The Q&A Archives: Dahlia

Question: In the Spring I purchased a Dahlia... it was in full bloom (white)... then I planted it against the foundation with the morning sun... all the leaves went yellow and now all that is left is one HOLLOW stalk with a few tiny leaves on it (is this a disease)... something went wrong... it is now inside and looks pitiful... what do I do next... approx 1-1/2 ft.H...(Zone5)... can I start to separate bulbs and put in peat moss for the winter... Thank you Irene

Answer: Your dahlia isn't getting enough sunshine to grow and thrive. Dahlias need exposure to sunshine all day long to look their best. It is normal for the flowering stalks to be hollow after the flowers are spent. As soon as the petals begin to fall, the flowering stalk should be cut back to a node (where a new flowering stalk will emerge). Wait until frost kills the tops of your plant before digging up the tuber and storing it for the winter. Here's how to grow spectacular dahlias:

After frost kills the foliage, dig the dahlia tubers, shake off excess soil, and store the tubers in peatmoss or sawdust. The tubers should look like the spokes of a wheel with the original stem in the center. Place the entire group on a layer of peat and place more peat around them. Store your dahlias in a cool, dark location where it remains above freezing during the winter months. In the spring you can divide the tubers. Look for a tiny bud (or eye) on the topmost part of the tuber, closest to the stem. As you cut each tuber away from the old, dried stem, make sure each tuber has a bud. When you're ready to plant, choose a site that gets sunshine all day, and dig a hole about one-foot deep for each tuber, spaced about three feet apart. Mix 1/4 cup of complete fertilizer into the bottom of the hole, add about 4 inches of soil, and drive a 4-5 foot stake into the hole. Then plant each tuber, with the eye pointing toward the stake, and cover it with 3 inches of soil. Water well, and when the tuber sprouts, gradually fill the hole in with soil. Don't completely cover the emerging stem and leaves, but keep building up the level of soil. This method will give your mature dahlia lots of underground support. As the stem grows above soil level, tie it loosely to the stake. Dahlias growing in enriched soil won't need additional fertilizer throughout the season, but should be watered every week during the growing and blooming season. Plan to supply one-inch of water per week to each of your dahlia plants. Following the above guidelines should provide you with healthy, happy dahlias.

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