By Melinda Myers
It’s never too early to plan for a memorable grand finale in this year’s garden! Dahlias are spring-planted bulbs with colorful flowers that bloom continuously from midsummer to the first fall frost.
Early in the season, the foliage of these easy-care plants provides a lush green backdrop for nearby annuals and perennials. As other plants begin to wan from the summer heat, dahlias burst to life, filling the garden with their impressive petals for months to come.
There are several types of dahlias and many ways to use them. Short dahlias, like the Gallery or Melody series, are perfect for planting along walkways, in the front of a flower border or in pots next to the patio. The compact flowers support full-size plants for a radiant display.
Dahlias dazzle with their unique flower shapes and sizes. The brilliant color and rolled petals of the cactus dahlia Karma Red Corona add a touch of the exotic to any garden. Consider the powder puff blooms of Myrtles Folly, with petals that capture the colors of a sunrise. Dinnerplate dahlias, like the deep purple Thomas Edison, grow 4 feet tall and have enormous 8-inch flowers.
Plant taller varieties in the middle of the flower border and boost their ornamental appeal by including varieties like Fascination and HS Flame with burgundy foliage. The dark leaves combine nicely with the greens of their neighbors and serve as the perfect backdrop for the rose pink and bright red blossoms.
Don’t be afraid to cut your dahlias, as picking encourages more blooming. With as few as three to six plants, you’ll have plenty of flowers to enjoy and share. Since dahlias thrive in the same soil as vegetables, consider adding a few plants to your food garden. You’ll be able to cut fresh flowers for the dinner table when harvesting vegetables for your next meal.
Dahlias are not winter-hardy, so the tubers can be dug and stored indoors during the cold months, or you can treat them like other annuals. With so many wonderful varieties to choose from, it’s fun to try different ones each year.
Review your garden plans to identify places that could benefit from a burst of late-season color. Order your dahlias early for the best selection, plant them in the spring and enjoy a spectacular show!
Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening.