Planting Dahlia’s: A Novice’s JourneyThis Post May Contain Affiliate Links. Please Read Our Disclosure Policy
I’m planting dahlias! Join me on this adventure from start to finish as I discover the joy of growing dahlias. This is a new mini-series here on Inspired by Charm, and I can’t wait to get started!
Planting Dahlia’s: A Novice’s Journey
Yes, my friends. I am deep into dahlias. This past week I planted 27 dahlia tubers in one of my raised garden beds and thought you might want to go along on this gardening adventure. Before we get into what I did, I want to remind you that I am not an expert on dahlias or plants of any kind. I planted several dahlias for the first time last year. This is only my second year growing them, and so I’m still very much a novice.
My goal with these posts is to tell you what I learn. This series is not a definitive guide on planting and growing dahlias. I just thought you might enjoy following along on this fun learning journey. As I discover experts, resources, guides, and more about dahlias, I’ll share everything with you.
What are Dahlias?
First off, they’re my favorite flower.
Secondly, according to Wikipedia, “Dahlia is a genus of bushy, tuberous, herbaceous perennial plants native to Mexico and Central America. … Its garden relatives include the sunflower, daisy, chrysanthemum, and zinnia.”
Dahlias come in an array of colors, shapes, and sizes. I’m going to include a few pictures here of arrangements I’ve made in the past that have incorporated these beautiful blooms so you can get an idea of what they look like. I also love this guide from Longfield Gardens. They detail many types of dahlias with images.
Orange and Pink Dahlias from my Outdoor Fall Tablescape (see more this table here)
Maroon Dahlias from my Fall Tablescape (see more of this table here)
A dahlia arrangment I made for a dahlia arranging class.
They’re STUNNING, right? Their beauty, shape, and form just boggle my mind. And the colors! My goodness! I find one that I “love the most,” and without fail, I see another that I like even more. As I mentioned, I planted 27 dahlias. I put in more than 12 varieties, and I still yearn for more. It’s a problem!
Where to Buy Dahila Tubers?
There are a plethora of places where you can get tubers: Lowes, Amazon, small garden stores, flower farmers on Instagram, etc. I recommend the latter because they often offer unique and more “coveted” varieties. Plus, you’re supporting a small business!
Something to keep in mind: If you’re looking to buy from a seller with a limited supply (or a popular seller on Instagram), notice when they put their dahlias on sale. You don’t want to miss out on snagging your favorites. Also, be aware that suppliers usually only ship in the spring right before planting.
This year, I purchased my tubers from the following places*:
*I also ordered a random mix of 5 tubers from Pisarcik Flower Farm, which is a local business where I regularly buy cut flowers.
These aren’t “the only” or “the best” places to buy from. Although these suppliers are reputable, I chose them somewhat randomly based on Google searches. At this point, however, I can recommend them all because they shipped on time, and everything they sent was well packaged.
How to Plant Dahila Tubers?
Here’s what I know…
I live in Pittsburgh, PA, which is in Zone 6. Our winters require dahlia tubers to be dug up before winter and replanted in the ground after the threat of frost (mid- May)
I had been told that dahlias like rich, well-drained soil, so a week before planting, I amended my planting bed with a few bags of composted cow manure and a bag of peat moss. These enrich the soil and help with drainage. A friend who likes to grow flowers recently reminded me that “manure equals blooms” and even recommended a thin top dressing of manure once all of my tubers were planted.
Dahlias like full sun so plant in an area that gets 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day.
Dahlias can be planted 12-18 inches apart. Because of the size of my raised bed, the spacing between my tuber clumps is just 12 inches. This could be problematic, but I’m hoping for the best.
I’ve been planting my dahlia tubers in the clumps sent by the suppliers. I don’t know what the standard is for planting, but it’s my understanding that a single tuber will grow a plant. As you can see by the array of tubers on my counter, each clump of tubers is what I’m considering “one plant.” This is how I planted the dahlias last year, and the results were good.
I used thick popsicle sticks and these extreme permanent Sharpies to label all of the tuber clumps. This way I’ll know what’s growing where and be able to organize the tubers when I take them out of the ground in the fall.
I also created a map showing each plant in case I’m unable to see or locate the popsicle sticks as the plants start to grow.
The tubers should be planted under two inches of soil with their “eyes” facing up. On some tubers, it’s fairly obvious where the top is, but on others, it’s a bit more challenging to tell. In that case, I usually just lay the tuber on its side and hope for the best. I’m not sure if that’s correct, but in my mind, it’s better than the top facing down.
Something else that’s important to know: There’s no need to water the tubers until the dahlia plants start to grow. This is something I only learned this year. Last year I watered my tubers after I planted them. Oops! From what I’ve read, tubers can rot if they are overwatered. A local friend even recommends covering them if a lot of rain is in the forecast. Once the dahlias sprout, the threat of rot is gone, and you should water them 2 or 3 times a week to soak the ground.
Armed with all that information, I got to work on planting my dahlias. In no time, I had my bed filled with tubers and the promise of a lush garden of beautiful blooms!
There is much more to do once the dahlias start to sprout, but I’ll save that for another post. In that update, we’ll talk about staking the plants, pinching off some of the growth (which is important for lots of blooms), and any other tidbits I discover about growing dahlias.
Now I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that all 27 of the tuber clumps sprout and that there’s no rot. Originally, I planned to keep some tubers back in case a few failed. However, I was able to fit everything in the beds so I may be scrambling to find more tubers if there are duds. Hopefully, that won’t happen
One final question:
Can You Grow Dahlias in Pots?
