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Growing Dahlia's Get to Know Your Garden Intimately part-11

Updated on October 1, 2015

Dahlia-'Golden torch'



This is part 11 on the series 'Get to Know Your Garden Intimately' and is aimed at the beginner or those who are unsure of what to do in certain situations as far as their garden is concerned. We have already covered ascertaining which type of soil we have {and how to deal with it} preparing borders, growing from seeds and other subjects. This is a look at the plants which we might like to grow and here we look at Dahlias. As the series is aimed at the beginner the text will be kept as plain as possible without getting into too much horticultural parlance.

Dahlias and a little bit of history

Dahlias are a genus of bushy,summer and autumn flowering,tuberous perennials grown as bedding plants or for their beautiful flowers which are cut for vases, and , for the experienced gardener for the purpose of showing or exhibiting.

All apart from the dwarf forms will require staking. After flowering the tubers should be lifted and stored in a frost free place. This does not apply if you live in a frost free region.

For a long time in the gardens of England the Dahlia was considered the showiest of all flowers and it was also the mainstay of Autumn flower shows. During the late 1800's there was a great advance in the improvement of the Dahlia. By careful cross-fertilization and judicious selection this process has been continuous.

Dahlia variabalis, is reputed to be the parent plant of the garden varieties. The plant was discovered in 1789 and named in honour of Dahl,a Swedish pupil of Linnaeus. Records reveal it was first found its way to England through Lady Holland,who sent seeds from Spain. Plants raised from the seeds flowered in the Garden of Holland House in 1805. The first double flowered variety was produced four or five years subsequently.

By 1814 ,the Dahlia was extensively cultivated and considerable improvement was effected. Twenty years later on March 1 ,1833, the first publication of the 'Floricultural Cabinet' came out and the first coloured plate published that month was of a new Dahlia 'Commander in Chief'. The coloured plates in this cheap publication were of poor quality but it did show a flower ,a double variety of a deepish red colour and reflexed petals. The first really good double Dahlia was raised in 1832 by a Mr.Line,at Springfield near Bromley,in Kent,and was sent out by Mr.Inwood of Putney Heath under the name of 'Springfield Rival'.

Dahlia 'Moon Fire'


Dahlia 'Apple Blossom'


Culture of Dahlia's {how to grow them}

Mr John Keynes of Salisbury stated " Since about 1840 I have never ceased to grow seedlings,and I am free to confess that the great charm of floriculture {horticulture} would be dispelled if I had no seedlings to anticipate. I leave my flowers pretty much to themselves until about September making it a rule never to cut any plants for the show,when I would sacrifice seeds by doing so. About the 15th of September I cut the plants to scarecrows,leaving only a few flowers that may be coming into bloom,and then produce seed in abundance. I sow my seeds about March 10,taking care that the pans containing the soil are placed in heat a day or two previously. The seed sown in spring will produce plants that flower in the open border the same season"

The modern day gardener can purchase seed which are readily available. he can also procure ready grown 'bedding dahlia's' of a dwarf variety which flowers throughout the summer and into the autumn. Once plants have flowered we can save the seeds for ourselves which will increase the stock at very little cost.

The other old methods of propagation was by taking cuttings. This was a popular way of increasing stock. The tubers which after flowering were taken out of the ground and stored in a dry frost free place. In February they were then planted in boxes and placed in a hot house at a moderate temperature. { Today's varieties may be planted much later so the requirement of a hot house or even a green house are not needed}.

Once the tubers produce growth and had reached a length of about two to three inches they were taken off and planted singly in small pots. Each cutting formed roots and once this was achieved they were replanted into a larger sized pot. The gardener had to be careful that the cuttings were not exposed to low night temperatures/frost or to cold winds. Any type of Dahlia is subject to being injured or killed by frosts and the time for planting them out is from June onwards in places liable to late frosts.

