The Coastal Gardener: Get in on the next big plant trend — dahlias

February 11, 2011|By Ron Vanderhoff
  • This is the season to feed a dahlia addiction. Dormant dahlias, planted now, will produce blooms all summer and fall. Best of all, they're inexpensive at this time of year.
This is the season to feed a dahlia addiction. Dormant… (Ron Vanderhoff,…)

"Dahlias are back in fashion," said the magazine title.

The topic of garden fashion may not be high on your conscious agenda, but I'll bet you subscribe to more gardening trends than you may be aware of. Fifteen years ago, hydrangeas were only seen in grandma's or, maybe even, great-grandma's garden. Calla's were about as hip as knitting. Then, over the past 10 years, both of these seemed to spout up all over the neighborhood.

Dahlias seem to be one of the next big plant trends. Maybe it's the symmetry of their flowers, which seems to appeal to young, contemporary tastes. Maybe it's their cheerful daisy-like appearance — a sign of optimism and happiness, in spite of trying times.

Whatever the reason, few flowers have the power to dazzle like dahlias. From its humble origins in Mexico, the dahlia is once again one of the most popular summer flowers. A wonderful characteristic of the dahlia is its versatility. Dwarf varieties stay small and are perfect for patio pots or low borders. Mid-sized varieties work as seasonal fillers or as closely spaced mass plantings. The giants, reaching up to five or six feet, are suitable for backdrops or deep flower beds.


The huge variety of flower shapes and sizes have added to the appeal of dahlias. Ball, cactus, anemone, pompon, decorative and peony are some of the descriptive flower forms available. Almost every flower color except true blue is represented. For gardeners who like their flowers big, the dahlia is one plant that can live up to the description of "dinner plate."

If you have been attracted to dahlias recently, this is the time of year to really feed your addiction. Dormant dahlias in February and March are sold alongside lilies, gladiolus, tuberous begonias, caladiums and other "summer bulbs." But dahlias actually grow from tuberous roots, not bulbs.

Although dormant dahlias should be planted in the next month or two, their local blooming season is mostly from early summer through fall — longer than almost any other summer flower. During this flowering period, the more you cut the blossoms and fill a vase, the more prolific they become. It is not unusual for a single dahlia to produce 50 to 100 flowers in just one season.

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