Growing Dahlias For Cut Flowers

The Dahlia family is divided into about a dozen sections, all having distinctive features. They include ‘Show’, ‘Decorative’, ‘Cactus’, ‘Pompom’, ‘Paeony-flowered’, ‘Fancy’, having two or more colours, the tips of the petals usually being paler, ‘Single’, including ‘Mignon’, first class for bedding, and ‘Collerette’, having a row of broad rounded petals with a second shorter row or collar, usually of a different colour.

The situation chosen for planting should be as open as possible and yet not exposed to cutting winds; neither should they be planted too near tall hedges or trees. In preparing the site dig deeply, preferably well in advance of planting time. While dahlias like a good soil, it is possible to over-manure, which results in coarse growth, flowers of poor quality and weak stems. A position which has been manured for a previous crop is ideal, especially if a good dressing of bone meal is dug in early in the spring.

dahlias for cut flowers

Planting should not be attempted before the end of May or early in June, which is the normal time of delivery from the nurseries. All plants except the dwarfs must be staked, and these supports should be put in position before planting the dahlias. Allow sufficient room between the plants. Generally speaking from 3 to 4 ft will be needed for proper development, air and light. Slugs and snails find the young tender growths most attractive. The well-tried method of applying a ring of soot around the plants is good, or little heaps of proprietary slug-killers placed near the plants will attract and destroy the pests.

Dahlias should never be allowed to become dry, and they do appreciate a plentiful supply of water during a spell of dry weather, but it is preferable to give the soil a few good soakings rather than frequent surface sprinklings. Sometimes, especially as the season advances, it will be advisable to thin out some of the flower-buds. In many cases the lateral or side-shoots can be entirely removed, in others some of the secondary buds surrounding a terminal bud can be taken away in their early stages. Old flowers should be constantly removed, and the more blooms that are cut the more will develop.

Dahlias are particularly good as cut flowers and should be cut early in the morning. Unfortunately, they are very susceptible to damage by frost. When the foliage has been blackened by frost, the tops should be cut off to within 6 in. of the soil. The tubers should be lifted in October or early in November, preferably using a spade, for a fork is liable to damage the fleshy roots. After a few days in which to allow the tubers to dry they should be placed in boxes sufficiently deep enough to allow dry soil or sand to cover them. Store the boxes in a frost-proof place and examine the tubers occasionally during the winter, removing any which may have decayed.

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