Dahlias are the tulips of summer, and garden trendspotters are putting a fresh spotlight on these floral superstars. But it will be news to many that late winter is the time optimal time to choose the varieties for planting later this season. Choosing what to plant is half the fun and is a great way to chase off late winter blues. Here are some timely tips on choosing and using dahlias from an expert at Longfield-gardens.com.
“Dahlias are robust plants that deliver big color in all shades,” says Hans Langeveld of Longfield Gardens, an online retailer known for top quality bulbs and perennials.
The assortment that can be found in online catalogs is luscious, with many styles and shapes, heights from compact to towering, and colors of all hues under the sun, including vibrant to pale to multi-colored. Longfield’s dahlia offering is particularly strong, including flower types ranging from cactus to dinnerplate, ball, mignon, decorative, anemone, and waterlily.
“Planted in clusters, dahlias produce hundreds of flowers over a bloom season that can span eight to ten weeks,” Hans says. “Plus, they can be cut for the vase repeatedly without depleting your garden. With dahlias, the more they’re cut, the more they bloom.”
Dahlias grow best in warm soil, says Langeveld. Plant them out once garden soil warms to 70° F and threat of frost is long gone. To get a jump on the season, plant them earlier in containers or indoor start-up pots, where soil is more readily warmed.
Dahlias prefer full sun but can handle partial shade. In planting, position the bulbs approximately three to six inches deep, with the short neck positioned an inch or two beneath the soil surface. In the more arid parts of the country, watering in when planting is advisable. In the rest of the country, there’s usually water enough in early summer soil to get the tubers growing. In these areas, start to water once growth begins. Once growing, water regularly whenever summer rainfall is sparse.
For a bushier plant and more abundant blooms, nip off the center bud once a plant reaches a foot or so in height. Add support for taller varieties early in the season as, by fall, the plants will be large and heavy. Simple metal supports, plant rings, wooden stakes or tomato cages are all excellent solutions for managing the sprawl of tall dahlias.
At season’s end, in warmer areas (USDA zones 8-10) dahlias can overwinter where planted. In colder areas gardeners can bid them adieu or lift them to be stored indoors for replanting the next summer. With summer bulbs, fall lifting is not compulsory, it’s a bonus option for gardeners who welcome repeat performance.