Fast Facts About Dahlias

These larger-than-life bloomers deliver abundant stems on a plant that’s trouble-free. Grow your own or buy them at your favorite farmers market. The flowers’ fall finery dresses up the plainest vase as emblems of God’s creative handiwork and intricate attention to detail. If He gives dahlias such glorious splendor, how much more will He bestow on you? Take encouragement and inspiration from this floral classic.

Origin Dahlias are native to Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs were the first people to bring them into the garden, growing them for their edible potatolike roots. (Newer varieties bred for blooms don’t offer the same tasty tubers.) All parts of a dahlia are edible (if pesticide-free), with a range of flavors: spicy, carrotlike, chestnutlike.

Sunshine Like their daisy and sunflower cousins, dahlias crave plenty of sun. Plant them in a spot that receives at least six hours of sun for best flowering. In the Deep South, protect dahlias with a little shade from the sizzling afternoon sun. You don’t need tons of room to raise a three-month supply of vase-ready flowers. A 3×6-foot raised bed yields armfuls of flowers.

Growth After planting dahlia tubers in spring, don’t water until leaves emerge; otherwise tubers might rot. When plants are 10 inches tall and have at least four sets of leaves on the main, center stem, snip off the uppermost growing tip. This causes the plant to produce more branches from the main stem, which means more flowers for you.

Support If you’re growing dahlias over 2 feet tall (some soar to 5 feet) or dahlias with large flowers, you’ll need to support plant stems. While there are many ways to do this, twining to stakes is the easiest. Insert stakes at planting time to avoid spearing tubers later. Choose a strong stake because windy rainstorms can quickly topple top-heavy dahlias.

Picking Blooms Cut flowers with a sharp knife or hand pruners in early morning (when blooms are still dewy) or early evening. Cut stems back to the main stem or closest bud. After snipping stems, remove lower leaves and plunge stems into a clean bucket containing 6 to 8 inches of water.

Deadheading Make it part of your routine to remove spent blooms regularly, cutting stems all the way back to the main stem. Dying flowers soak up rain and readily develop disease. They also tend to attract earwigs, which feast on spent blossoms and new flower buds.

Tip: To ensure your dahlias last as long as possible in the vase, make sure there are no leaves in the vase water. If possible, change the water daily, scrubbing the vase before refilling. Give stems a fresh cut before putting them back in the fresh water.

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