Every year when picking new dahlias to add to the ones I already have, I carefully choose a colour scheme based on how the flowers will look together in flower arrangements. Then I completely ignore that list, lose my mind & go for more of a colour barf approach.
AND THEREIN LIES THE PROBLEM WITH DAHLIAS. There are so many types and varieties - all different while being the same. They're the tomatoes of the flower world.
This year my goal was to not buy any of the peachy or almost black coloured dahlias because I always seem to gravitate towards those two colours. What with them being my favourites.
Which is why, when my local dahlia society held their annual dahlia tuber sale last week I bought all the peach and orange dahlias. And one purple.
But that purple one! It's smashing. And unpredictable - like a toddler. More on that in a second.
I'm an extraordinarily poor waterer when it comes to my home garden. My vegetable garden has the drip irrigation system I installed a few years ago. It works great, I recommend it 100%.
Because of my dreadful watering habits my dahlias always seem to hold off on blooming until almost fall so the oranges and peaches look spot on next to the changing maple leaves in the neighbourhood.
My home garden has a sprinkler system on a timer, but I always forget to get it up and running until the grubs come knocking on my front door asking what the hell.
This year, I vow to water my dahlias. I also vow to water my window boxes because they're going to be filled with the edible petunias, Cosmic Cherry and Giant Rose I showed you a while ago.
I planted them and they are looking really good under my grow lights so I'll be able to plant them in my window boxes along with a couple other plants I started from my Baker Creek Seed binge.
The 18 Dahlia Varieties
The varieties I'm REALLY excited about are all of them.
You'll notice down the images a bit a dahlia called AC Paint. It's the unpredictable one that could look like it has paint streaks (how it should look) or could look 2 tone, like a Paint horse.
I'm pretty darn excited to see which kind of flowers the 2 tubers I bought produce.
You can see how these flowers become an issue for people. If you like red flowers, there will be masses of different red dahlias that all look different. They could be a different size, a different shape, different petals or shades.
I have 10 or 12 varieties above that are all peach/orange. But they all look totally different.
Now the big decision comes. Do I plant them all in my front yard? Or do I relegate them to the community garden?
The fantastic thing about having them right out the front door is I get accolades and applause from everyone who walks past.
Whereas at the community vegetable garden people will just ask if I'm going to fry them or sauté.
I bet you're being logical and thinking - why can't she figure out that she can just put some at home and some at the vegetable garden?
Thank you for your advice, I think I'll take it. I believe I'll do that.
Dahlia Planting Distance
For cut flowers dahlias should be planted 12" apart with 18" in between rows.
My community garden beds are 3.5' wide and 16' long.
I have multiples of a few tubers giving me a total of 26 dahlias to plant. For now. Because at the moment I'm not willing to agree to not buying more.
That means I should be able to fit 643 dahlia tubers in one bed if my math is correct. Hold on let me get a calculator that doesn't seem right.
Nope. As it turns out, that means I can fit about 644 dahlia tubers according to my calculator so I should probably buy more.
And that my friends is dahlia math.
Are these 18 TRUE dahlia varieties - y'know, with the old f's old f's approval? Just checking.. Wouldn't want you to suddenly, out of nowhere, start having opinions of your own, Karen.
He would have had no opinion on dahlia varieties, being that a dahlia would NOT be a true flower. I'd have to give some thought to what the true flowers would be, but ... definitely. not dahlia. But I'm 100% certain dandelions and roses would be on the list. ~ karen!
I don’t know which is my favourite but if the decision was up to bees, they’d all buzz for Alpen Cherub - it’s the only one they can see the pollen 🐝 . So, on behalf of pollinators, I’m glad you got that one, besides, it will go with everything.
I don't think the pollinators are going to be perturbed at the lonely Alpen Cherub. Between my flower garden and vegetable garden they're all pollen drunk from June 1st on. ~ karen!
Those are all beautiful!
A fellow Dahlia nut huh? Proves we may be related.
