This tutorial is written specifically for zones 7-9. If you live on the western side of Washington, Oregon, California or in the Southern States, these tips should work great for you!
What are dahlias?
Dahlias are a bushy plant native to the mountainous areas of Mexico. They are a summer blooming plant with a tuberous root system like potatoes. The eyes of the tubers are the starts of the flowering plant. Dahlias can grow from 3 feet to 6 feet in height and often need the support of a stake as the plant begins to bloom. The blooms can vary in color, petal style, and size ranging from 3 inches to 12 inches.
Why choose dahlias?
First, they are prolific bloomers. Often you will have one plant with 6+ blooms at the same time. Second, they bloom all summer from late June through the end of September giving you an array of beautiful cut flowers for your home and garden. Third, they come in every shape, size, and color imaginable! Breeders are constantly creating new varieties which can make it a very addictive hobby. Trust me, I’ve been obsessed for 10+ years. They are my favorite plant!
Where to get your dahlias
If you live in the Pacific Northwest and are interested in the latest and greatest breeds, I recommend purchasing them online from The Dahlia Barn, Swan Island Dahlias, and Dan’s Dahlias. All three of these vendors are regulars at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show which is where I often purchase mine. Not only are these great vendors, their websites have a wealth of information on care, events, and anything else you could possibly need to know when it comes to dahlias.
If you are more of the visual/hands on shopper, dahlias are sold in practically all garden centers. I’ve purchased them from local nurseries, Home Depot, and even Fred Meyer.
When to plant your dahlias
The general answer for most people is May, when most of the frosty nights are behind us. I often plant mine in April at the first sign of sun because I have no patience and I’m dying to start planting. For the most part, I’ve had no problems with planting them a bit early but if you’re a more cautious gardener, wait until May.
How to plant your dahlias
Dahlias only need about 1 foot of space to grow well. They look gorgeous in rows where they seem to create a wall of foliage and flowers.
When planting, lay the tuber on it’s side. Look for any eyes that have already sprouted and face them upwards. If you have a bunch of tubers with a stalk, plant the tubers spread out with the stalk pointing up.
Do not plant your dahlias too deep! They should have no more than 3 inches of soil covering the tubers. If you only have a single tuber like the ones shown below, cover it with no more than 2 inches of soil.
Remember, dahlias naturally grow up in the mountains of Mexico so they’re not super concerned with quality soils. Well drained, basic top soil is really all you need. I like to add a little compost (maybe 2 cups per tuber) to the mix but don’t over do it! If the tubers get too much water or nutrients, they will rot.
Full sun! 6 hours or more per day. Again, think Mexico!!
Do not water when you plant them. Over watering can lead to rotting the tubers. In the Spring, they won’t need any help getting the water they need. You’ll need to start watering in the summer when the rain stops and it gets above 90 degrees. More on that in the next post.
Not all dahlias need support but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I like to get 5-6 foot tall hardwood stakes. You can find these in most gardening centers. Do not try bamboo, plastic, or metal, they don’t work nearly as well as the sturdy hardwood stakes. Also they’re great for labeling your breeds! Hammer the stakes in right next to the tuber as you are planting them. We’ll visit how to tie them up in the next tutorial.
I hope this has been helpful and has inspired you to grow your own dahlias! They are just so fun. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments. I am eager to help you on your growing journey!