Great value dahlias

by Adam Pasco

A bed of dwarf bedding dahlias I grew from seed three years ago has grown back and bloomed again better than ever this summer.

A bed of dwarf bedding dahlias I grew from seed three years ago has grown back and bloomed again better than ever this summer. Talk about great value! The more dahlias I grow from seed the more I appreciate them. The original seed variety was Mignon Rose Shades (from Mr Fothergill's seeds), producing a simple, single rosette in shades of rose pink. They only grow to about 45cm, so I've planted them closely to form a carpet between some standard Bonica roses in a complimentary shade.

dahliasThe marvellous thing is just how you can ignore them and they'll still flourish. Despite my heavy clay soil I've just left them in the ground, and they've grown up again every summer. If I was more conscientious I would have spread a mulch of compost over the area to provide a warm duvet to protect them from frost, but I didn't. Milder winters have been on my side, heavy penetrating frosts haven't struck, and my tubers have survived!

Dahlias are so easy to raise from seed, producing plants for just a few pence instead of paying pounds for tubers. Of course they take time to grow and mature, just like any bedding plant, but seed-raised dahlias form tubers too. That means they can get through winter and grow up again the following year.

The main gripe I've got with the seed companies is that most of the varieties come as mixtures. That means a packet contains a kaleidoscope of colours, and you can't tell what colour a plant will be until it actually flowers - fine if you want a flower bed reminiscent of Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but not if you are trying to coordinate colours more tastefully.

'Mignon Rose Shades' is the only variety I've found that I can plant with confidence, where red, yellow, orange won't pop up among the pink. With a regular dead heading now I'll hopefully keep these blooming into autumn, then cross my fingers again and hope they'll survive winter to return again next summer. On second thoughts, maybe a mulch of home-made compost would be kinder, and offer more of a guarantee of success.

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Gardeners' World Web User 01/10/2007 at 11:38

I too grow these single dahlia bedding flowers from a seed packet. I intended to lift the tubers last autumn but the weather was so bad I had to leave them in. They all survived which is more than can be said for the slugs and snails which attacked them. I used pellets, and the result was devastating! Incidentally they do not seem to do so well in tubs or pots or even confined flower beds. I do not know the reason for this. I also grew Tally Ho, a superb red single which I first noticed at the Southport flower show, now one of my favourites, and of course I had to have the famous Bishop of Llandaff another beautiful red. I am going to leave them all in the ground for another year.

Gardeners' World Web User 11/10/2007 at 20:02

I've had the same problems with my garlic, such a disappointment. Hopefully next year won't be as bad!

Gardeners' World Web User 22/10/2007 at 16:16

Hi, nice tips about Dahlias, I have some (first time I have grown them), I have a south facing garden, would it be wise to leave the tubers in the ground through winter (with extra compost) or take them out and replant early spring?

Gardeners' World Web User 23/10/2007 at 13:47

Gary, if you have a free-draining soil I'd risk leaving them in the ground, covering them with a thick mulch of compost or bark. However, if your soil is heavy clay or gets waterlogged during winter I'd suggest you lift later this month and store. Replant in pots next Feb-March, and take cuttings of new shoots to increase your stock.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/08/2008 at 12:16

I have several different types of dahlias in pots, for the second year running, they have produced lots of foliage and no flower buds. I have been told this is known as being blind, how do I cure this?

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