My sister and her mother-in-law grow the most gorgeous dahlias, they just have a knack for it. Myself, on the other hand, I have always struggled with growing dahlias. They are always stunted, they hardly bloom and when they do the flowers are small and disappointing
How I Solved My Dahlia Drama & Who I Turned to For Help
Whenever I find myself with a problem that I can’t seem to troubleshoot myself I turn to the pros. I look to books, blogs and people in my circle that can help me level up.
First I T
urned to Books To Get Me Started Particularly: Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein
I first came across Erin’s book before it was even released, and I knew it would be full of great information, I was not disappointed. Erin is known for being a successful flower farmer and for the gorgeous photos of her with armloads of beautiful fresh cut flowers. These photos have become so popular that they grace many of the pages of her book, including the cover.
My take away from this book is the great planting and growing tips provided in the book. Tips include how to get your dahlias growing in the spring and how to stake and prune plants for bushier growth. I highly recommend this book for great info on selecting, growing, and arranging all kinds of cut flowers.
I Saught Advice From a Local Professional Dahlia Grower: Amy Kermociev of Orchard Green Farms
Amy and I met years ago when Amy was a Permaculture student of ours. Since our
I Reached Out to My Gardening Family: I called my sister Erica like 100 times!
Erica is my go-to for emergency dahlia advice lol! Especially when it came to dividing and storing my dahlias. She suggested I try storing my dahlias in
So After a Season of Research Here’s What I Learned About Growing Dahlias
Light Requirement for Dahlia Plants:
Grow your dahlias in full sun! Dahlias are sensitive to cool weather and too much shade can cause them to grow tall and leggy, causing them to flop over or break off at the root. So a sunny, warm location is the best spot for your dahlias.
Some pro-growers grow their dahlias undercover, with either defused light or shade cover in really hot regions. This is a benefit because it encourages the large “dinner plate” varieties to grow a longer stem per bloom, which is more desirable for bridal bouquets.
So, light requirements may vary a little if you are growing for your home garden or for resale.
Soil Requirement for Dahlia Plants:
Grow dahlias in moist well-drained soil. Dahlias love moisture but hate mucky soil. Like most tuberous plants, dahlias like moisture but too much can cause their tutors to rot, so moist, sandy soil is best for dahlias. If like me, you have heavy clay soil, then include some compost and some sandy garden mix in the hole when you plant your dahlias.
for Dahlia Plants:
Dahlias are fast grower with much of their weight massing at the top of the plant, again this can cause your plants to grow up fast and flop over damaging the base of the plant. To avoid this classic problem, be sure to trim or pinch young dahlia plants. Trimming creates a stockier, more robust plant that can withstand the weight of heavy blooms, wind and rain. Staking is also a good practice to adopt when growing dahlias. Amy uses metal rebar to stake her dahlias. At home, you could use a bamboo stake and some twist ties or jute string to help support your dahlias.
Deadheading Dahlia Plants:
Trimming off dead flower heads is important to encourage fresh blooms all season long. Do this by using a clean, sharp pair of scissors or pruners and trimming the flower stem off at the nearest growing node.
Troubleshooting Dahlia Plants:
Dahlias are really easy to grow, but if you want them looking “Fall Fair” perfect then they do require some tending. Pests such as slugs, snails, grasshopper, whitefly and earwigs can all be a problem for dahlias. While these pests don’t tend to destroy the plants they can leave them looking tattered and ratty looking.
Erin of Floret recommends handpicking large pests like snails and grasshoppers. She also suggests using an organic slug bait when the plants are small to protect against damage when the plants are at their most vaunarable.
Dahlia Mosaic Virus (DMV):
Dahlia Mosaic Virus is a new topic for me and one of which I know very little about. But I have done some reading and will include some further information below for you. Dahlia Mosaic Virus affects the foliage and vigour of the plant and is easily transmitted from one plant to another. The plants show signs of poor growth, blotchy leaves from uneven chlorophyll distribution and even wilting and brown leaves and stocks.
While this may seem like a merely aesthetic problem, it is much more than this. Because dahlias are mostly grown by dividing and not usually from seed, the virus can spread quickly and cause huge losses to professional dahlia growers like Erin and Amy, not to mention the potential loss of genetics that happens when the dahlia tubers have to be destroyed due to infected rootstock.
To learn more about Mosaic Virus I have included some links below, if you plan on growing dahlias, please learn to recognize the symptoms and take proper precautions to help stop the spread of Mosaic V
Each of these dahlia foes requires it’s own management strategy, all I can suggest is to try organic methods first before resorting to chemical warfare.
Fall and Winter Care for Dahlias: Lifting, Dividing and Storing Dahlias
Lifting Dahlia Tubers:
Lift dahlia tubers in the fall by cutting the plants back to just above the ground. Amy recommends labeling your dahlias at this time, once the tubers are lifted they are impossible to tell one variety from another. She uses plastic plant tags and attaches them to the cut stem of the dahlia.
Then, using a spade or garden fork gently lift the tubers from the soil. Use a hose to wash the tubers right away, rinsing any dirt or bugs from the roots. Let the clean tubers dry for a day or two. I
Dividing Dahlia Tubers:
If the roots are large enough, carefully divide them using a sharp, sterile knife or another sharp blade. This should be done every other year to ensure the plant’s vigour for the following season. There are a few tricks to dividing dahlia tubers to get the most success. I’ll include a helpful YouTube video below.
Storing Dahlia Tubers:
Store clean divided tubers in sawdust, peat moss or shredded newspaper (which my sister has found to be highly successful).
Amy recommends storing tubers in Vermiculite. She says “It’s an inert mineral that can be reused every year. It doesn’t harbour mould and it keeps tubers at a happy level of ‘moist’. We are investing in plastic tubs for each of our varieties this year and will drill out holes for air circulation along the top edge. So vermiculite plus plastic tub with holes is what we use. “
Store packed tubers in a cool, dry location for the winter. Be sure to keep them from freezing and check them monthly for mould or damage, discarding any unsightly tubers.
In the spring bring your tubers out and begin exposing them to sunlight to encourage them to begin sprouting. Once they begin to sprout I pot my dahlia tubers up in 1-gallon pots and keep them in the potting shed until they are about 12 inches tall and all risk of frost has passed in my area. Once they are growing strong I plant them out in the garden. This helps them get a jump on the growing season and results in larger dahlia plants that bloom earlier than if I had just planted the tubers out in the garden.
Where to Buy Dahlia Tubers
Because dahlias store and ship so well, purchasing dormant dahlia tubers online is a great option.
Canadian readers can hop over to Amy’s website to purchase tubers for next season. She has a great selection but because she is a high-quality, small-scale grower her stock sells out quickly, so don
I hope this has inspired you to start growing dahlias at home. For more information on growing
Huge thank you to Amy for letting me tag along while you did your clean up and thank you for the TRUNK LOAD of beautiful dahlia flowers, I shared them with some of my favourite people!