The Crop Report | Lessons From Dahlias
- Sep 01, 2022
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There is just something about September and the dahlias that feels extra magical; this is their naturally intended time to shine. Between the soft, warm day temps and the crisp, cool evenings, these beautiful blooms tend to jump into stride. It’s hard to describe the feeling of standing in a dahlia patch in bloom surrounded by so many colors, shapes, and sizes of this impactful flower. It’s definitely where I gravitate to on my quiet walks around the farm right now.
We have grown dahlias for 10 years now as cuts and learned so much along the way. From how to grow them, to how to design with them, this flower seems to bend some of the more standard rules. We have expanded our crop to a total of about 3,000 plants and close to 50 varieties. After a few hard lessons, here are 10 of my biggest dahlia takeaways:
- Invest in quality tubers! Sure, dahlias can grow from seed but the flowers will never be true to form and you just don’t know what you will get (great for a fun experiment though).
- Maybe you CAN leave ‘em in the ground! The tubers are cold sensitive and can’t freeze so with some added protection you can leave the back-breaking fall dig off of your to-do list! Just make sure you know your zone first.
- Netting is a must! Every single time we try to get away without netting a plant or two it comes back to bite us. These top-heavy plants require support or you will find your hard work split and broken at ground level or flopped over crawling along the garden path giving unusable stems.
- Watch out for the bugs, especially the June ones (aka Japanese beetles). Just like we navigate to the big, beautiful dahlia blooms so do all the pests and diseases. The most productive methods to combat them are using organza bags to enclose booms, collecting bugs into soapy water, and spray applications. We have tried all and still go back to soapy water and hand collecting for the quickest, easiest solution. Sometimes we make the kids do it and pay in snacks based on the kill number in the cup. Flower farmer parenting at its finest!
- Watch out for the powdery mildew! These plants tend to show disease and fungal issues pretty quickly and right when they are about to crank out the best blooms. We practice lots of prevention and then use an earth-friendly fungicide to help combat this. The farm crew will strip and clear out a lot of the lower understory growth on these plants to help keep air moving around them at ground level.
- Ball forms are the hardiest and longest lasting. Because we ship our flowers this has been a big part of variety selection, but we can’t help ourselves from growing some of the striking other forms too like decorative, cacti, and even dinner plate (the blooms are seriously bigger than my Target dishes).
- They are thirsty. This is a flower that does not like to be without a drink so from harvest on, big deep buckets of fresh water need to be the home of all snipped stems. It’s easy to see why when you look at the bottom of a stem - it’s completely hollow like a straw! Sometimes in design, we even shovel wet cotton balls up those beefy stems to keep them sipping.
- They smell like celery. Okay, maybe it’s just me that thinks that but I do think they carry a familiar scent and it reminds me that these beautiful blooms are really just bougie knockoffs of potatoes. The indigenous people of Mexico (it’s their national flower) were known to use dahlias as a dietary staple. I wouldn’t suggest it these days when we have better food options, but still cool to think about when you get a whiff of celery.
- They’re a great floral additive! Dahlia petals have been used for years to combat dry skin and have found a spot in lots of plant-based skincare lines.
- The biggest appeal to these blooms is definitely the color wheel they come in. From vibrant and intense saturations to soft or vintage color washing, dahlias come in the most diverse options and make design easy. The only thing missing is a real deal blue variety but I think the only ones growing those are the unicorns.
We have learned a lot from this one flower on our farm and after a hot season, we are excited to showcase the dahlia crop. Whether you join us on the farm for Dahlias and Desserts this month or you get one of our Dahlia Bouquets delivered you will want to enjoy the season of dahlias with us!