The next time you take a plate from your kitchen cabinet, picture a single flower covering the plate — now you have an idea of the size of “dinner plate dahlias.” Now go a step further… Imagine these huge flowers in shades of red, yellow, peach and lilac — some of them with contrasting petal edging, speckles, splashes and stripes — and you’ll likely be experiencing sensory overload! There are few plants that produce flowers so large and colorful they take your breath away…but dinnerplate dahlias are at the top of that exclusive list.
Easy Care with Big Results
Because they’re often prizewinners in flower show competitions, some gardeners shy away from growing dahlias because they think these flowers are hard to grow. But dahlia culture is surprisingly simple. These sun-loving flowers are actually a snap to grow!
Sun. This is a full-sun plant, which means it will grow and flower best if you find a garden spot that receives at least six hours of sun each day. Do you have a spot that receives more than six hours of sun daily? Even better!
Soil. Because dahlias grow from bulblike tubers, they need to have well-draining soil or the tubers can rot. If the soil in your garden is heavy clay or otherwise compacted, loosen it with your shovel or tiller and work in some compost or well-aged animal manure. Optionally, you can plant your dahlias in raised beds so the soil drains freely.
Support. Dahlias are tall plants! Typically, you can expect healthy plants to grow around 4 feet tall, give or take a bit depending on the specific cultivar. So have some stakes handy, and at planting time, gently press the stake into the ground beside the tubers. As your plant grows, tie it to the stake with soft fabric, such as nylon.
Showcasing Some of the Best
Dahlia breeders have successfully produced an immense diversity in these flowers. Flower sizes can range from very small to dinnerplate size. Flower colors are available in solids as well as patterns. Choose some (or all) of these cultivars for your garden to enjoy large, eye-popping flowers that suit your color preferences:
Babylon Red. If you like bold, vivid colors in your yard, this is the dahlia to choose. Babylon Red (Dahlia ‘Babylon Red’) is truly a stand-up-and-take-notice plant, with fire-engine red flowers that reach up to 8 inches across. Find a prominent spot in your garden where this 4-foot-tall beauty will command attention.
Kelvin Floodlight. This dahlia has been around since the 50s…and for good reason. Kelvin Floodlight (Dahlia ‘Kelvin Floodlight’) is a dahlia classic with cheery yellow flowers that reach a full 10 inches in diameter. If you like compatible color combinations, Kelvin Floodlight and Babylon Red dahlias make a vibrant duo.
Avignon. This unique dahlia offers color splashes, speckles and stripes! Each creamy-white petal of Avignon (Dahlia ‘Avignon’) is adorned with neon-violet accents, forming huge, 9-inch-diameter flowers. If you want something “dramatically different,” this is the dahlia for you.
Moonlight Sonata. Soft colors appeal to the peaceful side of us. And Moonlight Sonata (Dahlia ‘Moonlight Sonata’) does not disappoint. The striking flowers — up to 8 inches across — have petals of peachy-pink and coral. The blending of these colors results in no two flowers looking exactly alike.
Simple Winter Tips
In USDA plant hardiness zones 8 through 11, dahlias are perennials. But if your garden is outside this perennial range, the cold weather will kill your dahlias if you leave them outside. Not to worry, though, because these easy steps ensure the winter survival of dahlia tubers:
- Wait until the first frost kills the dahlia stems and leaves – they’ll turn black from being “burned” by the frost.
- Take your shovel and press it vertically into the soil, making a circle about 12” from the dahlia stem.
- Carefully dig the dahlia tubers by removing the entire clump from inside this circle.
- Remove the soil from around the tubers, making sure you do not damage the buds, or “eyes.”
- Let the tubers dry for several days by placing them in a cardboard box that you line with newspaper. Keep the box inside, out of direct sun and freezing temperatures.
- Remove the tubers from the box and add peat moss, shredded paper or vermiculite before placing the tubers back inside the box, burying them in the storage material.
- Find a dark, cool spot (35-50 degrees F) to store the boxes over the winter.
- Plant the tubers in your garden the following spring, after all danger of frost has passed and enjoy them again!