Bulbs forum: Help me grow Dahlias

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Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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Newyorkrita
Mar 27, 2010 1:34 PM CST
I love dahlias. I like the small annual bedding kind you get in flates in the spring too and sometimes I plant some of those. But the ones I really love are those giant flowering types, especially the cactus flowered ones and the dinner plate types. Now you would think that having said that I love dahlias you might see lots of them growing around in my garden. Sadly, that is not true. I am lucky if I have any dahlias in my yard. In fact, last year I really didn't have any dahlias in my yard, having gotten mad at my lack of abality to grow them well.

I have been trying for years but mostly the tubers don't grow. Well, some grow but I am lucky if I get half of them to start growing. Then when they do start, the darn slugs chew up some of those. So I end up with a dahlia plant here or there instead of what I had in mind. Not good.

So I would love to know what the secret of success is to grow great dahlias. I sure do need help. I haven't even bought any dahlia tubers this year. I was looking at the tubers at the local nursery but left them because I was still thinking whats the use?
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Mar 28, 2010 6:05 AM CST
Is it mostly a problem getting the tubers to grow initially? Those that have grown, how have they performed?

You have such great Roses, and I kinda think of Dahlias as having similar needs, plenty of sun, nutrients, compost, moisture, and air circulation. So its kinda perplexing what the problem may be with Dahlias? There are some iffy sources out there selling Dahlias- years ago, before I knew much about them, I ordered some from Jackson and Perkins and received some tubers with no eyes, which of course didn't sprout. That's the only experience like that that I've had, but it makes me think there probably are other sources selling eyeless tubers out there.

Another possibility just came to me. I've noticed some tubers are slower to "wake up" in spring than others (by "wake up", I mean they start developing eyes and sprouts). Tubers that haven't started producing eyes can be more prone to rot upon planting, particularly in cool, moist soil. I usually lay sleeping tubers in a flat in early spring and pack some slightly moist potting soil around them indoors. That will typically wake them up, and I start seeing eyes and sprouts within a couple of weeks, then I plant them out.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
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Newyorkrita
Mar 28, 2010 10:01 AM CST
Roses are very easy for me. Before I got into roses I used to think they were too hard to grow but thats not what I think now. They do need lots of attention but no big deal for me.

Some tubers I do better than others. I remember one year buying lots of canna tubers, all locally and doing a mass planting (three rows) in my backyard. I planted them directly and they all came up wonderfully.

I used to buy afew dahlia tubers locally also and had so-so results. The past few years I switched and bought my tubers from the place I was buying lily bulbs from each spring, Van Bourgondien Wholesale.

Mostly they just did not grow at all. You know when you buy packaged locally you can pick thru the packs until you see some starting to grow alittle. I used to buy those. But my mail order tubers really didn't want to start growing. I really don't think I planted them out too early. I would wait for the soil to warm up. Now that I think on it, I don't remember any lately having sprouts before planting.

Sometimes the slugs cut a main stem (or was it cutworms?) just after sprounting and then that dahlia was a gonner. If that didn't happen they grew and flowered and did well. I guess the problem is at the very beginning stages in my growing.

Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Mar 28, 2010 10:31 AM CST
I feel like everything is "just right" in your garden for Dahlias, kinda puzzling results, but I'm inclined to think sources have had something to do with it. I've had very hit and miss results from various local and mail order sources. It seems with Dahlias, what some folks think is great quality, others find very questionable. I had only been used to purchasing clumps of tubers, but the top Dahlia specialists send a tuber with at least 1 eye. Last spring I participated in a co op through Ednie flower bulbs and received clumps, of which each performed well and was true to name. Other participants were displeased with the clumps, preferring divisions, feeling they grow healthier plants.

Another possibility comes to my mind about varieties too. I know some varieties perform better in certain parts of the country than others. For example, The Georgia Dahlia society lists cultivars that perform in hot summers, which I understand can be challenging. We typically have hot summers, but Dahlias don't seem to mind. I wonder if there's a NY Dahlia society that may have similar lists? I'll check that out!
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
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Newyorkrita
Mar 28, 2010 11:01 AM CST
We have hot summers here too on Long Island, very hot and humid especially the month of August. But by then, the Dahlia has either grown and is flowering well or it just plain does not exhist at all.

My garden is very cottage garden. I have been gardening forever and usually know how to treat plants so outright failures are unusual for me. The soil here is good, nicely but not overly ammended with compost and always mulched.

When I was a kid, my dad used to grow large flowered dahlias. I don't remember him doing anything special at all to the plants and they grew nicely and flowered all the time. He did dig the tubers and lift them in the fall and save for next spring. I have not tried that myself.

Will see what happens when I hit the local nurseries next. If I buy tubers I will pot them like I did with this years cannas and then hope for the best. I have never tried starting them early indoors potted so it is worth a shot.
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Mar 28, 2010 4:40 PM CST
I think we should do a little experiment. Upon last check a few weeks ago, the Dahlias I dug and stored were looking good. From past year's experience, I know I'm not out of the woods yet, but almost :-). I'd like to try sending you some divisions of my tubers, and see how they perform for you. After dividing, I'm going to have more than I can plant. I have a feeling you've simply stumbled upon some not so great tubers, I'm sure Dahlias are gonna love your garden.

I'll take another closer look at all my tubers, and make notes of colors and varieties I've got. I'll Cmail the list to you :-)
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
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Newyorkrita
Mar 29, 2010 11:29 AM CST
Wow, that is so sweet of you :-))

Yesterday after I wrote my posting and thinking on what you said about the quality of the tubers I was thinking that you were on to something. I knew I never tried really hard to get top quality tubers, just getting what was convenient. Maybe just convenient is not enough for me.

