SWANSEA LIFE ARTICLE // HOW TO GROW DAHLIAS

Take a look at my article in September’s Swansea Life for some top tips on growing dahlias for a bit of late summer colour!

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How to grow dahlias

Dahlias are one of my favourite plants to grow. They provide a cheerful display of blooms from late summer, right through to the start of winter. They are seriously hard working cut flowers that will give you a gorgeous display in the garden as well as keeping you in cut flowers for months on end.

And the best part is they are really easy to grow too!

The best way to grown them is from tubers- funny looking fibrous bulb like things – which are cheap and easy to get hold of. You can order these online in the Spring (Parkers bulbs and Sarah Raven’s website are good places to start) and they can be planted out, straight into the ground around the end of May- once the risk of frost has passed. Lots of supermarkets sell Dahlia tubers- keep your eyes peeled for them- I had some bargains a few years ago in Costco which are still going strong now and flowering prolifically.

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The thing I love most about Dahlias is the massive amount of choice of colours, size and shape that they come in- from the big, bold and brash blooms you will most likely recognise from your grandparents gardens to the more delicate and subtle flowers that florists and brides love.

Some of my favourites are ‘Wizard of Oz’, a pompom variety, and the big blousy ‘Café au Lait.

Once you have planted your tubers, mulch them thickly with bark mulch to keep them warm from any late frosts and to keep the moisture in. They will need slug protection until they start flowering and it is a good idea to stake them with a sturdy cane or metal plant support when they get to about a foot tall as they will soon become heavy with the weight of their flowers and a summer storm can easily flatten them.

Once they start to flower profusely (which is usually by around mid-July) keep cutting the flowers to enjoy in the house and deadhead any faded blooms to encourage more flowers. Don’t cut the stem right to the ground as you will limit the flowering potential- cut back to a pair of leaves.

Pick flowers that are almost fully opened- they won’t open further in the vase like some other flowers do. Picking in the morning or evening and putting cut stems straight into water will help extend vase life. Leave them for a few hours to condition in a cool place before arranging them.

It’s very easy to take cuttings or divide tubers to increase your stock if you get the dahlia bug!

Traditional gardening advice will be to lift and store your dahlias at the end of the year, but it is possible to overwinter successfully in Swansea as we rarely get severe winters that would kill the tubers. Mulch them deeply when they have finished flowering and, if the weather is kind, next year’s crop will be bigger and better than the one before!


Victoria writes an article each month in Swansea Life magazine about all things gardening. Click here to view her other articles.