It's no surprise that Dahlias have found renewed popularity in recent years. No longer considered old fashioned and vulgar, their showy blooms fit well with modern trends towards strong colours and intriguing flower shapes.
Dahlias are a diverse genus, ranging from compact bedding plants, through to tall feature plants for the back of the border. They lend themselves to a broad range of garden styles from carefully coordinated hot colour schemes, to the eclectic symphony of a traditional cottage garden. They make superb cut flowers too!
Growing them isn't as hard as you might think - read on to learn how to grow Dahlias, or browse our range to buy your Dahlias online.
You may see Dahlias offered for sale as seed, tubers or plug plants. Tubers are the easiest way to grow Dahlias. Tubers are mature, bare root plants which can be planted directly into the ground when they soil warms up a little from mid-April. Alternatively they can be potted into large, 3 litre pots and grown on in a frost free greenhouse, before planting into their final positions outdoors.
Plug plants are a little more delicate requiring potting up and growing on in frost free conditions during spring. They can be hardened off and planted out in May once they are well grown.
If you have greenhouse space or a bright windowsill then bedding Dahlias are easily grown from seed. Growing Dahlias from seed is by far the most cost effective choice if you require large numbers of plants. Sow them from February to April in free draining seed compost, maintaining a steady temperature of 18-20C. Transplant seedlings into individual cells or small pots once they are large enough to handle and have a well-established root system. Grow them on in warm conditions, repotting when necessary until they are large enough to be hardened off and transplanted outdoors in late spring and early summer.
Dahlia plants are half-hardy, so it's important to keep them protected from frosts. Once all risk of frost has passed, Dahlias can be acclimatised to outdoor temperatures over 7-10 days before being planted into their final flowering positions. Choose a sunny spot in moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost and incorporating some blood, fish and bone fertiliser to feed the plants.
Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the rootball, ensuring that it sits at the same depth in the soil as it was in the pot. Tubers should be planted so that the stump of the previous year's stem, sits just above ground level, with the 'sausage-like' tubers covered completely by the soil.
Taller varieties will almost certainly need staking with sturdy canes or narrow wooden posts to support their stems. It's a good idea to insert stakes into the planting hole before positioning the plant. This will avoid damaging the root system later on. Settle the soil after planting by giving it a good soaking with water.
At this stage, it's a good idea to put some slug protection in place. Use copper tape to protect container grown plants. Dahlias planted directly into the soil can be protected using slug traps, pellets, or physical barriers with rough surfaces such as a mulch of bark chips, crushed eggshells or sharp grit.
When Dahlia plants have 4 set of leaves, pinch out the growing tip of each stem to encourage bushier growth. For the biggest blooms and strongest flower stems, select 5 to 7 main stems per plant and allow these to develop, removing all other side shoots that develop in the leaf axils below the main terminal bud.
As they increase in height, gently tie them to their supporting stakes using soft garden twine.
Feed and water Dahlias regularly throughout the growing season. Always water at the base of each plant, to avoid wetting the foliage. Use high potash feed every two weeks, once the flower buds begin to form. This will encourage more buds to develop throughout the summer.
Deadhead faded dahlia flowers ruthlessly to encourage more blooms to be produced.
In very mild areas, it may be possible to leave your Dahlia plant in the ground over winter. Be sure that they soil is very free draining and cover them with a thick layer of a dry mulch such as bark chips or straw.
In colder areas Dahlia tubers can be lifted in autumn and stored over winter in trays of peat or sand, in a cool but frost free position. Here's how to go about it ...
With so many different colours, flower forms and sizes to choose from you may find it hard to narrow your choices down. Be bold and create a Dahlia bed. Don't be afraid to experiment with extraordinary colour combinations for an exotic riot of colour. For a more refined display try picking just a few colour coordinated varieties that can be repeated through mixed borders.
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