That’s what I did last year. I planted my tubers in four 20″-high terra cotta pots. For the soil, I combined potting soil, manure compost, and peat moss. Here is one of my blooms:
Who’s Excited for my Dahlia Adventures?
And that’s a wrap on this first installment of Planting Dahlia’s Adventure. I’m giddy about going on this little growing journey and excited to take you along.
If you have experience planting or growing dahlias, please let me know in the comments below. I welcome your advice. Let’s learn and grow together.
Looking for more more of my gardening ideas? Check out these posts:
- My Favorite Hanging Flower Basket for Shade
- DIY Vertical Herb Garden
- How to Make a Terrarium
- DIY Succulent Planter
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Planted my first dahlias this morning! 6 of them. Can’t wait to see them come up! Love your blog & will be following along for the dahlia updates & tips!
I’m looking forward to adventure in dahlias! I love them!
I live north of Pittsburgh and a few years back planted Dahlia in front of my Chimney. I did not did them up and with little care they have reappeared for 6 years. The protection and warth of the chimney has kept them safe.
Hi…I visited Swan Island Dahlias while traveling in the Pacific Northwest the summer before last. I fell in love with Dahlias, however, I live in SWFL and did not think I could grow them here. I am still not sure if I can or not. Swan Island was a wonderful experience. I am looking forward to posts here and maybe someone from Florida will post their experience with growing dahlias in our tropical climate.
This is my first year trying Dahlias. Hoping for the best but your info will help. Can’t wait to watch both of ours grow
This post is so timely – I just planted my first dahlia tuber a few weeks ago. Looking forward to reading about your journey and the tips you have along the way. When I planted, It was hard to tell where the eye was, so I planted the tuber on its side and am hoping for the best too ! 🤞🏻
I have grown dahlias for about 20 years but this year cut back to 150 tubers. Only 1 tuber with an eye is necessary to grow a plant. Only one stalk is necessary per plant. Unless you are growing small flowers 12 inches apart is going to mean a lot of trouble from overcrowding and fungus. I allow 3 feet per plant and even then they can overcrowd. I can name a number of varieties that will reach 6 feet in height.
Then there are laterals, how many to grow and debudding.
This is great information! Thank you so much for sharing. I may have done it all wrong, but this is a learning journey, so I’m excited to see what happens!
OOH! Excited to see your garden grow! What are you planning for the other bed and trellis?
I can’t stop adding to my comment. I live very close to a really large producer… swan island dahlias. They are great!
Oh almost forgot. Floret has great resources on dahlias too… she has a book in the works as well.
Uh-oh. You have caught the bug! I have been growing dahlias for years. I have a field of them. There are so many rabbit holes to go down… collecting different varieties; taking cuttings and then propagating. The collecting the seed is fascinating as dahlias do not produce seed true to the parents… so you can collect, sprout, grow and have a new variety!!! I love it. I would suggest following Santa Cruz dahlias or cozey town flowers (on Instagram) for great info on splitting tubers, collecting seed and storing tubers! Oh and if you are interested trading tubers with others after you divide you tubers this fall – I would be interested in a trade with you! Good luck!
Hello Brooke M. and Michael,
I received a salmon colored dahlia from a friend and impulse bought a tubor of Evangeline– so hooked on these beautites! Any favorites you grow?
What intriques me is that the seed I saved from these plants may totally different than their parents! I grew out 20 or so plants…fearing storage space issues in my future!
I look forward to further posts on this fascinating flower!
Jean from the Inland Pacific Northwest
My first year for dahlias… they are about 18” tall already!!! I live in northwestern PA. Excited to o see how they grow !!
Wow! You must have planted early! Bravo! I’m so excited to see what grows!
I’m awaiting the arrival of new tubers from Breck’s.
I live near Pittsburgh and have grown dahlias years ago. I’m intrigued by the new varieties.
I live in Seattle area and have been growing dahlias for several years too. Last year I didnt dig up the tubers in fall. All my stakes were still intact. I wasnt sure what would come up so I bought some more tubers and even starts from a lady nearby. Almost all from last yr have started sprouting so my dilemma is finding sunny spots for the rest! I take digital photos when in bloom and label them so I can remember what they look like for future. Kept me busy during these ‘stay at home’ directives!
I caught the Dahlia bug 2 years ago…getting ready to plant mine!My favorite flowers,too! Just love to watch them grow and admire them!Thanks for sharing!
I love this! Cant wait to see how they do for u! I’ve been wanting to buy some to plant but I just dont know much about starting them from “scratch”. I planted some plants one year and they were beautiful but then along came grasshoppers and it was nearly impossible to keep those pests from destroying my plants :/ let us know if you run into those troubles and what to do! Best of luck!
You are a genius! I love the way you are so organized in the planting, making a map to locate things. I truly enjoyed reading this post as there was so much information. Thank you Michael! I can’t wait to see the results of your efforts. It will an eye candy day for your followers!
Wonderful post! excited to see what happens with your Dahlias this year. You may already know, but someone who is so informed and hilarious including lots of Dahlia info is @theimpatientgardener. Fair warning… your plant spending will triple! Enjoy our Pittsburgh sunshine.
Hello! I’m waiting on my tubers from PetalPickers. I’m new to planting these. Thank you for all the info you have shared so far. Looking forward to learning more. Love your blog and IG page❤️
I planted my first tubers (only 3) a couple of weeks ago and am very excited to follow and learn. If these workout I want to do a lot more next year.
Love following you