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Dahlias Care: Planting, Growing, Harvesting and Breeding Dahlias

Dahlia Facts and Care Guide

Dahlias are not only a visually stunning addition to any garden, but they also offer a wide range of medicinal properties and culinary uses. This herb belongs to the Asteraceae family and is native to Mexico and Central America. With over 42 species and there are more than 57,000 officially recorded varieties of cultivars accessible, rendering them among the most varied and coveted flowers globally. These varieties span a vast array of sizes, shapes, and hues, presenting limitless options for horticulturists and admirers of blooms, but their versatility extends beyond mere aesthetics.

In traditional medicine, dahlia have been used for centuries for their healing properties. The tubers of certain dahlia species contain compounds that have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. These properties make the herb useful in treating skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Furthermore, dahlia leaves can be turned into poultices or infused into oils for topical use on wounds or burns due to their ability to promote tissue regeneration and aid in wound healing.

The culinary world has also embraced dahlia for their unique flavors. Petals from certain dahlia varieties have a mild tangy taste similar to lettuce or cucumber with undertones of citrus notes. They can be added fresh to salads or used as an edible garnish for desserts. Additionally, the tubers are starchy with a slightly nutty flavor reminiscent of water chestnuts when cooked – making them an interesting addition to soups or stir-fries.

Planting

Bishop of Llandaff
  • Dahlias should be planted once all threats of frost have passed and the soil has warmed up.
  • These plants thrive in full sun, meaning they require at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Plant them in a location where they can receive ample sunlight throughout the day.
  • Proper spacing between mature dahlia plants is essential for their healthy growth and proper air circulation. Each mature plant requires around 2 to 3 feet of space on all sides to allow adequate room for root development and uninterrupted airflow.
  • It is important to avoid planting dahlias too early in the season when temperatures are still cool. If planted too early, they may struggle to establish themselves, leading to slower growth or even death due to chilly conditions.

Growing

  • Seedlings need consistent moisture to grow properly. It’s important to water them regularly and ensure the soil is evenly moist, but not waterlogged. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it’s essential to strike a balance.
  • Once your dahlia seedlings have grown a few inches tall and developed at least two pairs of leaves, it’s time to transplant them into their final destination. Choose a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil. Dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the seedling’s roots and gently place it in the hole, making sure not to damage the fragile roots.
  • After transplanting your dahlia seedlings, be sure to give them a good watering. This will help settle the soil around their roots and reduce any transplant shock they may experience. Keep an eye on their moisture levels over the following weeks and consistently water when needed.
  • As your dahlias start growing, you’ll notice that they may become crowded. To make sure each plant has enough space and resources, thinning is necessary. Remove weaker plants or those growing too close together by carefully pulling them out from their base rather than cutting them off.
  • Once your dahlias have reached maturity and are blooming beautifully, adjusting their watering routine is crucial for maintaining long-lasting flowers. Aim for deep watering once or twice a week instead of shallow daily watering.

Remember: Download our Fact Sheet Below!

You’ll be able to refer to this reference whenever you need to look up the ideal growing conditions. 

Dahlia Factsheet

Recommended Varieties

One highly recommended dahlia variety is the Café au Lait, known for its exquisite creamy white petals that open up to reveal hints of pink and peach at the center. This stunning bloom can reach up to 10 inches in diameter, making it a showstopper for any garden or floral arrangement. Not only is Café au Lait visually stunning, but it also boasts a delightful fragrance that adds another layer of allure to this already captivating flower.

Another must-have variety for dahlias enthusiasts is the Bishop of Llandaff. This unique dahlia features dark burgundy foliage complemented by vibrant red flowers with contrasting yellow centers. It’s hard not to be mesmerized by this bold color combination while appreciating how it stands out amidst other plants in the garden. The Bishop of Llandaff is an ideal choice for those looking to add dramatic flair and visual interest with a touch of elegance.

For lovers of purple blooms, the Thomas Edison dahlia is an absolute must-try variety. With its deep violet petals that transition into shades of lilac towards the center, this tall and sturdy plant can make a striking statement in any garden bed or landscape design scheme. Be prepared to attract attention from neighbors and passersby as they marvel at this remarkable flower’s beauty and vibrant hue—a perfect addition if you’re seeking to create a captivating focal point in your outdoor space.

Dinner plate dahlias like the Thomas Edison variety are known for their impressive size, growing up to 10 inches in diameter. These captivating blooms can truly be considered dinner plate dahlias due to their resemblance to oversized plates. Imagine sitting down for a meal surrounded by these magnificent flowers, creating an atmosphere of enchantment and extravagance.

