Dahlias have enjoyed an upsurge in popularity and rightly so, they are dazzling and bloom from summer to late autumn if deadheaded. From pompon to dinner plates, dahlias make fabulous cut flowers and provide drama.
Grown by the Aztecs for its edible tuber these Mexican sun lovers can become large and tall so require space and staking whereas dwarf bush varieties make marvellous choices for pots. Enrich soil with organic matter and add grit for drainage in heavy clay. Feed with seaweed or high potash to fuel flower growth.
Many dahlia are not popular with pollinators, their complicated flower heads stop insects getting to the nectar and pollen but there are a huge variety of single flower dahlia, which get pollinators flocking. Try growing ‘Bishop’s Children’ from seed. They flower and produce a tuber in the first year as well as copious colourful single pollinator-friendly blooms.
Dahlias cover a diverse range of shapes and colours from impressive spiky cactus-type such as ‘Mick’s Peppermint’ and ‘Raspberry Ripple’ to dainty pompon and ball dahlia like ‘Moor Place,’ ‘Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Jomanda’ to dinner plate dahlia such as the chic ‘Café au Lait,’ which grow to the size of your head! Dahlias do not disappoint. The only dilemma is whether you can squeeze another into your planting scheme?
Dead heading. New buds and spent buds look similar, so what do you snip off? Pointed buds are spent whilst round heads are new blooms.
Earwigs can plague dahlia so pop a pot of straw upside down on a bamboo cane near your plants and the earwigs will seek sanctuary there rather than your blooms.
To lift or not to lift, that is the question? Everyone always asks should I lift my dahlia in winter and store in a cool dry shed? Well the answer is yes AND no. It is not compulsory. Yes tubers can rot in the ground over winter, yes they are susceptible to frost and wet but not everyone has time or space for the labour intensive attention lifted tubers require so alternatively apply a thick layer of mulch in winter and chances are they will flower next year. Just plant more as a back up. You can never have too many dahlias and growing from seed saves a fortune!
All photos © Debi Holland 2021