Dahlias invariably form part of my flower borders each year. With over 50,000 different dahlias to choose from, it’s a real pleasure at this time of year to be browsing through the horticultural catalogues for ideas of new dahlia varieties to grow.
I feel a sense of nostalgia associated with dahlias, which hangs around memories of allotments separated with rows of dahlias. Commonly used as cut flowers in allotments, they are often arranged in a garish display of colour with all shapes and colours lined up casually. One benefit of growing dahlias is that they have a long flowering season which extends well into autumn and sometimes winter.
My favourite dahlia types:
Various types of dahlias are available to choose from: pompon style; daisy-like flowers – the Bishop of Llandaff is particularly recommended for its stylish red blossoms on a dark foliage; cactus flowered type; and they come in all sizes and colours. Personally I prefer the tall varieties which I can use as filler at the back of my borders. And I love their striking colours as well as the size of the plant and flowers.
How to grow dahlias:
Dahlias are versatile and are available as seeds, tubers or plants. I have already planted some of my tubers in pots filled with compost and left them in the greenhouse. This should help them get started quicker than the dahlias which I have left in the ground over winter.
You can propagate dahlias by doing some cuttings but personally I prefer to divide the tubers. For this purpose I usually lift the tubers at the end of the season in November just before the first frosts are due and in Spring I tend to divide the tuber in 2 or 3 pieces.
My friend Cliff prefers to grow a smaller variety from seeds and then at the end of the season he usually digs out the plants and reveals the tubers which I often inherit in the process!
I also leave some of my tubers in the ground to over-winter, in which case it is important to protect the plants from the cold and wet weather. You can do this by cutting the stems right back to the ground level, covering the base of the plant with compost or rotted manure. Then I usually cover this with a plastic bag kept in place with a stone to protect the tuber from excessive rain.
Looking after your dahlias
I find that it’s best to feed dahlias regularly in order to get a prolific succession of blooms. I also tend to dead-head them since the faded flower looks rather untidy. This allows me to pick any earwig which may be hiding in the faded flowers and hopefully it also helps with repeat flowering.
Dahlias are susceptible to earwigs who feed on their petals. One technique to deal with them is to fill a small terracotta pot with straw and to place it up turned on a stick. The earwigs like to settle in the pot and make themselves at home, which makes it easier to catch them and dispose of them.
Do you enjoy growing Dahlias like I do? Please leave a comment. Thank you!