Garden Guide: This classic flower is becoming very popular

Dahlias come in every shape and size imaginable. They’re easy to grow and so beloved that there are even local societies to celebrate these plants.

Alex Calamia

May 29, 2024, 10:20 AM

Updated 56 days ago


Dahlias may not be the first flower the average gardener thinks about every summer, but their easy care and incredible diversity have garnered a lot of fans. In fact, there are several local societies that exist to promote the education of these special blooms like the Mid-Island Dahlia Society and the Long Island Dahlia Society.
You can see how these plants grow and enjoy the diversity of flowers at many gardens across our area. The Mid-Island Dahlia Society has three display gardens: Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, Planting Fields Foundation in Oyster Bay, and East Meadow Farm in Merrick. The Long Island Dahlia Society has a large display garden at Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River.
Dahlias are tender tropical perennials native to Mexico, Central, and South America. They’re the national flower of Mexico and have been a staple in European gardens for hundreds of years. But the popularity of this plant goes back hundreds of years earlier to the Aztecs, and perhaps hundreds of years before that. Indigenous people made use of the edible small tubers underground - that look like fingerling potatoes. These tubers make Dahlias very easy for local gardeners to overwinter them in cool storage or inside the house in our climate.

Overwintering Dahlias

One of the big appeals to growing Dahlias is how easy they are to collect up north. Although these plants are tropical, they can go dormant for months at a time because of their small tubers. If your dahlia is growing in a container, simply wait for frost to kill the top growth back, and store the container in a cool and dry spot that remains above freezing all winter.
Gardeners growing their Dahlias in the ground can use a small shovel to carefully dig up the network of small tubers. Be careful not to break these tubers apart. Let the tubers cure in warm autumn air so any damage heals and dries off before being placed in boxes with wood chipping or dry soil for winter.

Dahlia flowers

There are dozens of different classifications for Dahlia blooms ranging from giant dinner plate dahlias to the newer micro dahlias with flowers the size of a quarter!
Robert Fackovec, the garden director of the Mid-Island Dahlia Society, says there has been a surge in popularity for Dahlias in the past few years. Especially the smaller ones because they are great in containers. There is truly a Dahlia for anyone.

When do Dahlias bloom?

Gardeners can purchase Dahlias from local nurseries with flowers as early as May, but Dahlias coming out of winter storage need a little more patience. These tropical plants are slow to emerge in the spring. Fackovec says they are typically just a foot tall in June after coming out of winter storage. That’s when it’s time to tie the tender stems to a garden steak to keep it from tipping when the blooms develop. The first flowers typically open up in July and the plant will bloom nonstop until frost. The best display tends to happen in the cooler weather.

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