Here’s a great technique to address The following: “I also vow to water my window boxes because they're going to be filled with ..”
Soak some water beads ( Orbeez) & add a few around the base of each plant in your window boxes. They slowly release water keeping your plants moist. They rehydrate when you remember to water 😀
I use to do the same thing in my window boxes but used the inside of disposable diapers. But official water beads sound more efficient. ~ karen!
Huh. Disposable diapers...so they get fertilized and watered at the same time...assuming there's a baby around someplace earning his/her keep.
And / or, wine bottles. With screw caps.
1. Drink or save wine. 2. Rinse bottle. Remove any foam inside of cap. 3. Poke or drill small hole in cap. 4. Cut 3 lengths of cotton twine (12-18inches), pull each through hole in cap.
5. Tie a nice big knot on inside of cap, leave just a little length of string outside of knot. Fill bottle partially with water. Screw on cap. 6. Tie a nice big knot snug up to the outside of the cap. Braid the remaining length of string, then knot it all up. You should now have a 2-3inch wick outside the bottle cap. Congrats! Nearly done! 7. Fill bottle the rest of the way. 8. Now take a 4-6inch length of pvc, should be 1 1/4 - 1 1/2inch wide, stick it in the pot, or near the plant, straight up and down or angled so the bottle will set against the side of the pot. I suggest leaving about an inch if pipe above the soil line. (I used 1inch pvc, too small, the bottle barely goes in and I have to hold the pvc while pulling the bottle out to refill.) 9. Now just turn your bottle over and stick wick and bottle neck into the pipe. You are done! Now, how about a nice glass of wine? 😁
Also, that last picture on the left, the two dahlias in the background look like they are either hissing at each other or trying to kiss. Can't quite tell...
I need a video tutorial - visual learner!
I have tried unsuccessfully for years to plant dahlias. I have never, not once gotten a plant to produce a flower. I walk by the bags in the grocery store, think “oh thats pretty” and I of course buy it. I take the bag home, plant them and wait…… for nothing!!! What am I doing wrong?
HI Kirsten! I'm not sure what you're doing wrong. But if they aren't flowering, it's possible that they just aren't getting enough sun, fertilizer, or time to produce flowers. If nothing grows at all, no stem, leaves etc. they're either being eaten as soon as they sprout by pests or they've rotted in the ground from too much water. Dahlias do that. ~ karen!
Breathtakingly beautiful. My father always grew dahlias but I never got interested because you have to dig them up in the fall as I remember. Otherwise, I would have an extreme problem with planting way too many! Love them behind the white fence - very cottagey looking (is that even a word?).
It is a word and that is the look! Yeah, depending on where you live you must dig, dig, dig in the fall. That's the truly awful part of them. ~ karen!
My mom had gorgeous dahlias that she had great success digging up and replanting for years. Me not so much. Last year I threw two seed packets into a half barrel, watered and not much else and had a barrel full of beautiful dahlias! The bees were happy!
Beautiful - all of them! I'm looking forward to the cut flower arrangements you'll have coming up.
I discovered dahlias just a few years ago, and am hooked! I'm still learning how to successfully save most (instead of a few random) tubers but it's fun to go buy more year after year. They are so addictive!
Hey Karen, you are definitely my kind of Dahlia Addict. I have issues with resisting the same colors you do. As far as bloom time, dahlias are late bloomers - so not your fault! Are you zone 5? I recommend starting the tubers you wish to plant at home in pots around April in a warm area. They will start a little earlier for you and hopefully then blom earlier. Don't water till you see growth and only fill the pots halfway with soil. Set a single tuber in top. When the bud reaches the top of the pot fill the pot with soil. You are correct that they are like tomatoes in many ways. As far as the community garden, only water when dry. I would not recommend a timer. If you do, run it for no more than ten minutes. Enjoy!
P.S. LOVE your Emails!
