Currently, in my house, I have 18 varieties of dahlia bulbs and four dahlia seed mixes. And I still have five (edit: six varieties) varieties that haven’t even arrived yet! I blame this on a number of things. My recent knee surgery required me to stay off my feet for six weeks, and I ended up getting hooked and watching too many flower farming videos as a result. Also, Floret Flowers’ new Dahlia book came out this spring. Finally, lo and behold, Walmart has $5 dahlias! And many are worth buying.

Why dahlias, you ask? Well, they look about a luxe and dramatic as a flower can possibly be. Plus, there’s the fact that, should you take care of your tubers, they will multiply and you will never need to buy them again. (You could even sell or give away your extras!)

Here are a few of the dahlia pictures that lured me in:

I’ve had many tubers sitting in my basement greenhouse, waiting to see if they would sprout. Most did. However, space in my greenhouse is very limited, what with the tomatoes and peppers getting way too big and taking up most of the space, so today I finally decided just to pot up those tubers that clearly showed eyes but weren’t producing large sprouts. Here is the list of tubers that got potted up today:

Dahlia, Crème de CassisVan Zyverden (Walmart)1 bulb
Dahlia, Cafe Au LaitSkyfall Flowers6 bulbs
Dahlia, FleurelLongfield Gardens3 bulbs
Dahlia, Great SilenceLongfield Gardens1 bulb
Dahlia, Karma ChocTerrain2 bulbs
Dahlia, MottoVan Zyverden (Walmart)2 bulbs
Dahlia, Noordwijks GlorieLongfield Gardens2 bulbs
Dahlia, Pacific TimeVan Zyverden (Walmart)2 bulbs
Dahlia, Electric FlashVan Zyverden (Walmart)2 bulbs
Dahlia, Kelvin FloodlightVan Zyverden (Walmart)2 bulbs
Dahlia, ZingaroVan Zyverden (Walmart)2 bulbs

Each of these tubers should guarantee me a flower, as each had visible, sprouting eyes. So, 25 guaranteed dahlias this year, assuming no pest or disease damage.

For the Cafe au Lait dahlia, while I did end up purchasing bulbs for this from two companies (I wasn’t sure the first dahlia bulb I received would survive), most of these bulbs came from me manually dividing up tuber clumps. Also, Cafe au Lait appears to be an especially prolific variety, which is awesome as it is widely considered one of the most desirable dahlia varieties.

Also, despite having no luck whatsoever in potting up dahlia cuttings up to this point, I wanted to try it again. I went back to the source (Swan Island Dahlias, http://www.dahlias.com) and rewatched their cuttings video. They use a specific rooting gel and fertilizer for their cuttings, neither of which I had been using. In theory, you could simply take a cutting from any dahlia tuber and stick it in moist potting soil and it would root naturally. I’ve not had any luck with this approach, even when using the cheaper but still highly recommended rooting powder. I used the gel on today’s batch, and tomorrow I’ll add the fertilizer; here’s hoping it works this time.

This week’s dahlia cuttings:

Dahlia, HS DateLongfield Gardens5 cuttings
Dahlia, Café au LaitLongfield Gardens1 cutting
Dahlia, Crème de CassisVan Zyverden (Walmart)3 cuttings
Dahlia, Great SilenceLongfield Gardens1 cutting
Dahlia, Melody PinkLongfield Gardens2 cuttings

Another lure of the dahlias are the seeds. Due to dahlia genetics, only clones made from the original tubers will produce the exact variety of dahlia that is anticipated. Seeds are a crapshoot, and could exhibit a wide variety of dahlia characteristics. The downside is that dahlia seeds tend to produce smaller blooms and more single blooms as compared to the lavish ones produced by the cultivated cloned tubers. The cool side effect of the dahlia genetics, however, is that every dahlia produced by seed is unique, and if it turns out to be cool-looking or otherwise having unique or interesting properties, you can name it and start selling it. Currently there are 42 categories of dahlias and tens of thousands of specific hybrids, so finding a unique one is probably pretty hard.

As with most things in my garden this year, the dahlias are an experiment. Maybe I’ll love them; maybe I’ll find that they are not worth the hassle. (They are not hardy in my zone–they are only hardy is zones 8-10, if I remember correctly– and so they need to be dug up and stored over winter.) We’ll find out. Currently all I have are a bunch of potted-up tubers and some cuttings; but the potential for beauty contained in each is overwhelming. Maybe one of them will be that one flower that I can’t live without. Who knows?

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