It wasn’t that long ago that dahlias were thought of as old fashioned and mostly grown on allotments, but that’s all changed and now they’re uber trendy. Quite right too I say, here’s a few good reasons to grow them.
After that initial investment of buying the plants, they soldier on year after year with a minimal amount of care, flowering from mid summer and carrying on right through to autumn.
They are the perfect cut flower, keeping well after cutting so you won’t have to buy supermarket flowers. Sorry Mr Waitrose and Sainsbury, but this is a better option on so many fronts, growing British flowers, no air miles… need I say more.
The flowers are beautiful, they come in a range of colours from the rich jewel-like reds, purples and oranges to softer pinks and creams.
They also come in a range of shapes, from neat little pom-poms to large, showy cactus.
Here’s the lowdown on growing them:
They’re classed as tender tubers so can’t be planted out in the garden until all risk of frost has gone. Originating from Mexico, you can see why they don’t like the cold.
I plant them in an unheated greenhouse in pots of multi-purpose compost from the begining of March. They can be planted directly into the ground if you haven’t got a greenhouse, but this will have to be sometime in May, depending on where you are.
They can be covered with a cloche, fleece or even newspaper pegged down, to protect them at night if there’s a late frost.
My dahlias get planted outside at the end of May in as sunny a place as possible, in soil that’s been enriched earlier with well-rotted manure or rich compost. I try and remember to do this when I pot the tubers up in March.
Put a couple of stakes into the planting hole and tie them in as they grow or they’ll just flop about and you’ll get bent flower stalks.
Looking after them:
- Give them a weekly dose of potash rich food, tomato fertiliser is good, to encourage flowering.
- Once they start producing seed it’ll be mission accomplished and they’ll stop producing flowers , so keep picking to get lots of flowers.
I took this photo at The Dahlia Society annual show at Wisley Gardens last year, it was wonderful to see all the flower types and colours in one place, especially if you’re a plant geek like me.
There are two choices about how to treat them in the autumn:
- The easiest option is to leave them in the garden where they grow, covering the crown of the plant in winter with a mound compost to protect it from frost. Though if it’s been fiercely frosty, they will be slow to get going in spring and may not survive at all.
- The second option is to dig up the tubers after the first frost, shake off the loose soil, lay them in trays/shallow boxes in an unheated grenhouse or shed. After a couple of weeks when they’re nice and dry, lightly cover them with straw or sand until the following spring.
Dahlia plugs (small rooted cuttings) can be bought now from Pheasant Acre Plants.
Fancy giving them a go, or are you already a convert?
You might also want to see a post about growing flowers fom seed.
All images: Jill Anderson, the top three photos were taken at Common Farm Flowers where Georgie and her team grow fabulous British flowers for bouquets, weddings etc.