Dahlia

13 May

Dahlia, tuberous perennial, sometimes used as annual, many colors and flower forms, grow in full sun in well drained soil, tubers will rot in wet soils, moderate water, good in borders as a filler, good container plant.

Native to Mexico, Guatemala.

Through centuries of hybridizing and selection, dahlias have become tremendously diversified, available in numerous flower types and flower sizes (from 2 to 12 in. across) and all colors but true blue.

Bush and bedding dahlias range from 1 ft. to over 7 ft. tall. The tall bush forms are useful as summer hedges, screens, and fillers among shrubs; lower kinds give mass color in borders and containers. Modern dahlias, with their strong stems, long-lasting blooms that face outward or upward, and substantial, attractive foliage, make striking cut flowers. Leaves are generally divided into many large, deep green leaflets.

Planting. Most dahlias are started from tuberous roots planted in spring. Several weeks before planting, dig the soil in the planting area to 1 ft. deep and work in plenty of organic matter, such as garden compost or ground bark.

At planting time, dig a foot-deep hole for each root; make holes 1 1/2 ft.wide for dahlias that grow over 4 ft. tall, and 9 12 in. wide for smaller types. Space holes for larger varieties 4 5 ft. apart, smaller ones 1 2 ft. apart.

Incorporate about 1/4 cup of granular low-nitrogen fertilizer into the soil at the bottom of each planting hole, then add 4 in. of soil before placing the root in the center of the hole, with its growth bud pointing up.

Before planting a tall variety, drive a 5  6-ft. stake into the hole just off center, then place the root horizontally in the bottom of the hole, 2 in. from the stake and with the growth bud pointing toward it.

Cover roots with 3 in. of soil, and water thoroughly. As shoots grow, gradually fill hole with soil.

Plant care. After shoots are aboveground, start watering regularly to a foot deep; continue throughout active growth.Dahlias planted in enriched soil shouldn t need additional food, but if your soil is light or if roots stayed in the ground the previous year, apply a granular low-nitrogen fertilizer when the first flower buds show. Mulch to discourage weeds and to eliminate cultivating, which may injure feeder roots.

Cutting flowers. Pick nearly mature flowers in early morning or evening. Immediately place cut stems in 2 3 in. of hot water; let stand in gradually cooling water for several hours or overnight.

 

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