For green thumbs, dahlias come in all shapes, sizes and colors

For green thumbs, dahlias come in all shapes, sizes and colors

With hundreds of varieties to choose from in a fabulous array of colors, shapes and flower sizes, dahlias are a must for your 2019 garden.

Not only are dahlias beautiful, but they’re also easy to grow. In the Pacific Northwest, the time to plant is after winter’s last frost, typically between Aprll 15 and June 1, according to Puget Sound Dahlia Association. Just plant the tuberous roots in a sunny, well-drained location, once the soil has warmed to about 60 degrees – or around the same time as you would plant tomatoes. It takes a week or two for the first shoots to emerge, but the plants grow quickly and will be blooming by mid-summer.

Grow dahlias in containers to brighten your balcony, deck or front steps. They combine nicely with other plants in containers as well as in the garden. Mix them with bold, leafy elephant ears, Lacinato kale and Swiss chard, finely textured ornamental grasses and gaura, upright salvias and gladiolus, and trailing plants like calibrachoa, verbena and ivy. Dahlias will add pizzazz to your gardens and landscape, especially in the second half of the summer when many other flowers are starting to wane.

Dinnerplate dahlias are bodacious beauties that command your attention. They include any variety of dahlia with flowers that are at least eight inches in diameter. These extra-large blossoms are produced on bushy plants that grow 3 to 6 feet tall. Favorites include Cafe au Lait, Vancouver, and Thomas Edison. Use stakes to help support the flowers and keep the plants standing upright.

Decorative dahlias offer the widest array of colors and styles. Their petals are flat to slightly rolled, and flower sizes vary from four to eight inches. Growing an assortment of several different varieties, like the Spice Mix Decorative Dahlia Collection (, lets you enjoy a color-coordinated blend of hues that combine well in both the garden and in a vase.

For dahlias with a completely different look, grow cactus and semi-cactus types. Their rolled or partially rolled petals give the flowers a spikey texture. Varieties such as Yellow Star and burgundy-maroon Nuit d’Ete will add style and sophistication to your garden.

Make sure your flower garden also includes a few ball and pompon dahlias. These perfectly round swirls of tightly rolled petals come in vivid colors, and their long vase life make them a favorite with floral designers. Use coppery-orange Mirella or vivid Boom Boom Red to weave shots of color throughout an arrangement.

For contrast, incorporate some single, peony-flowered, anemone and collarette types. Dahlias such as HS Date, Bishop of Dover and Fascination have fewer petals and slightly smaller blooms, which makes them good companions for annuals as well as perennials. Plus, their daisy-like centers are magnets for bees and butterflies.

Bring your dahlias up close with dwarf varieties, commonly known as border dahlias. These plants grow just 12 to 24 inches tall, yet most have big, four to five-inch blooms. Popular varieties include Gallery Pablo, Melody Swing and Gallery Art Nouveau. They are ideal for small spaces, lining a walkway and are a perfect addition to containers.

Make room in your garden for some of these easy-to-grow, easy-to-love, summer-flowering bulbs. You’ll discover why so many gardeners have fallen under their spell.

Melinda Myers, who wrote this article, has written more than 20 gardening books and hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series. Her web site is


For dahlia growers who want to join clubs of like-minded flower fans or visit dahlia gardens, here’s who to contact and where to go:


• Dahlia Trial Garden: One of the largest official trial gardens in the U.S. and Canada is located at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma and is maintained in cooperation with the Washington Dahlia Society. Plants are grown from tubers sent by dahlia growers from throughout America, Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia. Highest-scored plants by official judges are named and become available to the general public. Blooms begin in July; August is the best time for viewing. Information: Metro Parks Tacoma, 253-591-5328.

• Bremerton West Hills Post Office Garden (200 S. National Ave.), Silverdale Garden (10855 Silverdale Way NW.


• Kitsap County Dahlia Society Aug. 3-4, Sun Pavilion at Kitsap County Fairgrounds.


• Puget Sound Dahlia Association,

• Seattle Dahlia Society,

• Kitsap Dahlia Society,