tricky for me. I may grow them in containers so I can move them around to get enough light. 

It’s important to plant dahlia tubers outside after the last frost has passed. You can put several in one hole to make it a bigger clump of flowers as they grow. They benefit from some fertilizer or compost added to the hole as well. 

Once planted, dahlias like deep watering as needed rather than regular light watering. It’s important the tubers don’t get soggy, as they can rot. They also like regular fertilizing, which helps the tubers grow big and strong for the next year. 

I hope to get to growing dahlias soon. My biggest challenge will be choosing which types to grow. With online sources, nearly every variety is right at my fingertips.

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