Raised Dahlia Bed

Dahlia flowers are one of my all-time favorites to grow and photograph. This flower is unique; it is traced back to the time of the Aztecs, who used it for medicinal purposes. The plants were shared from New Mexico to Spain in the later 1700s where they were grown, and hybrids began to develop. Through the 1800s and 1900s, thousands of new forms were produced, with 14,000 cultivars recognized by 1936, and in the past century, nearly 50,000 named varieties have been listed. The dahlia forms were hybridized from at least two, and possibly all three, of the original Dahlia species from Mexico.

After 200 years of culture, selective breeding, and hybridizing, today’s dahlia has one of the most extensive variations of forms, colors, and sizes of any flower grown. More Dahlia hybridizers are active now than at any other time in history, which means a constant addition of varieties each year. Today, this flower remains the National Flower of Mexico, where its great beauty was first discovered by the mighty Aztec Indians so long ago. Many farms grow and hybridize Dahlias. They are easy to grow and produce such a variety of blooms. Here are a couple of places to learn more about growing these fun flowers: Floret Farm, Little Farmhouse Flowers

This year I decided to build some raised beds to plant a variety of Dahlia’s. I did not want to dig up the yard and have to enrich the soil. Using the raised beds, I could control the soil. I also began ordering a variety of Dahlias from various vendors. I could get tubers delivered from Eden Brothers, Brecks, Bumblebee Farm,  and seeds from Floret Farm. 

Here is a bit of my process:

  • I ordered cedar raised beds and had them delivered. They are easy to put together and hold just the right amount of dirt for these flowers. Once built and put into place, I filled with moisture, nutrient-rich dirt/compost from my local garden center. 
  • Dahlias get tall and can easily flop over in wind or rainstorms, so I added stakes at various points in my bed and stretched twine from one end to the next. I added two layers to help support the plants as they grow. 
  • The next step was adding the dirt. I consulted with my local garden center for the best option and then filled the containers. 
  • The next step was to wait for the last frost and wait for my tubers to arrive! 
  • I had some seeds from Floret Farm that I did start indoors in seed planter containers and used a heat mat to help them germinate. I am not sure that I will get a lot of plants from those. Seeds are harder to work with but a good option if you have them or cannot get tubers.
  • As the tubes arrived, you can store them in a cool, dry place, or you can plant them in small pots and let them begin to grow indoors until it is safe to plant outside. I had a neighbor who fills a large cardboard box with about 3 inches of dirt, and then she places her tubers under the soil until they sprout, then she transfers them to the yard. Any container will do to get the tubers started. A big tip is you do not need to water the tubers while waiting for them to emerge. Water will rot the tubes, so cover them with about 2 inches of dirt and wait 3-4 weeks for the growth to appear. 
  • Once it is safe to plant or transplant your plants, you will want to place them 6-12 inches apart. I put six plants into each of my boxes and plan to fill in with some other tall annuals for a nice variety in the space. If you are planting tubers that have not shown new growth, you will want to look for the eye on the tube and plant with that facing up. You can plant them on their side. Check out Floret Farm or Farmhouse flowers website for great resources on planting. 
  • Once the plants begin to sprout and branch out, you can water, but again not too much. 

Growing these plants is pretty straightforward, but they do require some patience and tending. There is a risk of disease, and you will need to cut the blooms frequently to keep them blooming. Having indoor flowers is a favorite for me, so that will be fun. The plants also peek in late summer, blooming into fall. I will keep you posted on my Dahlia bed progress and look forward to showcasing my blooms and photo tips later this summer. 

Reference: https://www.sarahraven.com/articles/history-of-the-dahlia.htm

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