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2019: The Year of the Dahlia

The National Garden Bureau has named 2019 the year of the Dahlia and we could not be more excited! Dahlias have one of the widest ranges of bloom colors, forms, and sizes you’ll find anywhere! From 1/2-inch pompoms to 12-inch dinner-plate-sized flowers, Dahlias bring striking life to the landscape all season long. Dahlias thrive in bedding gardens and containers and make lovely cut flowers! They are beautiful and multi-functional. What more could you ask for?  

Did you know that the dahlia is the national flower of Mexico? 

The native dahlias found in the mountains of Mexico and Guatemala are the genetic source for the modern hybrid dahlias that we grow in our gardens today! While conquering the Aztec nation, 16th-century Spanish conquistadors pursued side explorations that led to the discovery of the new Plant life. Botanists accompanying the soldiers discovered what is sometimes referred to as the tree dahlia. The hollow stems of these large plants were often used for hauling water. In fact, the Aztec name for “tree dahlias” was “acocotli” which translates to “water-cane.” 

About 200 years passed before dahlia seeds, roots, and plants found their way to Spain and other parts of Europe. The Madrid Botanical Gardens named the genus for Andreas Dahl, a Swedish botanist. Initial breeders of dahlias were interested in the dahlia as a food source since the blooms at that time were not noteworthy. 

In 1872 a new box of dahlia roots was sent from Mexico to Holland. The only surviving tuber produced a brilliant red bloom with petals that were rolled back and pointed. Immediately dahlias regained their place on the benches of plant breeders who began to successfully combine this new variety with parents of early varieties. These progenies have served as the parents of today’s hybrids. Breeders today propagate new cultivars using various techniques and creating fantastic new colors, shapes, and plant habits that perform well in the garden. 

Here are some tips and tricks to planting Dahlias and keeping them beautiful and healthy!  

When to plant 

Your tubers can go directly into the ground in the spring when the ground is nice and warm and there is little chance of frost. If you want blooms as early as possible, you can start the tubers indoors in good light about a month before planting time. By starting early, you could have a small plant ready to transplant at planting time. That way you can enjoy the beautiful colors of your dahlia sooner!  

Where to plant 

Dahlias require a site with good drainage and partial to full sun.  

How to plant 

Dahlias need to be staked to avoid falling over at maturity. Best practice is placing the stake prior to planting to avoid damaging the tuber and roots system. You can also use tomato cages as a simple approach to caging.  

Plant the tuber according to the package directions with the “eye” on the tuber facing up. The eye is the point on the shoulder, or crown, of the tuber from which the plant grows. 

When buying potted plant dahlias, simply transplant into a prepared garden bed or decorative containers. 


Dahlias do not need a lot of water; in fact, excessive watering early in the season can lead to rotting. Best practice is to monitor the soil moisture especially if the local rainfall is less than one inch per week. In containers, Dahlias will require more water because of their limited soil volume. 

Now that you know a little bit more about Dahlias you can fill your garden with their brightly colored petals.   

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2019: The Year of the Dahlia


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