Plant Pick – Growing Dahlias
‘Tis very much the season for dahlias. I’m a huge fan of these blooms, though I admit, I have a slight love/hate relationship. There are a vast array of varieties in the dahlia collection, from sinewy, single-petalled bloomers to small, clump forming plants with huge, gaudy flowers. It’s the latter I’m not a huge fan off; ball and pompon varieties, for example. However, bright petalled plants and the far more delicate types easily worm their way into my heart and, at this time of year, are an absolute delight.
One thing with dahlias; you need to be prepared for a little work. These aren’t plants you can throw into the border and leave alone. If you don’t nurture them, they’ll disappear in a flash. They’re a favourite food of slugs and snails, and until you’ve managed to get some decent height on them, you’re at risk of exploring the garden in the morning to find only dahlia stumps remaining. The tall varieties need staking too, because their thick green trunks, the weight of the flowers will quickly snap the hardiest of stems. Luckily, circular plant supports are ideal though, as they grow higher, they may require additional help, such as bamboo canes. There’s also the winter care required. Dahlia tubers can rot easily so they need protection. You can cover the area with plastic and peg it down to prevent direct water contact, but I find it best to lift tubers altogether. Having shaken off as much soil as possible, you can wrap them in newspaper or bed them on trays of sand, before placing in a cool, dim place. Fresh shoots in spring will give you the heads up when to plant these delights again.
Despite the work involved, when they burst into vibrant life towards the end of the summer and the early autumn months, it’s hard bemoan the additional care required. Two favourites in my own garden are Bishop of Llandaff and Eveline; the latter of which looks as if it’s been photoshopped. They’re fantastic in the garden, but also for use as cutting flowers too where, given the right conditions, they’ll last at least a week in the house. As such, it’s hard not to include these beautiful plants in my plant picks, and with blooms all around, I may have to go on a shopping spree ready for next year.
Thrives In: Prefers a sunny aspect where they’re stems can grow strong to support the showy flowers later in the year.
Yearly Care: To encourage flowering, deadhead and remove open buds for use indoors. As the cold months set in and the foliage fades, lift tubers, shake off soil and either wrap in newspaper or place on a bed of sand. Overwinter in a cool, dark place. When shoots appear the following spring, plant in beds or pots, utilising canes and supports.
Growing Medium: Any well drained and fertile soil. Avoid waterlogged soil if you can’t be bothered to lift during the winter.
Quick Tip: For best results, I grow my spring tubers on in pots at first. This helps to avoid slug damage so you can get decent sized plants before placing into their final positions. Whilst bedding dahlias are nice, snails will home right in, so I tend to utilise perennial varieties.