You can save money by growing extravagant dahlias yourself, and it’s oh so easy to do.

How Is It Possible That Flowers This Fabulous Are So Easy to Grow? Plant Them ASAP With These Tips
Thomas J. Story

I like to think of dahlias as the Zendaya of the flower world—they’re gorgeous, occasionally wear bright colors, and don’t seem to mind if you stop and stare. Willow King, one of the founders of Plantgem, an online plant company, agrees. “Dahlias are maximalist,” she says. “Beauties that shout instead of whimper.”  

This is why every summer everyone from floral designers to flower buyers to, ahem, garden editors goes crazy for dahlias. However—and this is a big however—the most stunning examples, like the extravagant-looking “dinnerplate” dahlias, can be expensive per stem.  

So why not save some silver and grow your own? Growing dahlias is easy, cost-efficient, and once the blooming season is over, you can pull up the tubers and save them for next year. (Dahlias are grown from tubers the way a tulip is grown from a bulb.)  

‘Awe Shucks’

Thomas J. Story

How to Grow Dahlias

1. Go Shopping 

There are plenty of places to buy dahlia tubers, from your local garden store, to Eden Brothers, which has 50 colors for sale, to Plantgem, which has pre-selected color combinations.  

2. Plant in the Right Conditions 

Once you have your tubers, says King, the key is not to plant until the soil is 60°F, or after the last frost. “Dahlias are sun worshippers,” she says, “so plant them in full sun with well-drained soil.” 

Place the tubers three to four inches under the soil in a very sunny spot, and space multiple tubers about 12 inches from one another.  

‘Gabrielle Marie’

Thomas J. Story

“After about two to three weeks, the first green shoots will pop up out of the soil, signaling a need to begin daily watering,” says flower farmer Grant Hamil, who co-owns Plume and Furrow, a farm and flower design company, with his wife, Kim.  

3. Pinch More Than an Inch 

It’s torture, we get it, but once each plant is about a foot tall, pinch the central node off the plant—this will encourage branching (more branches equals more blooms). “I know this part is hard,” says King. “Think of it as tough love.” 

‘Juul’s Allstar’

Thomas J. Story

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Harvest

The length of time from the day you plant your dahlias to their first flower depends slightly on the variety, but in general, most bloom 8-10 weeks after planting. Meanwhile, some of your dahlia plants may need staking, as they can get tall. Harvest often to encourage more weekly blooms.  

And remember, Grant says, “Keep cutting your blooms. I approach my dahlia harvesting with vigor. I’m relentless, and the dahlias push back, creating new blooms weekly.” 

Dahlias play well with others in bouquets.

Courtesy of Elly’s Photography

5. Create a Bouquet

Dahlias make designing your own bouquet easy. “Dahlias are ‘hero’ flowers with a dynamic color range within a single bloom,” says Makenzie Kizis, a floral designer in Los Angeles who works with celebrity floral designer Jeff Letham (and also happens to be my sister). Hero flowers, she explains, are focal points within a design.

To make sure your flowers keep, Kim recommends harvesting them early in the morning, before the heat sets in. Also, snip the stem ends daily to promote healthy water uptake. After that, all you have to do is sit back and admire your handiwork.

But be forewarned—growing dahlias is so rewarding, it’s easy to get hooked. “Dahlias are addictive,” says Grant. “The desire to add more and more to your collection is a natural reaction to such an enticing summer bloom.”  

Read the Current Issue Here!

Get one year of Sunset—and all kinds of bonuses—for just $24.95. Subscribe now!