Dahlias, a native of South America must surely be the most pleasing of all summer flowers. Dahlia flowers give a wealth of colour for a very long time, choose your favourites and give your garden a great colourful facelift, enticing bees and butterflies to your garden. If you keep them frost free in winter they will bring you pleasure for years.
Dahlias have a variety of uses, perfect for pots, planters and garden borders and also make an excellent cut flower. The best time to cut dahlias is early in the day. Put the stems directly into a bucket full of lukewarm water along with cut flower food.
You can start planting dahlia tubers during spring. Dahlias are sensitive to frost so in this part of the world, planting can be as late as late May to early June. Dahlias will bloom to their maximum capability in complete sunshine. Plant them in a well-drained soil 10-12 cm deep and approximately 30-40 cm apart. Cover with soil and give a light watering. After that, water regularly take care not to overwater as this could cause the tubers to rot. If planting for the patio, plant in a good potting compost in a pot with adequate drainage.
If you fertilize your dahlias on a monthly basis, the dahlias will bloom in your garden or on your patio from mid to late summer through to the autumn. Dead flowers should be removed regularly as this extends the flowering period well into autumn. Keep the soil from drying out during dry periods.
Dahlia tubers are easy to preserve during the winter. After the flowering season leave foliage as the leaves will take in the sunlight which will provide nourishment for the plant the following year. After the first frost, cut the dahlia stems to about 15 cm above ground level, lift the tubers and shake off any excess soil and leave to dry. You will find that the tubers look like clumps of potatoes which can be separated and used to create more plants for the following season. Attach a label with the name of the dahlia to remind yourself for the next year. Place the tubers in a tray and cover with compost or sharp sand and then store in a frost-free place such as a garden shed or greenhouse and check regularly for signs of tuber rot.The following spring, you can plant them once again and the plant will reward you with its beautiful flowers.
If you want your plants to flower earlier you can ‘withdraw’ them. Place them in a shallow tray in moist compost at 15-20Ëš C during the month of April. When shoots begin to appear, place them in potting soil. By the beginning of May, they will get used to the outdoor temperature and you can plant them from mid-May onwards in either your garden or in a pot.