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Plant Profile: Dahlias

Spring planting of Dahlias in this plant profile for Groton Garden Club

It is not too late to add Dahlias to your garden for this year! Dahlias, Dahlia spp., are prized for their vibrant blooms, diverse forms, and ease of cultivation, making them popular choices for gardens across Groton. With proper care, these tuberous perennials can thrive in the state's climate, providing a stunning display of color from midsummer through fall. If dug up in the fall, you can over-winter them in a cold dry spot, preserving your investment in these showy plants for years to come.


Massachusetts experiences a diverse climate, with regions ranging from USDA Hardiness Zones 5b to 7a making it suitable for spring planting as an annual in Groton. Dahlias generally prefer full sun and well-drained, fertile soil. Before planting, amend the soil with organic matter to improve drainage and fertility. In cooler regions, consider planting dahlias in a warm, sheltered location to encourage optimal growth.

 

Wait until after the last frost date, typically in the spring to plant dahlia tubers. Choose a location with at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Ensure good air circulation to prevent mildew and fungal diseases. Dig a hole about 6-8 inches deep and place the tuber horizontally with the eye facing upward. Cover it with soil, leaving about 2 inches of the tuber above the soil surface. Space dahlia tubers 1.5 to 3 feet apart, depending on the variety's mature size. Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Water deeply, especially during dry spells, to encourage strong root development. Apply a balanced fertilizer once a month during the growing season to promote healthy foliage and abundant blooms. Tall dahlia varieties and those with large blooms, such as the dinner plate varieties, may require staking to prevent flopping. Install stakes or cages at planting time and tie the stems gently as they grow. Remove spent blooms regularly to prolong flowering and encourage the production of new buds.


There are numerous dahlia varieties suitable for cultivation, ranging from small, pompon-like blooms to large, dinner-plate-sized flowers. Some popular varieties include:


Bishop of Llandaff is known for its deep red blooms and dark foliage.


Bishop of Llandaff is known for its deep red blooms and dark foliage

Photo Credit Brent & Becky’s


Cafe au Lait is a favorite for its large, creamy blooms with hints of blush pink.


Cafe au Lait is a favorite for its large, creamy blooms with hints of blush pink.

Photo Credit Brent & Becky’s


Thomas Edison, which features rich purple blooms that stand out in the garden.


Thomas Edison, which features rich purple blooms that stand out in the garden.

Photo Credit Brent & Becky’s


Karma Choc produces deep burgundy, almost black flowers, adding dramatic flair to any spot.


Karma Choc produces deep burgundy, almost black flowers, adding dramatic flair to any spot.

Photo Credit Swan Island Dahlias


Ferncliff Illusion showcases bi-colored blooms with soft pink and white petals.


erncliff Illusion showcases bi-colored blooms with soft pink and white petals.

Photo Credit Swan Island Dahlias


In Groton, dahlias are treated as tender perennials. After the first frost, carefully dig up the tubers, trim the stems, and allow them to dry for a few days. Store the tubers in a cool, dry location over winter and replant them in spring.

 

Dahlias are susceptible to certain pests and diseases, including aphids, slugs, powdery mildew, and botrytis. Monitor plants regularly for signs of infestation or disease, and take prompt action to mitigate problems. Practice good garden hygiene by removing debris and weeds to reduce pest and disease pressure.

 

With their dazzling array of colors and forms, dahlias add beauty and charm to your gardens. By providing the right growing conditions and attentive care, gardeners can enjoy a spectacular display of these versatile flowers from summer through fall. Enhancing the landscape with their vibrant and often showy presence, dahlias can be a joy to grow.

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