FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

Are dahlias difficult to grow?  

No, they grow like weeds, unfortunately they are made for a 8 month growing season which does not exist in Canada.  Thus gardeners in Canada must help the plant to grow faster and produce flowers sooner than nature intended. 

How do I promote better plant health and flower growth? 

By pruning properly.  Pruning plays a huge part in getting good flower growth.  The club has yearly meetings at a members garden to show the techniques.  Showing is much more useful than a written explanation.

Where can I get better tubers than what the plant nurseries sell? 

Come to our yearly tuber auction where members sell their excess tubers.  The varieties of tubers available are vast and wonderful.  You can also order by mail order from dahlia producers.

How can I learn all about dahlias?

Come to our meetings and garden trips of course.  And check out youtube recordings by Dave Gillam, Mark's allotment diary and many others.  The American Dahlia Society website has more information than you could possibly use.   Check out our links page.

What is the advantage of belonging to the American Dahlia Society (ADS)?

The ADS sends seasonal bulletins, provides members only website access with amazing information, plus access to all their archives.  The ADS sends each year the classification book to each member.  The ADS sets and maintains standards of judging for all dahlia shows.

Is the HDCDS on facebook?

Of course, it is only open to members.  

What varieties of dahlias attract butterflies and bees?

Pollinators need to be able to feed on the interior of the flower.  Thus the simple flowers work best for attracting butterflies and bees. This includes collarettes, mignon, orchid and peony classes.  Favourites include: Pooh, Bishop of Llandaff, Dandie Toots, Reddy, Rembrandt, Alpen Cherub.

What varieties of dahlias have society members hybridized and made available?  Here are a few examples.

John Mooney:  Maisie Mooney A (ID) white, Susan Mooney B (ID) yellow, Glen M BB red, New one yet to be named.

Ralph Suttell: Jess-Me A (ID) flame, Miss Jillian BB (FD) yellow, Jess-Sarah BB (ID) pink, Jess-Lynn M (FD) orange

Ron Duxbury:  Mickey D. B )SC) light blend yellow and pink, Triple Lee D BB (FD) dark pink

Where can I get my soil tested?

A&L Canada laboratories  1-855-837-8347 www.alcanada.com

Agri-Foods laboratories 1-800-265-7175 www.agtest.com

University of Guelph Laboratory Services 1-877-863-4235 www.guelphlabservices.com

How do I obtain the best blooms for the show?

You must plan from the moment you plant your tubers.  You must aim for minimal blooms at the optimum time.  In order to do this plant size must be minimized so bloom size is maximized.  For example limit branches (also called laterals) on each plant to:

  • 3-4 for size A and AA
  • 6-8 for size B
  • 10-12 for BB
  • no limits for other sizes as blooms are relatively small

Pinch out the center growth on the top of the plant - also called stopping- when the plant has the number of laterals desired.  Usually laterals and leaves at the bottom of the plant are pruned away to allow better air circulation, so do not count those laterals.  Carefully break off the lateral at the point where it emerges from the juncture of the main stalk and leaf.  Leave the leaves to grow.  It is best to remove inner laterals so the center of the plant does not get crowded.

Each end of the lateral will produce 3 flower buds.  Remove 2 of these buds allowing the third bud to form a bigger and better flower.  It will also reduce the weight of the blooms on the plant.  Many a shy gardener has been horrified to find their dahlia plant split in three or fallen over because the weight of the blooms has over whelmed the plant.  The plants are very hardy, pruning causes no difficulty to the plant, in fact they seem to thrive when pruned hard.

A dahlia plant grows at the rate of one pair of leaves a week.  Assume three to four weeks will elapse between a pea-sized bud and a bloom.  Naturally each season and plant can behave differently.  Nature rules.  Timing for the perfect bloom to be available at show time is still both an art and a science. 

Thus it is best to have several plants of the same cultivar if intending to enter the show.  This allows for variability and selection.  

Calculate backwards from the show date and see when you need your buds to start growing.  Then prune and debranch your plants to encourage growth to coincide at the right time.  This involves hard pruning so only buds are seen at the correct time so blooms will be blooming at the right time.  For example;  

  • 22-26 days - baby bud visible within true leaves
  • 17-19 days - baby bud enlarged but still entirely covered by bracts (greenery surrounding the bud)
  • 11-16 days - bracts upright but touching buds at side
  • 7-9 days - tinge of colour as petals loosening at center
  • 6 days - 1-5 petals lifting up straight
  • 5 days - several petals upright or now 45 degrees
  • 4 days - petals upright or outer row of petals flat
  • 3 days - half of petals flat and upright
  • 2 days - nearly open
  • 1 day - fully open and mature

Time from baby bud to mature bloom depends on size of bloom.  Average time from baby bud to bloom is:

  • 28 days for A and AA
  • 24 days for B
  • 20 days for BB
  • 22 days of POM
  • 18 days of all others

Hope this helps in the pursuit of the perfect bloom.