Have you thought about growing some dahlias this summer? Dahlias are one of the best flowers to grow because they produce lots of blooms regularly without a lot of fuss.
Before planting, always have a look at the picture on the front of the pack and then check on the heights, which is very important if the border is small.
Look for plump tubers which are a decent size so tip the pack and give it a gentle shake. The sawdust in the pack will fall away and you may see the signs of a yellowish green shoot arising out of the top. If not, put your specs on and you may see rounded buds – these buds or shoots indicate the tubers are alive and they will grow.
You will get early blooms if they are planted into suitable sized pots which will accommodate the tuber.
The pots are normally about four and a half inches in diameter and any potting compost is used to fill the pots. Bury the tuber but leave the tip about a quarter of an inch above the compost level. If there are shoots, don’t cover the shoots with compost. They must be in a light, frost-free place and watered carefully, keeping the compost only just moist and the shoots will grow.
If you want to take cuttings, the shoots can be used for this purpose once they are three inches long. Cut the shoots required, leaving at least one still left on the tuber, and then make a sharp cut below the lowest leaf node and insert the cuttings into a seed compost with an added 50 per cent sand because sand encourages good rooting.
The cuttings need to be kept warm all the time so cover a box with a sheet of glass to make a good propagator.
Also, cover the glass with a sheet of newspaper to prevent scorching and the cuttings will root in three weeks.
Once rooted, the cuttings should be potted into individual small pots and will grow until the middle of May, by which time they are ‘hardened off’ and can be planted into the garden.
Dahlias are tender and sensitive to cold winds and frost so they need to be ‘hardened’. You can do this by leaving them outdoors in the pots in a protected place for at least 10 days so that the foliage has time to toughen up.
The soil you will use to plant them in is best dug over at this time of year. Well-rotted manure or well-made compost can be incorporated into the soil. If manure isn’t available, a balanced fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone meal can be used at a rate of four ounces per square yard and forked in over the dahlia border 10 days prior to planting, giving the fertiliser time to work.
Dahlias love a sunny spot but they need lots of water in hot weather. They will grow in light shade too but they will grow taller than indicated on the packet.
Border dahlias can be grown from seeds. Check the cultivars available in seed catalogues because there are single flowers or semi double types. You can get some interesting results by sowing seeds now and, apart from slugs, there’s not a lot that can go wrong with border dahlias.
Top tip: This is your last chance to move shrubs and trees from one part of the garden to another without the plants failing to root. Don’t leave this job until it is too late.