One of the most beloved summer flowers is the dahlia. Dahlia plants bloom from midsummer through autumn and come in a multitude of blossom colors and sizes, ranging from small 2-inch pompoms to extra large, 15-inch “dinner plates.” Most varieties grow 4 to 5 feet tall and the more you pick the blooms, the more they will produce. Dahlias are a must for every summer garden.
Dahlias are grown from tubers, (similar to a bulb, but they have a thin potato-like skin) and planted in late spring after all danger of frost has passed and the ground has warmed up a bit. They do best in full sun (6-8 hours of direct sunlight) and are heavy feeders, benefitting from a rich organic fertilizer, low in nitrogen. Since they can grow to be 4-5 feet tall, they do need some sort of support, either by tomato cages or strong garden stakes.
Dahlias will continue to bloom until the first frost. The more you cut the blooms to bring inside or gift to a friend, the more they will continue to produce new blooms. Dahlia flowers are gorgeous in a vase and will last about a week if kept out of direct sunlight.
If you don’t have space or inclination to grow your own dahlias, you can still find many cut stems at local farmers markets and farms. Dahlia plants can also be grown in large containers and placed in a sunny spot. Many garden centers have them for sale this way.
Dahlias are considered a tender perennial on Long Island, which means they may survive a winter in the ground only if the winter is mild. This is risky because if the winter is severe, the tubers won’t make it. They won’t survive freezing temperatures. If you want to ensure you have dahlia tubers ready for planting the following spring, the best option is to dig up the tubers after the first frost and store them indoors for winter. After the first frost has blackened the foliage, cut down all but 2-4” of stem and carefully dig them up the tuber with a pitchfork. The tubers should be dried, cured and packed in loose, fluffy material throughout the winter. Care should be taken that they are stored where they will not freeze.
But if all this seems like too much for you, you can always treat the dahlia like an annual and just purchase new tubers or small plants the following spring! Either way you choose, you won’t be sorry to have dahlias in your life.
Love the idea of fresh flowers in your house, but don’t have the time or inclination to create your own? KW Gardens & Flowers can create and deliver locally grown, seasonal flower bouquets to direct your home. Find out more at www.kwgardensandflowers.com