There is no other flower more breathtakingly beautiful than a Dahlia. There is no other flower that comes in as many shapes, sizes and colors. They truly are a marvel. People always ask me “What’s your favorite flower?” The truth is, the answer always changes with the season as I fall in love with a different flower every year. The one constant answer has always been “Dahlias in the fall.”
Dahlias love the cool, crisp air of the fall and the cool nights. The first dahlia of the season is always highly anticipated by our family. Our children always await it like it is Christmas morning and are always in awe of all the different colors. There is no greater joy than watching them root through the “seconds” pile and craft their own bouquets.
While some think Dahlias are tricky to grow, we’ve developed an easy system on our farm that produces thousands of dahlias a season. We’ve tried growing them multiple ways – in black plastic for weed protection, directly in the ground, and in a high tunnel. Once we uncomplicated the process, our dahlias plants flourished and the blooms never stopped (until our dreaded yearly October frost).
Whether you are a home gardener, or growing flowers on a commercial level like us, you can create so much joy for yourself and your family my mastering the art of growing dahlias. The way we grow them is not fancy, and doesn’t require any fancy supplies. Here are our top 5 tips for growing these outstandingly beautiful blooms:
Select the perfect dahlia plot
Dahlias love well drained and rich soil. We put ours in full sun and wouldn’t recommend them for a partly shady plot as they need at least 8 hours of full sun daily. Depending on your growing space and how well your soil drains, you could plant them directly in the ground. Judd’s parent planted theirs directly in the ground with no problems. On our farm, we have a heavy clay soil and rolling landscape, so in order to ensure proper drainage, we’ve found that creating a raised bed has produced the most consistent results. You can either create a raised bed garden with wood, or simply shovel dirt into a raised bed formation so that the dahlia tubers are planted above the ground level. This will allow the tubers to intake water, without being soaking wet. Too much soil moisture can cause the tubers to rot.
Compost, compost, compost!
Investing in your soil in an important step to growing dahlias and should not be overlooked. We skimped the first years and wanted better production out of our plants. Last year, we top dressed with compost and – WOW. It made a huge difference. Adding compost provides a dual benefit – it adds nutrients and creates a more airy soil, which is important on our farm since we have clay based soil. We would recommend getting a bag of compost and mixing into your soil before you plant. Dahlias require a lot of nutrients to grow over the season, so make sure they have enough to stay happy for the long haul!Once you start seeing green peak through the soil, your watering regime should begin. For the home gardener, we would recommend watering deeply 2-3 times a week depending on rainfall. For the commercial grower, we lay 2 rows of drip tape and run it for 12-24 hours, 1 time a week. They need a deep soaking and require a lot of water to produce those beautiful blooms. To assist with weeds, we also top dress with leaf mulch (you could wood mulch or straw as well), which will also help your beds retain water and keep the weeds at bay.
Give support for heavy blooms
Dahlias shoot out blooms on sometimes 18-24 inch stems, and often times can get top heavy (I’m looking at you, dinnerplates). Instead of dealing with expensive netting, we just use wooden stakes spaced about 6 ft apart and run 2 rows of twine down the side of the bed and create a cross between each group of 4 stakes. You won’t have to bother with pesky netting and the twine corrals the dahlias enough so that they aren’t flopping over. If you are growing in small quantities, you can use a tomato cage to keep your bloom upright.
Buy quality tubers.
Quality tubers are important! When you buy tubers, we encourage you to buy locally, just like we do for your flowers! You can buy a bag of cheap tubers at any big box store, however, not all dahlias are created equal. We select our dahlias based on their performance as a cut and take into consideration stem length, color and vase life. When you buy from a local flower farm, you are getting dahlias that are specifically bred for cut flower growing. Long steams and beautiful blooms will be a guarantee. The farmer researched and grew the variety themselves and lovingly dug and divided them, making sure that there is an “eye” on each tuber. Lastly, you’re supporting a local business so that’s a win/win right there!
For all our local flower enthusiasts, we are selling some of our tubers we have extra stock of in our online store! Head on over and check out our dahlia tuber listings by clicking here. You won’t be disappointed! I can personally attest that my Dahlia guy (and my overall favorite guy in the world) has been working to get all our tuber stock split. That is no easy job! We planted over 1,800 tubers last year, and each tuber creates 3-6 more tubers! Will all this information, you’ll be ready to plant your dahlias as soon as the risk of frost passes. In our zone, we plant them in mid May.
Also, we have an exciting announcement coming soon regarding an awesome learning opportunity that will allow you to learn first hand from our farm, on our farm. You spoke, we listened! You want more opportunities to experience the farm, and we are ready to begin sharing all the beauty it has to offer! More to come, so stay tuned! Happy growing!