This was my first year growing dahlias. I had never even heard of them until February of this past year year, when I was unexpectedly stuck at home for six weeks due to a surgery and ended up binging on gardening videos. This past spring, the flower farming world (here in America, at least) was all in a tizzy about Floret’s new book, Discovering Dahlias, and as everyone seemed to be obsessed with them, I decided to try growing a few. Over the course of my recovery (and because I was still generally stuck at home due to Covid), “a few” turned into 17 different varieties in tuber form and another three varieties of dahlia seeds. (For people new to dahlias, one of the key things to know is that dahlias don’t breed true. If you collect seeds from a dahlia and attempt to grow them the following year, it’s really a crapshoot as to what will come up. They’ll all be dahlias, yes, but the size, shape, height, and color will not match the parent flower. This being the case, most dahlias are sold in tuber form, which produces an exact clone of the previous year’s flower. And thus specific dahlia varieties are maintained.)

Here is what I ended up planting this past year:

Dahlia, Crème de CassisVan Zyverden (Walmart)
Dahlia, Belle of BarmeraAmerican Meadows
Dahlia, Black SatinSwan Island Dahlias
Dahlia, Cafe Au LaitSkyfall Flowers
Dahlia, Cafe Au LaitLongfield Gardens
Dahlia, CheersSwan Island Dahlias
Dahlia, FleurelDutch Bulbs
Dahlia, FleurelLongfield Gardens
Dahlia, Giant Hybrid MixJohnny’s Seeds
Dahlia, Karma ChocTerrain
Dahlia, Noordwijks GlorieLongfield Gardens
Dahlia, Redskin Mix Pinetree Seeds
Dahlia, Unwins Mix Baker Creek
Dahlia, Kelvin FloodlightVan Zyverden (Walmart)
Dahlia, EmperorBreck’s
Dahlia, Southern BelleSwan Island Dahlias
Dahlia, My ForeverSwan Island Dahlias
Dahlia, Mary MunnsSwan Island Dahlias
Dahlia, Belle of BarmeraSwan Island Dahlias
Dahlia, VixenSwan Island Dahlias

There were actually several more tubers I tried to grow, but once I sprouted them and tried to plant them out, I found that they were covered in crown gall.

Of these varieties, my strongest growers by far were the Kelvin Floodlight and the Fleurel. Fleurel was the first variety I purchased, and as it arrived looking dehydrated, I ended up buying it from Longfield Gardens as well. However, even the dehydrated tubers sprouted reliably. Kelvin was a impulse grab from Walmart’s bins. Both grew about 3′ tall and produced blooms 7-10″ wide. They were just gorgeous. (However, when I lifted them this fall to store them, the Kelvin tubers definitely had gall and the Fleurels looked like them might as well, so I’ll be starting with new tubers this year.) Another show-stopping dinner plate dahlia was the Belle of Barmera. I intend to grow all three again this year.

I had several non-dinner plate dahlias. Of these, the ones that grew best were the Southern Belle, Creme de Cassis, Emperor, and Vixen. Of these, my favorites are Vixen, as it looks exactly like a Disney-fied rose, and Southern Belle, which has a gorgeous array of sunset colors.

My Creme de Cassis only grew true for one of my tubers, however; the other produced a peachy large bloom with a huge open center. The plant grew 6′ tall and was extremely prolific–producing many more blooms and earlier than any other dahlia I grew this year. None of my Cafe au Laits produced a true Cafe au Lait either–just similarly colored 4″ blooms. And there were several other dahlias that didn’t match their names, or I honestly couldn’t remember which one was which, but even so, I ended up with huge bouquets of flowers from August until frost, which for us this year wasn’t until the end of October.

I’m looking forward to another large crop of dahlias this year! I have a bunch of new varieties on the way. 🙂

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