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When & Where to Plant
In general about the same time you would plant your vegetable garden. Dahlias need a sunny location to thrive. An area that receives at least 8 hours of direct sunlight is best. Less sun equals taller plants and less blooms. Exception for hot climates, they will need morning sunlight, afternoon shade.
Soil Preparation & Planting Ground should be warm, well drained at planting, and in an open sunny location. If you have a heavier soil, add in sand, peat moss or bagged steer manure to lighten and loosen the soil texture for better drainage. Bone meal is ideal at planting time, put a small handful in the hole and work in well before planting tuber. PH level of your soil should be 6.5-7.0, slightly acidic. Do not amend dahlia beds with purchased top soils unless you are sure that it has not been treated in any way for weeds. Lay the tuber horizontally 4-6” deep, about 18” to 24” apart, and then cover with soil. DO NOT WATER TUBERS AFTER PLANTING!! Please wait to water until after the sprouts have appeared above the ground. The exception will be in hot climates, where they should be watered very lightly. Do not use bark dust or mulch to cover dahlias, as it does not allow the soil to warm up or tubers to sprout properly. This is a good time to apply snail and slug bait to protect the new sprouts.
If you choose to grow dahlias is containers low growing or dwarf dahlias work best. Container size should be no smaller than 12” x 12” per tuber. Use 2 parts garden soil, 1 part potting soil that has not been treated in any way. Water sparingly, overwatering to keep soil damp will result in rotting tubers in the pots. After plants are 12” high, potted dahlias will require extra watering and fertilizing to promote proper blooming.
We recommend staking any dahlias that will reach 3 feet or taller. Any staking product will work, please check your local garden center - i.e.: tomato cages, metal rods, or bamboo stakes.
Most areas have enough rain to fill dahlia water needs until the sprouts appear above the ground. After dahlias are established, a deep watering 2-3 times a week for at least 30 minutes with a sprinkler, more required during warmer dryer weather. Hotter climates will need to water more often as conditions require. Proper watering promotes proper blooming. Hand watering is not enough.
Dahlias require a low nitrogen fertilizer, such as used for vegetables. We recommend high percentage potassium and phosphorus fertilizers such as a 5-10-10, 10-20-20, or 0-20-20. First applications should be within 30 days of planting and repeated again approx. 3-4 weeks later. One of the biggest mistakes made with dahlias is over feeding them. Avoid compost and high nitrogen water soluble types as they promote weak stems, small blooms, or no blooms, and tubers that rot or shrivel in storage.
Hand weeding is the only type of weed control you should ever use, there are no exceptions. Do not use any type of Herbicides, your dahlias will not survive.
Best time to cut your flowers is in the cool mornings. Place the cut stems in 2-3” of VERY HOT WATER (approx. 160-180 degrees) and allow to cool at least one hour. This will set your blooms and make your flowers last for 4-6 days. Removing old blooms will keep your plants strong and blooming late into the season.
Leaving Dahlias in Ground Over the Winter
Dahlias may be left in over the winter, however dahlias are susceptible to rot and/or freeze. Dahlias are not hardy, since they are a tuber (thin skinned) and not a bulb. If you're in an area where the freeze reaches a depth of 6” or more, than leaving your dahlias in the ground is NOT an option. In many climates they must be dug and stored. In warmer/mild states including the Pacific Northwest, you may try leaving the dahlias in the ground over the winter. It is never a guarantee, but many customers find that this is a more successful route, compared to digging and storing. Since dahlias can rot or freeze, you must protect them. First, we recommend after killing frost or mid November that you cut the stalks down to below ground level. Next, cover the dahlia area with plastic to keep the winter rains off the dahlias. Finally, it is a good idea to add a few inches of mulch, leaves, soil, or straw on top of the plastic to give them a few extra inches of warm protection from the cold. In March you would remove the extra layers of protection from your dahlia beds. If you leave your dahlias in the ground and would like to divide them, you would dig them up in the spring when you see sprouts coming through the ground. Once you have divided them, let the cuts seal/heal over night and then you can replant the next day. Do not let your dahlias sit out for multiple days, as they will begin to dehydrate.
Digging Digging should be done about 2 weeks after a killing frost, the plants will turn brown if frosted hard enough. Tubers dug too early are still “green” and will not store. It is safe to dig by Mid November without a frost. Cut the stalk off to about 6”, gently lift tubers with a spade or pitchfork carefully so as not to break the necks. Wash dirt from the roots and allow to air dry, protected from the elements for about 24 hours.
Growing Dahlias From Seed
Growing dahlias from seed can be fun! Mixed seed will produce all kinds of flowers in an array of colors. Start by spreading potting soil mix in a low, flat tray. Potting soil can be purchased at any garden center. Sprinkle your dahlia seed over the top of the soil. Then lightly cover with potting soil. Lightly water so that soil is just damp, and continue to water lightly keeping the soil damp during sprouting. Sprouting should occur within a 7 to 10 day period.Do not over water. Keep in mind that unlike vegetable seed, dahlia seed will not all sprout the same day, germination will occur over several days. After the young seedlings have reached a height of approximately 3 inches, they will be ready to separate and transplant into small “plugs” or pots. These containers should be filled with a potting soil and sand mix, approximately 2/3 potting soil and 1/3 sand. After potting up the seedlings, water enough to keep the soil dampened while they take root. Continue to water and keep the soil damp as the plants grow. The seedlings will stay in these containers and continue to grow for about 4 to 5 weeks before they are ready for transplanting outside. Before you transplant outside, it is recommended that you harden off the young seedling first. They should be moved into a cold frame or the trays can be set outside during the day and brought in at night for a period of about 7 to 10 days. This will help condition the young seedlings and they will and they will go through less shock when transplanted. Pick a sunny location that has well drained soil to transplant to. After transplanting your dahlias into your beds, be sure to keep them watered until the roots are established. (Approximate time 1-2 weeks) Please refer to the regular growing instructions for continued care for your dahlias.
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