This year I’m trying to reign-in my dinner plate dahlia obsession. I always have this fantasy of  rows upon rows of dahlias. But space is a hot commodity for me on my little farm, so let’s just assume that I’ll be planting less than I had on my crazy-awesome dahlia wishlist, but more than CJ, my husband, thought we needed.

Apparently this little negotiation is called, compromise.

Growing Dahlias | Kelly Orzel

Dahlia Tubers

I try to get my tubers in the ground by mid-May (which is creeping up on me). When planting dahlia tubers be careful. They’re fragile. Which really isn’t my strong suit. I think my fine motor skills may have been lost somewhere in the gene pool.

Growing Dahlias | Kelly Orzel

Tip for Fantastic Dinner Plate Dahlias

I toss a handful of Bonemeal in the hole at planting. Bonemeal encourages strong root growth (important for heavily flowering plants like roses and other bulbs) and encourages blooming.

Which HEL-LO?! Is what I’m trying to do!

A Word on Bonemeal

it  has more phosphorous than other fertilizers which is beneficial for dahlias. Most have equal or varying amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. With too much nitrogen plants will focus their growth on leaves, not flowers (which is bad). And potassium helps with the reproduction aspect, which is a non-issue with dahlias as they are grown by splitting their tubers when they are dormant.

Dahlias Tubers | Kelly Orzel

There are a many different types of dahlias, but my favorites are the dinner plate dahlias.

Because they are the best. I may be a bit biased, but I don’t think so.

It’s just that their blooms are so dang big! Their flowers are between 8 and 12 inches ACROSS!  I love seeing clients or  friends’ faces when I bring them a bunch, especially if they haven’t seen them before. It’s almost as if they aren’t real.

Dahlia 'Mom's Special' | Kelly Orzel

Great dahlia growing tip: Pinch

Cut back the main, center stem half way to the ground (about 6-12″) when its approximately 12″ tall.

I know it hurts. You don’t believe me. You may even think I’ve lost my mind!

But it works!

For more detailed directions on pinching plants, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Pinching post.

By cutting back the center leader by several inches all the energy gets redirected back into the plant and does so many good things. It makes the plant happier in general, but the stems elongate (good for market and wedding work), the plant is sturdier and bushier, and it promotes bud development. Which is what I want! So I cut it back.

Growing Dahlias | Kelly Orzel

Be ruthless! Cut all your dahlias back. HARD. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

If you think I’m lying, try it on just one of your dahlias and you will be converted to this practice for life!

For more on dahlias and the organic kitchen garden, check out my new book, The Backyard Gardener!