Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > April 2015 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--Why I Plant Dahlias

BONNIE'S GARDEN--Why I Plant Dahlias

When I think of summer-blooming plants that go above and beyond, I think of dahlias in my sunny areas and caladiums/elephant ears in my shady areas.

Dahlias are native to central America where they were grown by the Aztec Indians. They called them Acocotli or water-cane, a reference to the hollow stem the Aztecs often used for water. They were mentioned as early as the early 1500’s by the Spanish. They were introduced to Europe by way of Madrid, where they were named Dahlia in honor of a prominent Swedish botanist Andreas Dahl.  Because they were grown by the Aztecs as a food crop, they were originally introduced as such to Europe but the idea never caught on.  Instead their showy flowers made them gain in popularity. 

From about 35 naturally occurring species, there are now approximately 50,000 registered hybrids with flowers ranging in size from sweet little 2 inch pompoms to 10” “dinnerplates.”  They come in a wide range of heights from 12” minis to the four-to-five foot tall (or taller) dinnerplates.  They come in every color under the rainbow except a true blue and will continue to bloom from early/mid-summer all the way to frost.  They are insect and disease resistant and, very important to me, DEER-RESISTANT!

I count on mine to provide summer color in the front yard.  What I love about them is they continue to bloom even when my other flowers, like geraniums etc., are starting to look tired.  When I cut a few to bring inside they turn out to be long-lasting cut flowers, as well.

Dahlias need at least a half-day of sun to bloom well.  I plant the tubers about six inches deep, with the growing eye (where the little finger-like tubers all attach together) up.  I’ll give them about 18” of space around because each set of tubers will make a multi-stemmed bushy plant.  After planting, there’s not a lot of maintenance to worry about.  I usually throw down a handful of Flowertone a couple of times over the summer and I dead-head spent flowers so they’ll keep producing more.  If I plant one of the tall dinnerplate dahlias, I’ll plan on staking because those huge flowers can get a little top-heavy.  I have used tomato cages for this and they worked great.

In the fall, I’ll cut the tops off and yank up the tubers, storing them in a paper bag in the tool shed for the winter.  If you elect to leave them in the ground, mulch heavily and hope we don’t get below the upper teens. 

I really like that I can save them and don’t have to always buy new ones every year.  That and the fact that they just keep on blooming, once they’ve started, and that their tubers make them a little more drought tolerant than most plants, make them the reason I will always have a dahlia in my front yard.  Okay, that and the fact that they’re beautiful…
Posted: 4/13/2015 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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