Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
The ever-cheerful dahlia is the quintessential summer-blooming cut flower. They always seem to look their best.
Dahlias are among the easiest plants for cutting gardens. They can be grown either from seed or from bulbs. When buying seeds and bulbs, read the plant description to see how tall the flower stems will be. Usually, the very dwarf ones don’t make great cut flowers. Their short flower stalks can make them unsuitable.
Dahlias are especially floriferous. They may produce flowers faster than you can use them. However, it is still best to keep them deadheaded. Then, they will continue blooming until frost. Members of the daisy family, these plants start flowering from mid-June to July.
Dahlias love warm weather. They don’t like cold weather, and shouldn’t be planted outside until the danger of frost is past. To get early blooms, you may want to start the plants indoors. This can be done with bulbs as well as seeds.
Dahlias can be saved over the winter in cooler areas of the U.S. If they’re growing in the garden, dig them up before the first frost. For container-grown ones, I just put the entire pot in my frost-free basement.
In the cutting garden, dahlias need full sun. If the climate is very hot, give them partial shade in the afternoon. They will grow in almost any kind of soil.
For dahlias, I use a balanced, soluble fertilizer. I apply this about once a month. If summers are hot and dry, they will need watering in order to produce good quality cut flowers.
There are many kinds of dahlias available. The flowers can vary tremendously in shape, color, size, and texture. Some are fully double, while others are single. They are classified into different categories according to their flower type. Examples are the semi-cactus. For bouquets, I especially recommend Dutch Garden’s ‘Pastel Spider’ dahlia mixture. These have quill-like blooms in a wide array of soft colors. One bulb can have over two-dozen blooms at a time. Their 2004 catalog also listed ‘Hot Chocolate,’ which would be just perfect for cut flowers. It features very long lasting, deep reddish-purple flowers, five inches across. The gorgeous red-tinged foliage complements the blossoms.
Dahlias are native to Mexico. The Aztecs used the flowers for many purposes, including herbal treatments.
These plants were introduced to Europe in the 18th century, and in the early 1800’s to England.
For floral designs, dahlias have numerous uses. They can be used for accent, or as mass flowers.
Usually, the vase life of dahlias are about ten days.