Dahlia Tubers

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Harvesting and Seeding

  • When it comes to harvesting cut dahlias, timing is everything. Waiting until the blooms are fully open will result in longer-lasting flowers. To harvest, use sharp pruning shears and make a clean cut just above a leaf node. This not only allows for new growth but also prevents water from collecting on the stem and causing rot.
  • Depending on your climate, overwintering dahlia tubers can be essential for their survival. After the first frost, cut back the foliage to about 6 inches above ground level. Carefully lift the tubers using a garden fork, being cautious not to damage them. Allow them to dry for a few days before storing in a cool, dark place like a cellar or garage.
  • To collect seeds, wait for the flower to fade and dry out completely on the plant. Once the petals have fallen off, you will notice a seed pod forming at the base of the flower. Allow this pod to fully mature and turn brown before harvesting.
  • To harvest the seeds, gently twist or snap off the dried seed pod from the stem. Place it in a paper bag or envelope to allow any remaining moisture to escape.
Dinner Plate dahlia

Dahlia Propagation

  • If you want to expand your dahlia collection without purchasing new tubers, propagating from seed is an excellent option. After pollination occurs and seeds have formed within the flower head, carefully collect them when they are ripe and dry. Start seeds indoors in late winter or early spring and transplant outdoors once all risk of frost has passed.
  • Propagating and splitting tubers is another method of expanding your dahlia collection. In early spring, before new growth appears, carefully dig up the clump of tubers using a garden fork or shovel. Separate the individual tubers by gently pulling them apart or cutting them with a sharp knife, making sure each section has at least one eye or bud. Allow the cut surfaces to dry for a day or two before planting them in their new locations.

Dahlia Breeding

  • For those with an adventurous spirit and keen eye for uniqueness, breeding dahlias can be an exciting endeavor. Cross-pollination between different varieties can result in stunning new hybrids with various color combinations and petal shapes.
  • To cross breed dahlias, begin by selecting two parent plants with desirable traits. Then you will need to transfer the pollen from the stamens of one parent plant to the stigma of another. This can be done by gently brushing or tapping the pollen-laden stamen onto the sticky surface of the stigma. Be sure to do this process with both parent plants, as cross-pollination requires the exchange of genetic material between them.
  • After pollination, it is crucial to mark and label each flower that has been successfully fertilized.
  • It’s important to choose varieties that are compatible and can successfully produce viable seeds.
  • Then wait until the flowers of both plants have fully opened and are ready for pollination. Carefully remove the stamens from one of the parent plants using tweezers or a small brush to prevent self-pollination.

Gardening Products

Origin, History and Symbolism of the Dahlia Flower

Originating from Mexico, dahlias are vibrant and stunning flowers that have captivated the world with their beauty. Dating back to ancient times, dahlias were highly regarded by the Aztecs who considered them as symbols of luxury and elegance. When Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico in the 16th century, they discovered these exquisite blooms and were first brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the late 18th century where they quickly gained popularity.

The name dahlia actually honors Swedish botanist Anders Dahl, who classified this genus of flowers in the 18th century. The dahlia’s symbolism varies across cultures and time periods. In Victorian England, dahlias often represented grace under pressure – a virtue admired among ladies of high society. Conversely, Native Americans associated these flowers with transformation and change due to their ability to bloom in an array of colors and shapes. Symbolizing both personal strength and creativity, dahlias continue to fascinate people around the world today.

Some well-known admirers of the Dahlia include:

  • Marie Antoinette, the famous French queen, was particularly fond of dahlias and played a significant role in popularizing them during her reign. She even had a dedicated dahlia garden at her palace in Versailles, where she spent hours admiring their beauty and experimenting with different varieties.
  • Queen Victoria of England was also an avid fan of dahlias. They each had Dahlias named after them to honor their love for the flower.
  • Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. She was an avid collector of plants and had a special affinity for dahlias. It is said that she even had her own personal greenhouse dedicated solely to cultivating different varieties of these vibrant blooms.
  • The artist Van Gogh, known for his stunning and expressive paintings, also found inspiration in the beauty of dahlias. In fact, he painted a series of still-life works featuring these exquisite flowers during his time in France.

The history of dahlias is incredibly extensive and fascinating. From their introduction to different countries to their rise in popularity, this flower has captivated the attention of notable historical figures. However, due to the limitations of this article, a detailed exploration of these aspects will be saved for a future piece. Nevertheless, if you possess a deep curiosity about plants, delving into the history of dahlias is highly recommended.

Café au Lait

Pest and Diseases:

  • Aphids: These tiny insects can suck the sap from dahlias, causing leaves to curl and flower buds to become distorted. To control aphids, regularly inspect plants and spray with an insecticidal soap or hose them off with a strong stream of water.
  • Slugs and snails: These common garden pests will munch on the leaves and flowers of dahlias, leaving behind slimy trails. Use organic slug pellets, copper tape, or beer traps to deter slugs and snails from your dahlia patch.
  • Powdery mildew: This fungal disease is characterized by a white powdery substance that appears on the leaves. It thrives in warm, humid conditions. To prevent powdery mildew, provide good air circulation around plants by spacing them adequately and avoid overhead watering.
  • Botrytis blight: Also known as gray mold, this disease causes brown spots and fuzzy grey mold to develop on flowers. Remove affected blooms immediately and ensure plants have enough space for airflow to prevent the spread of botrytis blight.
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Download Our Fact Sheet

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, it’s important to understand the basic needs of plants to ensure successful growth and bountiful harvests. That’s why we’ve created a downloadable Fact Sheet for your journal or garden planner, so you have all the key information at your fingertips.

Our fact sheet provides a quick overview of details on the plant care. You’ll be able to refer to this reference whenever you need to look up the ideal growing conditions for this plant, including soil type and temperature requirements. With this quick reference guide in hand, you can easily consult it whenever you need reminders about caring for your plants.

Here is a great video shared with use by the Farmers Almanac on Dahlia care

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