Sunset staffer Lauren Dunec shows how to properly cut the flower to promote growth

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Dahlias are one of the most beautiful cut flowers and make great additions to colorful summer bouquets due to their long stems and full, long-lasting blooms. Thanks to a long history of hybridizing, there are tons of striking varieties of dahlia plants to choose from, in a range of color palettes (coming in nearly every color of the rainbow), sizes (from two to twelve inches across), and petal arrangements (from decorative to cactus dahlias).

The best time to plant dahlia flowers is mid-spring, around the same time you would plant your summer vegetable garden. Dahlias should be planted in direct sunlight, in a spot with good soil. If your objective is to grow the flowers for cutting, you’ll want to use the following technique in order to promote shorter, fuller plants with ideal stems for cutting. The technique is called pinching, and it entails cutting the flower buds in a certain spot in order to promote growth. Once a dahlia plant has grown at least three sets of leaves, you’ll want to cut the terminal bud off the center shoot. You can simply cut the bud from the stem using standard garden shears. Pinching the center bud off a dahlia plant will make a huge difference in the plant’s growth. Many more lateral shoots will emerge and form flowers with nice, long, upright stems that are perfect for cutting for bouquets.

Once you cut your stems, place them in a metal can or plastic bucket in a couple inches of very hot water and allow them to cool for at least one hour. This method prolongs your flowers’ life. Then the blooms can be arranged in a bouquet or centerpiece. Dahlias can last in a vase for up to six days. Be sure to change out the water every couple of days to ensure freshness.

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