Are dahlias one of your favorite flowers? (If not, you probably haven't been around too many of them yet!)
These gorgeous blooms come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They bloom in North Georgia starting in the late Summer until the first frost.
They can seem finicky to grow at times, but we've got a few tips to share to make your dahlias grow beautifully!
They need sun, but don't like too much heat.
In North Georgia, that can be a hard combination to find! The best place is one that gets morning sun and some afternoon shade. You can also use a shade cloth over them if needed. It's easy to find on Amazon and will help keep them cooler in the afternoon.
Plant in raised beds or pots
Our red Georgia clay soil here in North Georgia is great for some things - tomatoes, blueberries, etc. Dahlias don't love the clay soil, though.
The biggest issue is the lack of drainage in clay soil. Dahlia tubers (the root or bulb of the plan) don't want to stay wet. They will rot if they sit in water for too long.
We have had the best success when planting our dahlias in raised beds or large pots. You can either mix the clay soil with potting soil, compost, or sand to help with drainage or just fill the bed with soil designed for pots or raised beds.
This also makes digging the tubers up easier (more on that later!)
Plant the tuber on it's side
Dahlias are most commonly sold as tubers. They look a little like a small sweet potato to me! When you plant, you want to dig a hole 4" - 6" deep and lay the tuber in horizontally.
Dahlia tubers need an eye to grow (see? like potatoes). Sometimes, they will have a small sprout starting when you purchase it. If so, put that toward the top. It's ok to bury it!
It's also ok if the sprout breaks while you are planting - it will regrow!
If there isn't a sprout yet, you can lay it horizontally and don't worry about where the eye and sprout will be located. They will find their way to the light.
Don't water it right away
The tuber holds the food and water the sprout needs to get started. After you plant it, you don't need to water it until you see green growth.
If your soil is really dry, it's ok to dampen it some.
If you are planting in a raised bed or your pot is outside and it rains before there is a green sprout - it's fine. Nature will take care of itself 99% of the time.
Once the green sprout becomes a small plant (12" or so), you will want to water it regularly and deeply. Usually that means once or twice a week with a really good soaking.
If it's raining, you may not need to water.
Even though they don't like to sit in water, they do like LOTS of water. This is why a raised bed or pot with drainage is a great fit in North Georgia.
Pinch the plant for better growth
Pinching a plant means cutting off the top of it when it's young. For dahlias, once they are 6" - 8" tall you can cut off the top - just leaving the bottom set of leaves.
It know it's painful (for you - not the plant) and it seems like you are delaying when your flowers will come, but it's a really important step!
This makes the plant create more stems which means more flowers!
Cut long Stems
One of the best things about dahlias, is the more you cut the blooms the more they will bloom! They were made to be cut and brought inside to enjoy.
When you cut your flowers, cut a long stem. Sometimes that might mean there is another bud lower on the stem - it's ok!
I know you want to cut it above that bud - we can't lose any flowers! Trust me, cutting long stems will cause the plant to grow more long stems with more flowers.
I promise, it works!
To dig or not to dig?
Because the tubers are sensitive to too much water and cold, they have to be dug up each fall in most of the US. But, we are lucky in our area because we don't have really cold winters.
That means we can leave them in the ground through the winter! Every once in a while we will get really cold temperatures in North Georgia. Last December, it got down in the single digits - that's cold!
If we do have temps that low in the forecast, you can cover your dahlia area with layers of leaves, mulch, cardboard or other material to give them extra insulation. We piled a few inches of leaves from our yard onto the raised beds and then covered that with landscape fabric to keep the leaves in place. Our dahlias survived the single digits perfectly!
There is one BIG benefit to digging up your dahlias - they multiply!
Yep, that one tuber you planted can turn into 4 - 12 more in just one season. Each of those tubers can grow it's own plant!
I wait until Spring to dig my tubers for 2 reasons.
1. They are difficult to store over the winter.
2. You can see where to divide them more easily in the Spring.
The tubers have to be divided correctly to make sure they grow a new plant and it takes some practice to learn. (I'll share a post on that later - you've got enough to do with just planting right now!)
Good luck and enjoy your dahlias!
Pleasant Union Farm is a family owned wedding venue in North Georgia, about an hour north of Atlanta.