I started thinking about dahlia growers. I was remembering a place called Swann Isiand Dahlias. Don't ask me were I heard of them but there it was in my brain. So I looked up their website on the web and ordered (yestersday afternoon) 6 dahlias. Kept my order under $50.00 including shipping because I did not want to spend more on this experiment. But their dahlias sure are beautifuil

What really was the deciding factor for me was the fact that I looked on their guarantee page and they guarantee true to name and that they will grow :-)) I saw the picture of one of their tubers and it didn't look anything like the dark, shriveled up tubers I am used to seeing.

I ordered one small one, a bedding type, LITTLE BLESSINGS and 5 regular dahlias from different flower sizes. I just picked some that I thought were the prettiest, while staying away form the $20.00 or over tubers. My tubers were six dollar ones with one eight dollar one. I bought CLOUDBURST, DR LES, HOT TAMALE, UPTOWN GIRL and MANIAC. That is more than enough for me. Should take up all the room I have leftover.

So thank you so much for your very kind offer but no more room. I thought I was being smart yesterday. Oh well, its only money and my garden is what I spend my extra money on.



Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Mar 29, 2010 11:47 AM CST
They have an excellent reputation among Dahlia enthusiasts, I'm certain they'll perform beautifully for you! As iffy as tuber storage can be, its not surprising that there would be a lot of tubers of questionable quality on the market.

Looking forward to some gorgeous pictures!

Thinking about Dahlias got me looking through last years pictures- geez I can't wait for warm weather to get here to stay! I think this was my favorite Dahlia last year, I sure hope it has made it through winter storage!

Thumb of 2010-03-29/gemini_sage/d8514a
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
Image
Newyorkrita
Mar 29, 2010 12:14 PM CST
Well, I only wish I had to worry about winter storage. First I have to have sucess at growing. I really was surprised at the guarantee there at Swann Island Dahlias. I am now thinking that they can't be that hard to grow if they guarantee them. After all, they don't know if the person ordering has any garden knowledge or experience or not. So I am very hopeful. If it works out, you bet there will be lots of pictures.

The ones that say really large flowers, like the 8-11 inch size, does that mean you have to pinch off all the side shoots that would have made flowers to get that one big one? I never do that and just leave them be.
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Mar 30, 2010 5:47 AM CST
Since I'm not into showing blooms, I don't disbud either. You'll probably see some blooms approaching 8", but would likely need to disbud to see them reach 11". Its so hard for me to break off buds! But I really would like to try it- those huge blooms look surreal!
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
gemini_sage
Mar 30, 2010 5:53 AM CST
Oh, forgot to add, I've always found Dahlias fairly easy to grow, another reason I feel like your previous issues have been source related.

When you plant your tall varieties, its a good idea to go ahead and install a stake or cage for them upon planting. That way when they are ready to be staked, you don't have to worry about skewering the tuber.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
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Newyorkrita
Mar 30, 2010 10:04 AM CST
The guaranteed to grow at Swann Island Dahlias was the clincher for me. I figgured I couldn't go wrong. And the fact that I have not had great sucess has been very frustrating as I am not a begining gardener.

I was wondering what I should do to keep the dahlias from flopping. They can never manage on their own. I was wondering if anyone put tomato cages around them, I have lots of tomato cages and it would be easier than using stakes.
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
Image
Newyorkrita
Mar 30, 2010 10:05 AM CST
I forgot to say, the ones I ordered are all around 4 feet tall.
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
gemini_sage
Mar 30, 2010 1:36 PM CST
I like tomato cages for Dahlias, I found them to work quite well. Some folks turn them upside down, and cut the legs off so there aren't dangerous poking things sticking up, and then make hooks to anchor them to the ground. I've just used them as for tomatoes, but I think some prefer the cage to be smaller at the top for Dahlias. Considering the shape of the mature plant, I guess that makes sense.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
Image
Newyorkrita
Mar 30, 2010 1:43 PM CST
My tomato cages are green wire coated things that are in a triangle shape, about 5 feet tall. Then that makes them shorter when you push them inground. I don't like those round cages for tomatoes, too short and rust really easily. I will use mine, I have lots of them and by the time the dahlia folliage grows, I doubt that you will notice the cage much. We will see how it does. I really would rather not go with having to do stakes.
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
gemini_sage
Mar 30, 2010 1:45 PM CST
Those sound perfect! I need to try some of that kind.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
Image
Newyorkrita
Mar 30, 2010 2:14 PM CST
I bought mine in Home Depot. They come flat, then you open the three panels and make a triangle. Plus since they are coated wire, they don't usually rust. (The coating can peel on the older cages.) The green color makes them blend in once plants start growing.
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
Image
Newyorkrita
Mar 31, 2010 2:04 PM CST
Something I just learned this morning is about each dahlia tuber needing a piece of the stem in order to have an eye in order to grow. I really never thought about this before. And ordering from a very well known place like Swann Island Dahlias, I will not have to worry about it.

I am really looking forward to growing dadlias this year. I feel better about it than I ever have before. That is, confident of success :-))
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
Image
Newyorkrita
May 8, 2010 9:12 AM CST
Ha, I cheated. I saw these potted dahlias and they were so beautiful that I had to buy them.

Thumb of 2010-05-08/Newyorkrita/3195f5
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
gemini_sage
May 8, 2010 9:34 AM CST
Ooooh, aren't those sweet! Love them!
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi

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