NC State Extension

Delightful Dahlias Deliver Big Impact

'Bishop of Llandaff'Photo by Robert E. Lyons

‘Bishop of Llandaff’
Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Dahlias are the darlings of the late summer garden. Visit any county or state fair in the autumn and you will likely find dozens of dahlias. The array of flower colors, sizes and shapes is astounding.

The American Dahlia Society now recognizes 18 classifications of flower form and 15 different colors or color combinations.

Dahlias are available in almost any color: white, shades of pink, red, yellow, orange, shades of purple and various combinations of these colors. Some of the flower forms are truly amazing, from the charming single, daisy-like flowers to the popular double varieties which can range from the 2-inch-pompons to 12 inches across. Some of the most spectacular are the peony and cactus forms.

Any garden with fertile, well-drained soil and lots of sun can become a home to dahlias. Since all garden dahlias are hybrids, they are most often planted as tuberous roots. Seeds are available for mixed, small-flowered types. Plant the tuberous roots or plants about the time of the last frost date. Varieties that get taller than 2 feet may need stakes or other supports.

'Harlequin'Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Photo by Robert E. Lyons

Dahlias may languish during the heat of summer, but keep them mulched and provide plenty of water and they will reward you with a show from late summer through fall.

The tuberous roots will not survive the winter in the ground in most of the Piedmont region and the western part of the state, so those of us in these regions must be prepared to dig roots in the fall to store during the winter. The dahlia is hardy in the Raleigh area and east to the Coast.

Each year, the JC Raulston Arboretum (JCRA) devotes one of the annual trial beds to a single plant that has lots of cultivars. This year will be the season of the dahlia! Visit the JCRA this summer to view over 25 different types, from dwarfs to tall and from green leaves to red leaf forms, each with a character all it’s own. The dahlia is a wonderful ornamental plant high in color value. Learn more at

Linda Blue

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