Jody Tucker

Building Dahlia Gardens: A Step-By-Step Guide

vase of dahlias

October 26, 2023

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Master the Art of Building Dahlia Gardens: A Step-by-Step Guide

pink dahlia

Are you ready to dive into the enchanting world of dahlia gardens? If you’ve ever dreamed of creating your own vibrant and breathtaking floral paradise, then this step-by-step guide is for you. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner with a green thumb, mastering the art of building dahlia gardens is within your reach. I never thought I could grow plants let alone beautiful flowers. But, with research, reading, watching videos to increase my knowledge, I have become more successful each year with my dahlias. These gorgeous flowers can enhance any property. In 2024, it will be my 4th year of growing dahlias. I’ve made mistakes and learned from them, and I am trying something new every year. I’ve learned a lot from Floret Flowers. They have videos, books, guides, and online classes, and have a documentary series called, “Growing Floret” Season 1 & 2. This documentary series can be found on Discovery +, Max, Magnolia Network and Prime Video. I just love the beauty of the filming, the flowers and the stories.

growing dahlias

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the entire process, from selecting the perfect dahlia varieties to preparing the soil and planting them with care. You’ll learn about the different types of dahlias, their unique characteristics, and how to create stunning color combinations that will wow your family, friends, and neighbors.

I’ll share my tips on how to ensure your dahlia plants thrive, including proper watering, fertilization, and pest control techniques. From the initial planning stages to the final moments of enjoying your flourishing dahlia garden, we’ll be with you every step of the way.

So grab your gardening gloves and let’s embark on this creative and rewarding journey together. Get ready to transform your outdoor space into a haven of dahlia beauty that will captivate all who see it. Here is a photo of my back yard dahlia garden in 2023.

Back dahlia garden

Choosing the Right Location for your Dahlia Garden

When it comes to building a successful dahlia garden, location is everything. Dahlias thrive in full sun, so it’s important to choose a spot in your garden that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Additionally, dahlias prefer well-drained soil, so make sure to select a location that doesn’t retain water.

Before you start planting, take some time to observe your garden throughout the day and identify the areas that receive the most sunlight. This will help you determine the best location for your dahlia garden. Once you’ve found the perfect spot, mark it out and prepare to transform it into a floral masterpiece. Here is a photo of my front yard dahlia garden with my dahlias just starting to grow. There are a few perennials in the garden as well. I am going to transplant those perennials in 2024 so all the types of flowers are separated. This should decrease risk of unwanted pests.
front dahlia garden

Preparing the Soil for Planting

Preparing the soil is a crucial step in building a successful dahlia garden. Start by removing any weeds or grass from the area where you plan to plant your dahlias. This will help prevent competition for nutrients and ensure that your dahlias have the best chance of thriving.

Next, loosen the soil using a garden pitch-fork or tiller. This will help improve drainage and allow the dahlia roots to penetrate the soil more easily. If your soil is heavy clay or sandy, consider adding organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve its texture and fertility.

Once the soil is prepared, it’s time to add some nutrients such as bone meal. Dahlias are heavy feeders, so incorporating a balanced fertilizer into the soil before planting will provide them with the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging for the correct application rate. My advice: Don’t use any soil that contains Miracle Grow. It can kill your tubers. Use only organic materials.

Oh Honey dahlia Swan Island Dahlia – “Oh Honey”.

pink dahlia 2

Selecting and Planting Dahlia Tubers

The key to a stunning dahlia garden lies in selecting the right dahlia tubers. With thousands of varieties to choose from, it can be overwhelming, but fear not – we’re here to help you make the best choices for your garden. I have always purchased my tubers from Swan Island Dahlia.

Consider the height, flower size, and color of the dahlias you want to plant. Taller varieties are perfect for the back of garden beds or as a focal point, while shorter varieties are great for borders or containers. Flower size can range from small pompons to dinner plate-sized blooms, so choose what appeals to you.

When it’s time to plant your dahlia tubers, dig a hole that is twice as wide and deep as the tuber. Place the tuber in the hole with the eyes facing up. It can lay flat, then cover it with soil. Don’t forget to label each tuber with its variety name, as this will help you keep track of your collection.

Very Important! Do not water tubers after they’ve been planted until you see the green plant sprouting through the ground. The tuber are susceptible to rot. After this, you can water them regularly throughout the growing season. As the plants grow, provide support by staking them to prevent them from falling over in strong winds.

growth of a dahlia

Watering and Fertilizing Your Dahlia Plants

Proper watering and fertilization are essential for the health and vitality of your dahlia plants. Dahlias require regular watering, especially during dry spells or hot summer months. Aim to keep the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged, as excessive moisture can lead to tuber rot.

