By the late 1700’s, many travelers to the new world had noted big beautiful flowers in the late summer and fall unlike anything available in Europe. Botanical gardens in Spain and the Netherlands requested seeds and tubers be sent from Mexico. Many seeds remained viable, but only one of the tubers survived the trip. All modern Dahlia hybrids are the progeny of those few seedlings and one tuber.
Many gardeners find that August gardens often look tired or lack color. A dahlia grower will surely never have this problem. Dahlias are so big and vibrant that August is transformed into summer’s biggest show. The tubers also lend themselves so readily to division that a gardener starting with just a couple dahlias who digs and divides them each fall will soon find that their garden is full and bright from August to frost and they have tubers to share with friends and neighbors.
Thanks to a great deal of breeding work, there is a dahlia for every sunny part of the garden and every color scheme. The blooms have been divided into 19 different types which are available in every color except blue. They range in height from dahliettas which barely reach 12” and are well suited to containers, to dahlia imperialis which reaches 12’ in a single season.
Since they don’t sprout until early June, dahlias are the perfect border companion for spring bloomers which go summer dormant like Aquilegia (Columbine), Papaver (oriental poppy), or tulips. Dark leaved varieties add contrast to the garden even before their bloom time begins.
The best selection of dahlias is available with the spring bulbs from February through April. These come as tubers and should be stored in a cool, dry place until mid May when it is safe to plant. Some of our favorites that were available this year as tubers are:
Mignon single* flowered and has coppery orange petal tips with a red center. Flowers are 3-4” in diameter, and the foliage is bronzy purple.
An informal decorative* white flower capable of reaching 10” in diameter.
Anemone-flowered* and has deep burgundy almost black blooms 4-6” in diameter.
Black foliage and red peony* flowers 3-4” in diameter.
Red-petaled black-centered cactus* flower which can reach 12” in diameter.
Unique creamy peach shade of informal decorative* flower. Blooms can reach 10” in diameter.
Unusual mottled informal decorative* flower of white, raspberry, and yellow which can reach 10” in diameter.
We also get some Dahlias as growing plants throughout the summer, if they are grown from tubers or cuttings, we stock them with the perennials, and they should overwinter successfully with good drainage. Some are also grown from seed, these grow only small tubers that don’t overwinter well in the ground (though you can still overwinter them by digging and storing), and so we keep them with the annuals. Some of our favorites as started plants are:
Dark foliage with red, yellow, pink and white, or orange informal decorative* blooms on compact plants to about 2’ tall.
Huge bamboo-like stems up to 4” across and can reach 18’ in a season. D. Imperialis grows taller and blooms later. D. Tenuicalis grows slightly shorter and blooms earlier.
Low growers well suited to container culture, they are only available as growing plants, and come in a range of colors and bloom types. Due to their small stature they start blooming earlier than their larger relatives, but still carry on blooming until frost.
Dwarf (about 20” tall) dark leaved, mignon single* flowered types that come in a variety of colors and leaf shapes.
Seedlings of the variety ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ which retain the dark foliage of that parent, but come in a number of peony-flowered* colors.
Low growing (12-14” tall) mix of single and double flowered dahlias in a variety of warm colors.
Dwarf (12-14” tall) mix of bicolor collarette* flowered dahlias. Yellows, oranges, pinks, purples, and white prevail, with each flower usually showing two of these colors.
* Denotes a particular form of dahlia bloom as recognized by the American Dahlia Society, please see the Dahlia Society website for a sample of each form.
We have a wonderful selection of perennials year round, but if you are looking for a specific perennial we will have the best selection when it is in bloom around town. Note: Native plant pages will take you into the Native Plant section.