I finally got 2 tubers dug up last year and just replanted them maybe a week or two ago (I forget when to put them back outside for my area, but it FELT like a good time this past week for more warm-loving flowers, with the warming weather and intermittent rains/sun.) I hope they come back up, but I'm not holding my breath since the tubers were on the small side. We'll see though!
My dahlia math is similar to yours so I have about 100 tubers currently potted up on my balcony to get an early start - I'm impatient and want blooms in July. Carting them all inside when there is a risk of frost is quite the exercise. I have also discovered Coseytown dahlias this spring and will probably start throwing all of my money at them next year.
My current plan is a giant HEDGE of Cafe Au Laits in the front yard - those meaty tubers are so easy to divide and store! I have like a dozen plants. I'll use solar-powered drip irrigation from my rain barrel (check out Lee Valley - highly recommend) because I am also the worst waterer ever. I fully expect standing ovations from the neighbours. They will stop traffic!!! Well hopefully they just stop pedestrians long enough for me to meet their dogs. There is a new Great Pyrenees in the neighbourhood and we must be friends.
Here's a magic flower tip I invented a few years ago, or not I invented, but my lips invented. And yes, my lips do have a mind of their own. Which the high school boys thought was a great idea. and my grandmother didn't. So here's the tip, granny's dead and I guess those boys are scattered to the winds b/c they never even try to find me on FB. Could be because I don't have FB. Or not.
I did this and mostly still do without even THINKING about it, and the second I've done it, I burst out laughing because I am so silly without even trying and I amuse myself greatly. This is what happens when you are 68 years old and living with 47 cats and no humans.
When I leave my house in the morning I always look around to see which plant has given me a new bud or started flowering the night before. Next thing I know, I'm crouched right beside the blossom. And kissing it. And saying (out loud, the neighbors are used to me by now) HELLO! WELCOME TO MY GARDEN! BE HAPPY HERE! YOU WILL MAKE LOTS OF FRIENDS! And then I kiss it again, and go about my day.
Only a few have dropped immediately dead from the shock. So I call that a win.
So these need to be supported? If they can't support themselves on their stems, I don't have enough time to pay attention!
i'm addicted to the dinnerplate ones. sometimes just floating one in a large bowl
I have to stop myself from only buying the giant ones! They're the ones I'm most in love with too. ~ karen!
Hey Karen, I am also a bit of a dahlia addict and came across a variety (Mrs. I. De ver Warner) that claimed to be hardy to zone 6. I was incredibly skeptical, but thought I would chance losing a tuber this year and leave one in the ground (and did nothing special - no mulch or anything). I just noticed yesterday that it is sprouting! Whoop!! I am in the Detroit burbs, so I think probably same zone as you. You might want to give this one a try. I purchased from Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, but I don't know if they can ship over the border. At any rate, I may start doing some overwintering trials with some of my other varieties.
Hi Deb! I'm going to look that one up. It would be fun to experiment with it. Collect the seeds and plant them next year to see if any of those take on the same property! ~ karen
I love dahlias - they always look good enough to eat!
I'm growing petunias this year that *are* good enough to eat! ~ karen
Where could I buy these dahlia tubers? (I'm in Minnesota)
Hi Lois. These happen to be varieties that were available through my local dahlia society (we have a tuber sale every spring where members divide and donate their extra tubers). You can look for something like that around where you are or you can order tubers online and have them shipped to you. For your first time, to just try growing dahlias you can get tubers right now at places like Lowes or Home Depot even. ~ karen!
You have gotten me addicted to Dahlias. My space is 9' long by maybe 2' wide and I'm hoping they get tall enough for me to see them outside my kitchen window. I've got maybe 112-14 types in that space. addiction. I've put in 6 double supports and crocheted a long string to hold them up along with wood stakes. They're growing great except something is chewing on the leaves. You are inspiring.
It's only going to get worse. I'm so sorry, lol. If I'm going to inspire anyone to do anything I think flower planting is a pretty good one. :) ~ karen!