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Gardening For Health

Make Room for Dahlias in Your Garden 

Dahlias are among the most beautiful and diverse flowers available. Everybody loves dahlias. They’ve experienced a resurgence in popularity and are romantic additions to wedding bouquets. You can purchase them from nurseries as bedding plants or you can start them from tubers or even from seed. 

Dahlias are not hardy, but their tubers can be dug and saved from year to year. Tubers can be planted outside after the danger of frost has passed, from May 15 on. Dahlias prefer a sunny location that receives at least six hours of sun. The soil should be fertile, well drained and with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0.  

In late fall, once the plants have been blackened by frost, cut the stalk off about 6 to 8 inches above the ground. With a shovel, carefully loosen and lift the clump. Remove the soil, being careful not to break the tubers. Allow them to air harden for four hours, then wash them clean with a garden hose and let them dry. Divide the clumps by cutting the individual tubers, taking care to leave a piece of the crown or old stalk attached to each tuber. Pack the tubers in vermiculite or peat moss and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place until spring, when the temperature is between 40 and 50 degrees. 

I’m basically a lazy gardener and don’t like digging up tubers. I put mine in a raised bed or large planter (24 inches) that has a half-inch of hardware cloth on the bottom to keep the voles out. My raised beds are made of recycled plastic lumber 12 inches high or cinder blocks.  

In the fall, I cut all the stalks off and cover the entire bed with horticultural blanket, greenhouse film or a heavy-duty plastic drop cloth. Then I secure it all with metal staples to keep the tubers dry. This has worked for several years and plant growth starts early in the spring. 

Dahlias come in a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes. The flowers can range from 4 inches to 10 inches across. Some dahlias grow very tall (5 to 6 feet) and need to be staked. They are disease and pest free.  

Thanks to the 42 species available, dahlias are sure to bring lots of color and interest to your garden.