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All About Dahlias!

Dahlia Growing

Dahlias are the queen of the garden from Mid-August until frost in the Northeast. There are thousands of dahlia varieties in almost every color you can imagine. They are tricky to grow and need to be dug up in the fall, but they are worth the extra work for some of the prettiest flowers in your garden!

Getting Started with Dahlias

Dahlias are not produced from seed, but from a tuber or root that is divided and planted. It is very similar to how potatoes are grown. The root of the plant is what produces next years flowers. The tubers are dug up, washed, and divided. If they are not divided, the tubers get too large and do not produce flowers of the best quality the following year. Tubers are usually sold in the fall and spring and can be shipped right to your house for planting.

Planting Dahlias

Dahlia foliage cannot handle frost, so dahlias should be planted out after the fear of your last frost has gone in the spring. In our area that’s usually mid-May. The tubers should be planted 6 inches in the ground and put in a well-drained area that gets ample sunshine. Tubers will rot if they sit in water for too long. Do not start watering until you see that the foliage has grown out of the ground.

Taking Care of Dahlias

When the dahlia plant reaches 12 inches tall, you should pinch the plant back. This will encourage the plant to send out multiple flowering stems, instead of just one giant stem. To pinch you just cut the plant under one of the sets of leaves. At this point you should also stake the plant. You can do this by putting a wood post or stake next to the plant (without puncturing the tuber under the ground) and tying the plant to the stake. After this spraying with a fish emulsion or worm tea fertilizer will help the plant to establish and stay healthy while fighting off pests, which dahlias are prone to attracting.


Dahlias should be cut when the flower is three quarters of the way open. Cut as low as possible, to encourage longer follow up stems. Dahlias have a short vase life, and do not like to be cut and out of water for long periods of time. The best practice is to cut and place into cool water early in the morning or in the evening. Expect 5 or so days of vase life on dahlias, shorter if you have the dinner plate types.

Dahlia Digging

Dahlias can be dug anytime in the mid-late fall. I usually wait until a frost kills them, but you do not have to wait that long. Dig up your dahlias using a broad fork or rake and wash them. Store them in vermiculate in a dark place such as a closet or cabinet. Wet basements are often too wet and cause the tubers to rot. If the area is too dry the tubers will shrivel up and be die off as well. Before planting the tuber back out in the spring they will need to be divided. To do this you have to look for the “eyes” on the tuber or the little knobs that show a new plant will grow from that area. You will cut that tuber and the eye out. Usually, you can get four or five divided tubers from one plant.

Please let me know if you have any dahlia questions!