To determine if your dahlias need water, stick your finger into the soil. If it feels dry up to your first knuckle, it’s time to water. Water at the base of the plants to avoid wetting the leaves, as this can increase the risk of disease.

In addition to regular watering, dahlias benefit from regular fertilization. Start by applying a slow-release fertilizer when you first plant your tubers. This will provide a steady supply of nutrients throughout the growing season.

fertilizing soil

Supporting and Staking Dahlia Plants

As your dahlia plants grow, they will need support to keep them upright and prevent them from flopping over. Some of the blooms grow very big and heavy. Supporting and staking your dahlias will not only keep them looking tidy but also protect them from wind damage.

full blooming dahlia garden
There are several methods you can use to support your dahlia plants. One popular option is to use stakes and twine. Simply insert stakes into the ground next to each plant and tie the stems to the stakes using twine. This will provide vertical support and prevent the plants from leaning or falling over.

Another option is to use cages or plant supports. These can be purchased from garden centers or made at home using wire mesh or bamboo stakes. Place the cages or supports around the plants and gently guide the stems through the openings. This will help keep the plants upright and prevent them from sprawling.

Managing Pests and Diseases in Dahlia Gardens

Just like any other garden plants, dahlias are susceptible to pests and diseases. However, with proper care and attention, you can minimize the risk and keep your dahlia garden healthy and thriving.

One common pest that can wreak havoc on dahlia plants is the aphid. These tiny insects feed on the sap of the plants and can cause stunted growth and distorted blooms. To control aphids, regularly inspect your plants and remove any infested leaves or stems. You can also try spraying them with a strong stream of water or using organic insecticidal soap.

Another common issue in dahlia gardens is powdery mildew. This fungal disease appears as a white powdery coating on the leaves and stems of the plants. To prevent powdery mildew, make sure your plants have good air circulation and avoid overhead watering. If you notice any signs of powdery mildew, remove and dispose of the affected leaves or stems.

Pruning and deadheading are important tasks in maintaining the health and appearance of your dahlia plants. Pruning helps promote bushier growth and prevents the plants from becoming too leggy, while deadheading encourages continuous blooming.

To prune your dahlia plants, start by pinching off the top inch or two of the MAIN stem when the plants are about 12 inches tall. This will encourage the development of lateral branches and result in a bushier plant. Throughout the growing season, you can also pinch off any side shoots that are growing too vigorously to maintain a neat and compact shape.

Deadheading is the process of removing spent blooms to encourage the plant to produce more flowers. As soon as a flower starts to fade, use a sharp pair of scissors or pruners to cut it off just above a set of leaves. This will redirect the plant’s energy into producing new blooms rather than setting seed.

Chick a dee dahlias

Storing Dahlia Tubers for Winter

In colder climates, dahlias are not cold hardy and need to be dug up and stored for the winter. Over-wintering dahlia tubers will ensure that you can enjoy their beauty year after year.

Before the first frost, carefully dig up your dahlia tubers, making sure not to damage them. See my video on the Fall Harvest of Dahlia Tubers. Gently shake off any excess soil and allow them to dry in a cool, well-ventilated area for a few days. Once they are dry, remove any remaining foliage, separate the tubers into single and smaller bunches. Pack the tubers in a box or container filled with dry peat moss or vermiculite.

tubers in vermiculite
Photo of separated tubers in vermiculite. One more layer of vermiculite will cover the tubers along with a layer of burlap.

Store the tubers in a cool, dark place with a constant temperature between 40-50°F (4-10°C). Check them periodically throughout the winter to ensure they are not drying out or rotting. In the spring, when the danger of frost has passed, you can replant your tubers and watch as your dahlia garden comes back to life.

Here is a recent video I put together on digging up tubers and wintering them.

Conclusion: Enjoying the Beauty of Your Dahlia Garden

Congratulations! You have successfully mastered the art of building a dahlia garden. From selecting the perfect varieties to preparing the soil, planting, and caring for your dahlias, you’ve learned all the steps needed to create a stunning floral paradise.

Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty of your hard work. As your dahlia plants bloom and fill your garden with vibrant colors and captivating scents, take a moment to appreciate the joy and tranquility they bring. Share your garden with others, host garden parties, or simply spend quiet moments surrounded by nature’s beauty.

Remember, building a dahlia garden is a journey that continues year after year. With each season, you’ll learn more about your plants, experiment with different varieties, and refine your gardening techniques. Embrace the process, stay curious, and let your dahlia garden be a source of inspiration and delight for years to come. Watch my relaxation video of my dahlia gardens, Dahlia Musical Garden.

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Jody Tucker has been a MN Licensed Real Estate Agent for 4 years. She has a strong love for homes and for helping join people with the perfect home that suits their lifestyle. 

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