I was first introduced to dahlias when I was eight years old by my uncle who was a Dutch immigrant and head of the grounds crew at Stanford University. He had 40 types of tulips and 138 types of dahlias in his backyard, all tagged and recorded. So, when he had more dahlias than tulips, I knew they had to be good.
Dahlias are both beautiful and they last a long time as cut flowers. There are many types of dahlias. Decorative: these include the dinner plate dahlia which boasts eight-inch diameter blooms. The Master Gardeners planted some of these at Hanson Park in Pipestone last summer. Cactus: these have petals that look like tubes which is a very good deterrent for the earwig bug which can be a real pest. Ball: ball shaped are 2 ½ inch or larger. Pompom: ball shaped 2 ½ inch or smaller. Single and Collarette: these two have a center disc so they produce seed much better because the bees can find the center.
Dahlias need lots and lots of sun. Morning sun on the east side of the house is not enough. They need sun most of the day and should not be near trees or other shade. Dahlias do have two unusual needs. First being, they need the bulb lifted in the fall and brought in so they will not freeze as the bulb has a center where the eyes are that grow the next year. They also have small tubes which connect the tubers to the center, they can break easily when lifting them so take care when handling your dahlia bulbs. The second need is a dahlia also needs a stake or fence to tie them to so they will not break. An eight-inch bloom full of rain in a wind storm will break from the weight.
It may be a late spring this year but we still have all summer for flowers and vegetables in our gardens. Have a great year!