W&D Florals: How To Grow Dahlias

Around these parts, my friend Jackie is known for her green thumb and incredible floral designs. It’s not often you meet a designer so in tune with the nature of her medium, and over the years Jackie has taken it upon her self to grow blooms that suite her tastes. Homegrown is always, always better. Today, Jackie is sharing her tips for growing big, beautiful dinnerplate dahlias right in your backyard. It’s something I have on my to do list for spring! Photos by Melissa Oholendt.

Munster Rose for W&D_34

Munster Rose for W&D_38

Jackie Fall has officially begun. The leaves are changing and the world is turning to pumpkin lattes, squash bisque, and cable knit sweaters. But in the floral world, we still have a few good weeks left to forage Indian Summer blooms from our fields.

My absolute favorite flowers during this season are dahlias. Specifically dinner plate dahlias. These gorgeous many-petaled beauties (literally the size of your head!) are the most show-stopping thing I’ve worked with in the floral industry. Ever. I have absolutely no idea how Mother Nature does it.

The main problem with these ladies (yes, I call them that) is that they don’t travel well. I found this out the hard way after trying for a full season to fly them in from California and Washington. The results? Not good. So I decided to grow my own.

Munster Rose for W&D_05

Here are some tips to planting and enjoying your own dinner plate dahlias.

1. Plant as early as possible. As soon as the last chance of frost has hit.

2. Plant in well drained soil and do not over water.

3. They need lots of sun, so keep that in mind when choosing your location.

4. Plant against a fence line, if possible. This will help protect the massive plants, which grow 7 to 8 feet high, from toppling in the wind. (You’ll have to stake them regardless, but the fence helps!)

5. Beware of bugs. Dahlias are prone to spider mites. Plus the asian beetles and grasshoppers love to nibble on their petals. If you notice any bug problems, get on it right away.

Hopefully you’ll feel inspired to try planting some of your own next spring. The fall is the perfect time to start saving (or pre-ordering) your bulbs for next year. These plants are in high demand, so don’t wait until April to try to find them. Start looking now!

Munster Rose for W&D_10

And for good measure, here’s a list of other things I like to grow – all of which are perfect to pair with dahlias: mint, rosemary, sage, coleus (yes this can survive as a cut foliage!), sedum, and heuchera. 

Contributor-Jackie

Contributor-Copy--mel

  • Dahlias are one of my favorites! The dinner plate sized ones are just stunning!! Great growing tips, Jackie! Thank you. I’m definitely going to start looking for bulbs right now. 🙂

  • I just tried growing dahlias for the first time this year with much success! I lived in an apartment so I actually successfully grew them in a pot. I planted them late April and they’ve been blooming since August!

    Now that we moved and we have a yard to grow things in I will try growing them in the ground, but I’ve heard that in cold places, like here in Vermont the bulbs must be dug up in the winter and kept in some mulch in a cool, damp place until the Spring otherwise they will likely not come up again.

    Thank goodness for unfinished basements!

    How does one take care of spider mites without using pesticides? possible?

  • Where is your favorite place to get/order your bulbs from? Dahlia’s are my favorite but I’m always looking for more variety!

  • Christina- So happy to hear you’re also a dahlias lover! Here in MN we too have to dig up bulbs to save them before winter sets in. I’ve had mixed results with this though. It’s hard to find a balanced indoor climate with the correct humidity. Too much moisture will rots the bulbs, and too little will cause them to shrivel. Hope your bulb-saving goes well!

    And insecticidal soap is the best bet for spider mites!

  • Kelly! There are SO many options for good dahlia bulbs. Over the years I’ve ordered from larger companies, small wholesalers, and local farms. These are the ones that I’ve had the best luck with:

    Aztec Dahlias
    American Meadows
    tulipworld.com

    Hope that helps!

  • Alison, my best answer is “full sun”. These lovelies can handle all-day, full-on, summer-heat. And they love it. I never like to say “western vs. eastern” since the amount of sun is usually impacted by your surrounding environment (buildings, houses, fences, etc.) Just pick the sunniest spot in your yard, and plant there!

  • Jennette-
    YES! Cafe au Laits are my absolute favorite. Typically the color of this variety varies slightly throughout the season – starting off with a more saturated blush hue and fading to soft ivory as the summer progresses. She’s a beauty.

  • Will you supply the names of the dahlias you show in the picture?

    I think I recognize the Cafe au Laits but the others are also just lovely.

    Thanks,
    Victoria

  • Where can you get dinner plate dahlia seeds? they are so hard to find. I planted them years ago and the company no longer sells them. They were very easy from seed. People would stop and take pictures of my flowers. Any information would be appreciated!