Dahlia Dwarf variety 'Bluesette'

Taken in the Netherlands.
Taken in the Netherlands. | Source

Pompon variety 'Doxy'


Types and varieties

The 'bedding' Dahlia's are dwarfed,free branching varieties which produce flowers well above the foliage upon erect stems. These are ideal for the beginner to get acquainted with Dahlia's. they will thrive in sunny borders and are also ideal for containers.

The bouquet varieties commonly referred to as Pompon Dahlias.They produce beautiful,quite small double flowers with freedom and they have the added to bonus of lasting well as cut flowers. The Ball Dahlia's produce beautiful compact double flowers larger than the pompon varieties.Many gardening acquaintances of mine prefer the pretty bouquet or pompon varieties,with their compact flower heads,simply because they are very decorative in the border and last well when cut for the vase.

The single varieties are also a favourite with gardeners.

The cacti Dahlia's are another type that you may wish to try out.

Cacti Dahlia variety 'Star Elite'


Dahlia-Ball variety 'BarberryBall'


What are the requirements for growing Dahlias ?

Dahlias require a rich deep soil in order for the blossoms to develop properly,and they need to be fed by a slow release fertilizer, and, a liquid foliar feed will also help during their growth. I favourable conditions they will soon grow and the taller varieties which reach the height of four to five feet. It is good advise to place a cane or other sort of support be each plant at the time of planting, as you may damage the roots if you try to stake them when they are growing taller.

When the weather is dry and prevalent,water must be freely applied to the roots and a mulch around the base of the plants will help to stop the water evaporating to quickly. Those experienced gardeners whose blooms are ultimately grown for show purposes would provide partial shade for their blooms by means of a plastic or cardboard cap held in position by a stout stick driven into the ground. We have no need for such measures in our ordinary borders.

Earwigs are a problem to the Dahlia grower for they eat the foliage and blooms.They feed mainly at night and so are seldom seen. To combat this the old method of placing a a plastic cup or small flower pot filled with straw,paper or moss in it,placed upside down on a cane is still a good one. The Earwigs take refuge in the inserted medium and are easily trapped.they can be removed daily.

Thinning out or disbudding are terms which are used in horticultural parlance by Dahlia growers. But what does this mean and is practical for the beginner to do so ? It is mainly the requirement of the 'show'growers whose blooms must be perfect for the show bench. However,,even we may need to take a few buds off our Dahlias {disbudding' or the blooms may be smaller than those we wish for..'Thinning'out is accomplished by removing certain side shoots or lateral growth,but that need not concern us.

Dead-heading { Removing dead or faded flowers},however, is a requirement of all gardeners,and is essential to maintain good flowers and prolong the flowering period.

Dahlia 'Frey'a Paso Doble'


Enjoy your Dahlias.

Below is a gallery of Dahlia blooms for you to enjoy and hopefully inspire you to grow Dahlias.Create your borders in your own unique style and enjoy their impressive displays.

Dahlia variety 'Jive'


Dahlia -'Pink Sylvia'


Dahlia 'Snowcap'


Dahlia 'Mary Evelyn'



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    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb, they truly are magnificent plants. Well worth the effort to have them in the garden. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Those are truly showstopper at the end. Very impressive.

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Mary,

      So glad you are enjoying this series and thank you for your votes very much appreciated. Best wishes to you.


      Hi Sally thank you too for your votes and tweeting and Google+. I agree with you the cactus varieties are very pretty and provide impressive displays. Best wishes to you.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk


      Hi Dave, spectacular Hub with the most amazing colorful images. I love Dahlia but have never grown them in the UK. They grew very easily in South Africa and I grew several varieties when I lived there. In particular I love the Cactus variety. This hub is a very worthy HOTD, perhaps sometime in the near future:)

      Voted up, beautiful and interesting, tweeted, Google +


    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      You've picked a truly awesome flower. Before my soil reverted back to total sand I grew dahlias for one season. They were breathtaking!

      I love this series because you provide so much background information along with the plant's history.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.