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Plant Dahlias in the Spring for Spectacular Summer Blossoms!
Dahlias are a very versatile summer flowering plant that adds beauty and interest to the landscape.
Dahlias are part of a group of plants with specialized underground storage structures such as true bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes and tuberous roots that gardeners group together as “bulbs” and plant in the fall or spring to add easy, carefree color to their gardens and landscapes. Summer flowering bulbs that are planted in the early spring for summer and fall bloom are dahlias, gladioli, cannas, lilies both oriental lilies and asiatic lilies and peonies.
Dahlia (Dahlia species) flower in virtually every color except clear blue and range from less than an inch across to blooms the size of dinner plates. Native to Central America, the genus Dahlia was named in honor of Anders Dahl, an 18th century Swedish botanist. From just a handful of original species Dahlias have been hybridized over the centuries into an amazingly diversified genus, with plant sizes from 1 ft. to 7 ft. tall, and flowers in almost any color imaginable from 2 to 12 inches across.
Dahlias are tender perennials, and should not be planted out until the danger of heavy frost is gone, but they can be given a head start in pots and set out after the last frost. The soil temperature should be at least 55 °F. Bulbs planted before this temperature is reached may rot before they can
sprout. Dahlias are available in a wide variety of shapes and colors:
Dinner plate dahlias are very popular among gardeners. Popular dinnerplate varieties include: Kelvin Floodlight, Thomas Edison Dahlia and Vancouver Dahlia.
Cactus dahlias are showing, spiky blooms available in dinnerplate size or in small container sized dahlias. Popular cactus dahlias include: Veritable Cactus Dahlia, Hayley Jane Cactus Dahlia and Bridgeview Aloha Cactus Dahlia.
Bronze leaf dahlias sport stunning bronze foliage with contrasting blooms. Popular bronze leaf dahlias include: Ellen Houston Dahlia, Fascination Dahlia and Melody Dora Dahlia.
Gallery dahlias are petite dahlias that are perfect for front of border planting and for container gardens. Popular Gallery Dahlias include: Art Fair Gallery Series Dahlia, Monet Gallery Series Dahlia, Bellini Gallery Series Dahlia and Cobra Gallery Series Dahlia.
Dahlias that are grown from seeds will not grow true to type. Dahlias tubers, even named varieties, are so reasonable to purchase that you can either treat your dalias as annuals and discard them in the fall or you can choose to dig and save the roots each year. Dahlias will normally bloom from midsummer until frost.
Dahlias prefer full sun and a rich, well-drained soil. Large-flowering dahlias should be spaced 3 to 4 feet apart; smaller dahlias can be spaced 1-2 feet apart. Keep them actively growing for best results with ample water and fertilization. Fertilize monthly with an organic fertilizer such as Down to Earth Rose and Flower Mix 4-8-4 at 5 lbs. per 100 square ft. Pinch out the tips of the main stems three weeks after planting to produce strong, bushy plants. Harvest regularly for cut flowers or take off the faded blooms during the summer months to encourage continuous blooming. Tall dinner-plate type dahlias will need staking with 6’ bamboo stakes, which should be driven a foot into the ground at planting time. Dahlias can also be added into container gardens with annuals and perennials for a knock-out display of summer color. When planting container gardens with dahlias, make sure to use the Gallery Dahlia Series for best results.
Summer flowering bulbs not only extend the bloom season of perennials, they are also great cut flowers. Spice up your garden by planting a mix of summer flowering bulbs such a hardy oriental lilies, gladiolus and garden peonies with your dahlias.
The most common pests for dahlias are aphids, spider mites, leafhoppers, thrips and European corn borers. Disease problems include tuber rots, mosaic virus, powdery mildew and Botrytis blight. Growing plants with organically enriched, healthy soil and with sustainable gardening methods prevents most pests and diseases from being a problem. Remember: Feed the soil; not the plant. Grow organic!