By: Garden Gate staff
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Get loads of late-season color with dahlias
If you like variety, you’ll love dahlias! They come in practically every color, except blue, and have a big range of flower shapes, too. You’ll find cute little pompons, big dinner-plate types and everything in between. Plus, dahlias grow in lots of sizes to suit any garden situation — even containers! The ones with larger flowers have fewer blooms, while more compact plants produce lots of small to midsized flowers.
Dahlias need full sun — 6 hours or more — to bloom their best and prefer well-drained soil that’s not overly rich. Too much nitrogen grows lots of foliage, weak stems and few flowers. Use a low-nitrogen plant food once 30 days after planting and again 30 days later to keep plants healthy.
In USDA zones 7 and colder, dahlias aren’t hardy. So in fall, let a hard frost kill the foliage, then dig the tubers. Allow the tubers to “ripen” for two weeks then cut stems back to 6 to 8 inches for easier handling. Use a fork to lift the tubers, then let them air dry for a few days before storing in a cool dry place for winter.
Now click ahead to see 3 great dahlias for vivid fall color — both in your garden and bouquets!
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Need a little drama in the garden? The velvety 9-inch-wide red blooms of ‘Spartacus’ will fit the bill. It’s also a decorative dahlia. Sometimes you’ll see dahlias with large flowers like this called “dinnerplates” but that’s not an official category used in flower shows.
‘Spartacus’ is a great cut flower — just be sure you have a hefty vase to put it in so it won’t tip over. Cut a long stem, even if you have to take the two side buds with it, so it stands up in the vase better. Those side stems tend to produce smaller blooms anyway.
Vivid red is an eye-catching color that’s even more powerful when the flower is so large. Group two or three plants together in your border to create a vibrant focal point.
Blooms 9-in. red flowers from summer to fall
Flower form Decorative
Size 48 to 60 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide
Source Dahlia Barn
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A dahlia with unique flowers
How would you like a dahlia that gives you a bouquet of varied flowers on one plant? Each stem of ‘Rebecca’s World’ produces a different color pattern. While some plants have a special leaf pattern that changes with different light conditions or temperature, ‘Rebecca’s World’ keeps producing the same variations throughout the growing season, whether it’s hot or cool, in direct sun or a little shade.
For the longest lasting cut flowers, use sharp scissors to cut stems when the bud has just broken, or the flowers are newly opened. Be sure to get a long stem — 12 to 18 inches, if you can — so you can work ‘Rebecca’s World’ into your bouquets more easily.
Blooms 5- to 6-in. burgundy and white flowers from summer to fall
Flower form Decorative
Size 24 to 36 in. tall, 18 to 20 in. wide
Source Longfield Gardens
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A dahlia with lots of blooms
Growing dahlias in the South can be a challenge because, while they do well with the hot days of summer, these plants prefer cool nights. Fortunately, some dahlias are more heat-tolerant than others, and dark-foliaged Mystic Illusion is one of the best. It won the Royal Horticulture Society Award of Merit and has performed well in numerous university trial programs in the United States, too.
Mulching will help no matter where you live but it’s especially important in the South. Apply a 2-inch layer of organic mulch after planting in spring or by early summer to keep roots cool and conserve moisture. Dahlia roots are shallow but can grow up to 2 feet out from the tuber so be sure to spread your mulch, keeping it a couple of inches away from the stem to avoid rot.
Blooms 3- to 4-in. yellow flowers from summer to fall
Flower form Single
Size 18 to 36 in. tall, 12 to 16 in. wide
Source Garden Crossings