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Cactus dahlias

Some of the most spectacular dahlias are cactus and semi-cactus types. With their spiky petals, they can trace their lineage back to a single surviving plant grown from a crate of tubers imported into The Netherlands in 1872.

Cactus dahlias are some of the most dramatic types within the genus. Their star-like form means they stand up well to inclement weather, because they're less prone to being weighed down by heavy rain, or blown about by wind, than other dahlia types.

Cactus dahlias also need less staking than other varieties, which tend to have dense, heavy heads of petals.

Planting partners

Cactus dahlias are perfect for providing extra colour to herbaceous borders, as they have such a long flowering season. They also come in a range of heights, so can be planted in a variety of situations.

Spiky cactus and semi-cactus varieties make good companions for single daisy flowers such as rudbeckias, echinaceas and gaillardias, especially if you choose golden yellow, burnt orange and rich red dahlias. For a contrast, try interplanting red-hot pokers or delphiniums, which will push their tall spires of flowers above the dahlia blooms. The bold flowers and luxuriant foliage of dahlias look good teamed with some of the medium-sized and tall grasses, too, such as stipa and miscanthus.

Growing tips

Grow smaller varieties in patio pots and plant medium and tall varieties among herbaceous perennials in mixed borders. Improve the soil before planting, with home-made compost or well-rotted manure. Grow them in full sun to encourage them to flower as much as possible.

Varieties to try

The following cactus dahlias varieties will provide you with dramatic flowers all summer long:

Dahlia 'Doris Day'

A small-flowered cactus dahlia, which blooms from July to October. Height 110cm.

Dahlia 'Frigoulet'

Semi-cactus variety, producing dramatic bi-coloured petals. Height 140cm.

Dahlia 'Weston Miss'

Miniature-flowered semi-cactus type, with pale petals that stand out well at dusk. Height 120cm.

Dahlia 'Preference'

Small flowered semi-cactus variety, with yellowy pink blooms. Height 110cm.

Dahlia 'Reputation'

Large-flowered cactus type, needs staking to support stems. Height 120cm.

Dahlia 'Rev P Holien'

Giant-flowered semi-cactus dahlia. Grow in rich soil for best results. Height 140cm.

Dahlia 'Yellow Galator'

Medium-flowered cactus dahlia, with sunny yellow flowers. Height 120cm.

Dahlia 'Pianella'

Small-flowered semi-cactus type, with white-tipped pinky red petals. Height 60cm.

Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Cactus dahlias
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dabacus 24/11/2011 at 15:30

I am very dissapointed that in this item you have shown dahlias, the majority of which are only available from one UK grower.
It would have been better if you had featured Cactus Dahlias that were readily available, such as Firebird, Indian Summer, Karma Bon Bini, Kiwi Gloria, Marlene Joy, Nuit D'Ete, Orfeo, Park Princess, Purple Gem, Trelyn Kiwi, Weston Spanish Dancer, White Star.
Almost as weatherproof are Semi Cactus Dahlias which are much more readily available.