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  • Jane Westoby

Planting Dahlias

Updated: Mar 26

Planting Dahlias

Just incase you haven't heard it time to start your Dahlias! We are over the hill of equinox so the days are getting longer and the soil is starting to warm up in anticipation.

For those new to dahlia cultivation, getting started may seem daunting, but rest assured, it's simpler than it seems.

  • Dahlias can be planted straight into the flowerbed where they are to flower, however there are pro and cons to this:

  • They can only be planted out once the risk of frost has passed, so you may need to wait another 6-8 weeks for this.

  • If you plant straight out into the garden the slugs will have a five start feast, so you will spend the first few weeks battling against them.

  • You may still have spring flowers in the ground which will not be pulled or cut for a few more weeks.

  • If some of the tubers are particularly slow to sprout you may have a few gaps in the early season or some may fail to sprout at all.

  • You won't be able to take cuttings as easily from them, or as soon if they are in open ground.

However if you don't have room to start them indoors and keep them sheltered from frost then starting them direct may be your only option.

For all of the reasons I outline above I start mine indoors in March. I am located in Hampshire near the south coast of England and our last frost date is mid to end of April. We are in Zone 9. I could start them earlier however the light levels are so low that will just sulk without growlights and grow leggy.

First I bring all of my crates indoors for 2 weeks. This gives them a nice warm start and gets the eyes started. I then unpack them all and pot them up into either trays or pots, depending on their size with a little compost. They do not need to be completely covered at this stage.

I just chose something which is a suitable size for the tuber, and I do cram them in. Not all of them will be viable as I tend to split mine down as far as I can and inevitably some will not have eyes.

I leave the top part of the crown sticking out of the soil, firstly to stop any rotting if they were fully covered but also so that I can see the eyes developing and take clean cuttings. I water then in so that the compost is just damp but not soaking wet. This will encourage the roots to start growing.

Once they have a few cm of shoots I decide if I will take cuttings or not. Generally I only take cuttings of prolific tubers or at the least they need more than 2-3 shoots. Any less than that and I will just grow out them all out.

Growing Dahlias

They need to be kept in a frost free place so I have used a mini greenhouse in my dining room, or on the windowsills, the garage, sunroom or greenhouse. Whatever space I have available. I pop them out on warm sunny days to enjoy some direct sunlight and just bring them in overnight at first and then just if a frost is forecast. Once they have sprouted and are about 10 cm tall I start to put then up into individual pots where I do bury them a little deeper and give then more room to grow.

I keep up with the watering and checking for slugs on a daily bases, and then plant out during May & June.

Bring on the kaleidoscope of colour! and do sign up for regular updates and our 2024 Dahlia preview.

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