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Sustaining Dahlias: A Gardener's Guide to Continuous Beauty

Sustaining Dahlias: A Gardener's Guide to Continuous Beauty

Few things are as disheartening as tenderly nurturing your magnificent dahlias, only to witness them crumple in the wake of a storm. Blooms muddied and dishevelled, their delicate petals clinging to bent and broken stems. Dahlias strut their stuff through the seasons but sometimes they need a little help to keep their heads held high. The time to think about supporting your plants is right from the start but it isn’t too late. Sustain your dahlias and revel in their enduring beauty. Are you ready to take these tips into the garden?

Prudent Pruning 

Enter stage left: pruning - because dahlias do perform best with a good haircut. Pruning should commence early on, but can continue throughout their growing season. There’s also no need to be delicate about it either, just snip off about a third of their glory. This ensures they don't end up flopping over like they've had one too many cosmos at the flower party. The bright side of this is an abundance of fresh-cut flowers to adorn your home. If you're feeling generous, consider gifting some bouquets to friends, spreading the joy of nature's beauty.

The Ultimate Support Act: Staking 

If your dahlias still seem a bit wobbly, it's time for the ultimate support act: staking. Think of it as giving your plants their own little entourage to prop them up and make sure they're always reaching for the stars...or at least the sun. Now, I know what you're thinking, "But isn't it too late to stake them?" Fear not, my green-thumbed friend! Dahlias are like the Energizer bunnies of the flower world; they just keep going and going. Stake them up now, and they'll keep strutting their stuff well into late autumn, maybe even winter, depending on when they made their grand entrance into your garden.

What Should I Use To Stake Dahlia? 

Now, onto the logistics. When selecting stakes, think about the height of your floral superstars. If they're towering over everyone else in the garden, go for stakes that are about three-quarters their height. For those reaching superstar heights of over 2 meters, bring out the big guns: hardwood stakes, plastic-coated steel stakes, or bamboo poles. Just watch out for those skinny bamboo poles; they might just bend like Beckham under all that floral fabulousness. You can also use pruned sticks in the shape of a ‘y’ (or look out for them at garden centres), and gently rest the stem and flower naturally in the Y. Place those stakes about 10cm away from the center stem and give them a good shove into the soil.

How To Stake Dahlia

If you stake from the start, you should begin once you see the stems poking their way through the soil. You’ll need to tie-in the branches as they grow. Start it off when they’re quite small, about 20-40cm so it will train upright and prevent wind rocking them and causing damage to the feeder roots. Soft, three-ply garden twine is your weapon of choice for tying up these little soldiers. Just remember to loosen the grip as they grow - we do not recommend strangling plants 🙂. 

When you tie in the stem, leave a little slack so the plants can dance around a bit if it’s windy. The goal is to create a loose loop around the stem and a tight knot around the stake. Tie one end to the stake – use a simple overhand knot (the first knot you tie when doing up your shoelaces), then make a second so you form a tight knot.  Run the twine behind the stem, just under a set of leaves making sure you don’t pull it tight – just enough for it to rest loosely against the stem. Then tie the remaining twine to the stake using overhand knots – be careful not to accidentally tighten the loop around the stem as you do so.

As the season progresses, you’ll find that you may need to be tying in about every 30cm upwards, every ten days or so as they get taller.  This also tames them a little if they grow towards light as other plants around them may begin to shade them. Don’t fret if you haven’t done it this way, you probably aren’t the only one with a few loose ends. If the plants are quite tall, it’s still worth staking them before they fall over!

Dahlia Deadheading 

By snipping away those past-their-prime petals, you're basically telling your plants, "Listen here, gals, we've got more important things to do than making seeds—let's focus on bringing in the next batch of beauties, shall we?"

It's about redirecting their botanical energy into what really matters: putting on a bloomin' good show!

Feed For More Flowers

When your dahlias do their last dance, you can feed them with Hadeco Bulb Food or similar. This will bulk up those tubers with the essential nutrients they need to strut their stuff and dazzle us all over again next year. After all, we can't have our dahlias looking anything less than fabulous, can we?

Can I Leave Dahlias In The Ground Over Winter?

In regions with winter rain, it's best to lift those tubers once they've hit the snooze button. Give 'em a good scrub-down and tuck 'em away in a cool, dry spot until October comes a-knocking for their grand re-entry. If you're living the sunny life elsewhere in South Africa, and you've got no pesky critters sniffing around for a snack or some buried treasure, feel free to let those tubers snuggle up in the soil. They'll catch some Z's through the cold months, only to emerge fresh and fabulous when the warm weather returns.

Enjoy continuous beauty by tending to your dahlia with these tips! 

Happy gardening. 

PS Another expert tip is to divide your tubers every three years, so that you will force larger, sturdier plants and prevent splayed, flopping specimens.


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