Hybridizing Dahlias For The Cut Flower Garden

By Tonya Barnett | January 9, 2022
Image by Billy_Fam
by Tonya Barnett
January 9, 2022

Collecting and growing new plant varieties is often one of the most exciting aspects of ornamental gardening. In fact, it is for this reason that many avid growers may begin to explore the concept of hybridizing their own new plants. While some species of plants are much more diverse than others, new flowers (grown from seed) can offer quite a bit of thrill. Dahlia plants are an exceptionally popular choice for novice plant hybridizers. Learning more about this beautiful flower is a good place to start. 

Hybridizing Dahlias

Thousands of named dahlia varieties can be found growing among ornamental and cut flower gardens. Traditionally grown from tubers, this process ensures that the plants grow true-to-type and will bloom as anticipated. You may be surprised to find that dahlias can be planted from seed, as well. 

Dahlia plants are octoploids. This means that each will contain eight sets of chromosomes. For this reason, diversity among plants produced from seed is immense, each growing into their own unique variety. While the bees in the garden are more than happy to spread pollen from one flower to another, gardeners can be further involved in the process by selecting and making their own crosses. 

Dahlias from Seed

Over the past few seasons, I have started to make my own selections from seed. Each fall, I carefully wait until the seed pods have dried on the plant stalks. When spring arrives, I sow the dahlia seeds into large trays using the winter sowing method. After a few months, the seeds have grown into large bushes that are bursting with blooms. 

While many dahlia crosses will result in flowers that display characteristics of single blooms, each is completely unique. Among my favorite new varieties to collect are those with large, decorative blooms and vibrant colors. As the plants grow the first summer, each will have started to form their own tubers under the soil. The ones you select can then be dug and stored over the winter. In time, you can greatly increase the numbers of flowers to fill your garden with your own interesting hybrids. 

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