By Carol Siddall, Master Gardener

The dahlia, in my book, is one of the prettiest flower in the family garden. My mother grew gorgeous ones in El Paso, dinner plate size. Dahlias are heat lovers that provide color summer through frost.

The dahlia was named in the late 1700’s for Swedish botanist Andreas Dahl. The dahlia began to be popular in American gardens around 100 years ago. They are easy to grow in full sun and thrive in any soil type. Their blooms can last up to a week, and they make wonderful cut flowers.

If you want performance in hot weather like the last few weeks, plant dahlias. One of the best things about dahlias is they are an economical plant. You can dig the tubers after frost and save them for planting the following year.

Nurseries offer dainty and petite or bold and brawny with blooms bigger than 12”. There are also many colors to choose from. Dahlias need to be planted in spring after all danger of frost is gone and ground temperature has reached 60 degrees.

You will need to select a planting sight with at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. Morning sun is best. Protection from wind is helpful especially in the taller varieties. Dahlias will thrive in rich, well drained soil. The planting hole should be slightly larger than the tuber. Place some compost into the soil. A handful of bone meal mixed in also helps. Otherwise, do not fertilize at planting.

Plant the tubers whole, with the “eyes” facing up, about 6 to 8 inches deep. The crowns should be facing just above soil level. It is best not to water them right after planting as this encourages rot. (I learned this the hard way!) Wait until the sprouts have appeared above the soil to water.

If this is a new flower for you, give it a try. Dahlias bring back sweet memories for me. Happy Gardening!