Like fuchsias, cosmos, and many other colorful flora, dahlias are New World plants that originated in Mexico. Cultivated by the Aztecs for generations, dahlias are still widely praised for their beauty and adaptability, and if started in containers, they will bloom weeks ahead of schedule. Since dahlias keep flowering until the frost, their colorful, showy blooms can be enjoyed in arrangements and in the garden for several months.
To start dahlias, all you need is a sterilized container, a dahlia tuber, and a seed-starting mix such as Pro-Mix. Set the tuber in the container so that its eye is about 2 inches below the surface of the soil. Water, and place the container in a greenhouse or a warm, sunny window. Because dahlias are native to Mexico, they love heat, so make sure to grow them indoors or in a cold frame until the last frost date in your area, at which time they should be placed outdoors in a sunny spot at least 2 feet apart.
Dahlias are available in packages at most garden centers; the following heirloom varieties are from Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Dahlia 'Kidd's Climax' was developed in 1949. It grows up to 5 feet tall and bears flowers that measure more than 10 inches in diameter. Its blooms, which are composed of soft-pink and creamy-yellow petals, are great for floating in a bowl of water.
D. 'Thomas Edison' was introduced in 1929. It is a formal decorative dahlia that bears deep-purple, almost velvety blossoms. It grows up to 5 feet tall, and its flowers measure about 8 inches across.
D. 'Sherwood's Peach' was introduced in 1944. Its 12-inch-diameter blooms have peach and amber petals; this cultivar grows up to 5 feet tall.
Old House Gardens (heirloom bulbs)
536 Third Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48103-4957