Dahlias

Longtime favorite boasts large variety of colors and styles

Dahlias
Photo: Rob D. Brodman

Bright colors and dramatic forms make dahlias an exciting addition to the summer border.

Their long history dates back to the 1500s, when these tuberous perennials were discovered in the mountains of Mexico by Spanish conquistadors. More than 200 years later, dahlias made their way to Europe, where hybridizers began to work their magic.

By the Victorian era, so many types of dahlias existed that breeders developed a vocabulary to describe their blooms.

Dahlia hybrids: Early dahlias had single rows of petals. Today, dahlias come in 20 flower forms in every color but blue (although hybridizers are working on that too). The simplest flowers ― single, semidouble, anemone, and collarette ― have one or two rows of petals (actually ray florets) surrounding a center disc, much like daisies. Ball and pompon dahlias are made up of multiple layers of tightly arranged petals, while cactus dahlias have layers of long, pointed, tubular petals.

There are also waterlily-shaped dahlias, peony-shaped dahlias, ones with fringed petals, and more. Flowers range in size from 2-inch-wide blooms to as big as dinner plates.
Sunset climate zones 1-24.

 

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