Published on Jan 23, 2020

Dahlia Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

Dahlias, with their summer blast of colors, range of bloom types and varied heights are a boon for your landscape. Blooming into fall, these diverse plants give you the choice of low border plants to stately background plants that can reach to 6 feet. With blossoms from 2 to 12 inches, and colors in everything but blues, these blooms are garden favorites.

Dahlias can be started from seed, but most are grown from tuberous roots. Since dahlias are hybrids, they do not come true when grown from seed. The tender tuberous roots must be dug up each fall in zones below USDA 7, and stored, divided and replanted each spring. But the work is well worth the glorious color your garden will have.

Color ranges for dahlias range from white to yellow, orange, pink, red, purple and maroon. Some flowers are striped, others tipped with a different color. Others will be one color as they open, and fade to a more pastel shade as the flowers mature. With the thousands of available cultivars, you will have no trouble finding ones that appeal to you.


Classification of dahlias is by flower shape and arrangement of the petals. Single flowering dahlias have one row of petals, and are generally smaller, with smaller blossoms. Double flowering types have multiple rows of petals, and generally are the taller, larger blossomed varieties.

Double flowered ones are also classified by the flower shape. Cactus dahlias have tubular shaped petals that curve backward for most of their length. Incurved cactus varieties have petals that curve towards the center of the flower. Formal decorative dahlias have broad regulary arranged petals that tend to curve back towards the stem, while informal decoratives have long irregularly arranged and shaped petals. There are ball dahlias, pompom dahlias, both aptly named.

In planting dahlia tubers, select a sunny location, away from winds. Growing best in deep fertile and well-drained soil, dahlias should be planted when frost danger has passed. Space the tubers according to the size of the full grown plant. Large plants may need 3 to 4 feet between plants, while smaller ones can be spaced 2 feet apart.

Dig a hole 10 inches deep, wide enough to accommodate the tuber. Replace loosened soil in the hole, and set the root atop it, with the eyes pointing up. If your dahlias are tall, this is the time to insert a stake for future support. Cover the tuber with 2 to 3 inches of soil, adding more soil to level up the ground as the stems grow. Dahlias are heavy feeders and need regular water.

As the weather warms, apply a layer of mulch around the plant to help conserve water. Each root will produce several shoots, and by thinning the shoots you will have higher quality flowers. When the plant is about a foot tall, pinch out the terminal shoot to encourage branching. Support the tall stems of tall types to prevent the heavy flowers from bending and breaking the plant. Remove the lateral buds to increase the flower size, or leave them on for more smaller blooms. Remove faded flowers to encourage continuous blooming.

After the first killing frost, cut back the foliage to about 4 inches. Allow the plant about a week or ten days to form new buds, and then lift each clump separately, digging a foot away from the plant’s center to avoid cutting or spearing the tubers. Brush off the loose soil and gently wash the clump to get rid of all the soil. Allow the clumps cure in a well-ventilated and shaded spot for a few days.

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