Dahlias make great cut flowers
Dahlias are a native of Mexico and are related to the sunflower and daisy. Once only a favourite of allotment growers, dahlias are enjoying a return to popularity and have now become a favourite plant for the herbaceous border and patio containers. They will also keep flowering right up until the first frosts. Dahlias also make excellent cut flowers. There are many varieties to choose in many different colours.
Dahlias are tuberous which means they are propagated from tuberous roots in late summer or late winter. They can be grown either from tubers stored over winter or from root cuttings taken the previous season. As they originate from a warm climate, they need to be grown in a sunny position, preferably against a south facing wall and away from strong winds. They need at least eight hours of sun a day. As they are frost-tender, don't plant them out until the threat of frost has passed. Dahlias are also heavy feeders, so should be grown in good soil with added organic material such as blood, fish and bone. This added to the soil will mean that you won't have to keep feeding the plants throughout the growing season. Plant tubers in their flowering position, about 4-6in deep. Insert support canes when planting and tie in the plant as it grows. Also pinch out top shoots to encourage bushiness and more flowers. If you want the plant to produce large blooms, then restrict the number of flowering stems to four or five per plant. Regular deadheading or picking for cut flowers will ensure repeat flowering throughout the season.
Varieties for use as cut flowers
Most dahlia varieties can be used as cut flowers, but here are some of the best. Dahlia 'Grand Finale' has large grape juice coloured cactus flowers that can measure up to 10ins across. 'Lovely Lana' is a semi-cactus variety with large mauve coloured flowers measuring 8-10ins across. 'Tomo' is a small to medium variety with double, dark purple to maroon flowers with white-tipped petals. Dahlia 'Survivor' is a decorative plant with deep rose pink blooms up to 12ins in diameter. 'Mingus Philip' is a pretty mix of white and lavender. 'Goshen Giant' is a beautiful pale apricot colour with ragged petals.
It is very easy to grow dahlias as cut flowers in pots. Make sure your planter is deep enough to accommodate the large root system. When growing in containers, make sure you water dahlias regularly and during the flowering season feed once a week with a high potash feed to ensure you have plenty cut flowers all summer long.