In late spring, after the last frost is gone and the soil is warm, your garden is ready for planting dahlias. These bold, showy flowers will be the center of attention, and will produce abundant blooms for colorful cut arrangements from the end of the summer until late fall. Dahlias grow on giant, bushy plants that take up a lot of room in a flower border, but you might, like Martha, choose to grow them strictly for bouquets in your cutting garden.
Since dahlias are native to Mexico, they are not accustomed to the cold climates in many parts of the United States and therefore must be planted as annuals and dug up for storage in the winter. Even where they do overwinter outdoors, digging and dividing them regularly is recommended for peak performance. Dahlias grow in many colors and shapes, from little pompoms to large, dinner-plate size blooms. They grow from tubers, which are available in garden centers or by mail order in the spring.
Tools and Materials
- Dahlia tubers
- Sturdy, tall stakes
- Sledge hammer
- Spade and trowel
- 5-10-5 fertilizer
Planting Dahlias How-To
1. To get a head start, you can pot the tubers indoors about a month before planting time -- however you can skip this step if you like, and just plant them outside once the soil is warm.
2. Drive a stake at least 8 inches into the ground in a sunny spot a few inches from where the tuber will be. Do this before planting to avoid piercing the tuber. Each dahlia plant is several feet wide, so allow for enough room between stakes.
3. Dig a hole about four to six inches deep, about three inches from the stake, plant the tuber horizontally, with the growing points or "eyes" facing up, and cover it with soil.
4. Add some 5-10-5 fertilizer, and water thoroughly.
5. Once the stem is long enough, begin tying the plant to the stake every foot or two as it grows.