Call me Captain Courageous

davidinsfApril 24, 2012

The veterans of dahlia growing here will laugh at this but I know there is more than one of me that never does this...

I pinched a bud off my first dahlia that had budded(?) yesterday.

I'm one of those that CAN'T wait to see my first dahlias blooming so the idea of lopping off a perfectly good bud just to delay my joy for another few weeks is something I have only done once before and I honestly can't remember whether it was worth it or not.

But my early season Patty Cake is in its 2nd year now and last year it was a veritable workhorse. So this year it sprouted with TWO large canes and at almost the same time budded on each shoot (just above the 3rd set of leaves). So I figured this was the perfect experiment - I'll leave one alone and pinch off the other bud.

Now we'll see if indeed it makes that shoot bushier or last longer (or do whatever it is supposed to BECAUSE it was pinched). PC only has 3" flowers so I sort of suspect this experiment may be the right idea but on the wrong plant but we'll see. I figure I have little to lose - if one delays blooming, the other will bloom soon anyway. But this way I get to actually see if there are obvious changes between stalks. (I'll update this thread when the verdict is in). Of course if the idea is to pinch off buds so that the WHOLE PLANT lasts longer or grows more buds, I probably just confused the heck out of it by pinching only one stalk!

I debated for days whether to pinch it and almost cried when I did - but the experiment is on!

(I told you some of you would be laughing!)


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Not at all David. I have been doodling little experiments for almost 50 yrs. Some work some do not but always fun to do and none ever resulted in a complete disaster.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 3:14PM
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Linda's Garden z6 Utah

David, I have been growing dahlias for several years and I will admit that I have never pinched them back. Every year I tell myself that I will do it but I never do. I am going to make an effort to that this year too. I am hoping they will come out bushier. I never disbud either because I can't bear to pinch off flowers. It will be interesting to see the results of your experiment!


    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 7:34PM
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Linda go out and pinch the top off just one plant. I did and it is more bush like than all the others already.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 8:41PM
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Ooops! I forgot I wrote this and never updated it!

It was a rousing SUCCESS!!

My garden log showed that the first PC bloom opened May 14th. I recall the pinched cane sort of pouted for 3-4 weeks before starting to grow. But I had flowers from the main cane until July. At that point, the pinched cane was kicking in and I had PC blooms until well into September!

So while pinching it seriously delayed the opening of flowers on that cane, the whole dahlia ended up showing blooms from May til almost October, if not into Oct.

I did the same thing this year (my first bloom will likely open within 2 weeks) so I imagine I will have Patty Cake blooms under my window for the next 5-6 months!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 12:48AM
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David - where are you located? Getting blooms in May just seems crazy to me - I dont even plant mine out until the end of May.

(crazy = wonderful, not crazy = insane)

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 6:57AM
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steve22802(7a VA)

David, I'm steeling myself right now as well and pinching out buds from some of my plants. It is so very hard to do when you're really looking forward to those first blooms! :( But everything I've read says that pinching keeps the plants shorter and produces longer stems for cutting, which is may main purpose in growing them, so I'm hardening my heart and nipping off all my central stems bud or no bud when they reach 3 or 4 nodes.

David is in San Francisco where he leaves his dahlias in the ground year round. I was able to overwinter some of my clumps this year with extra protection and they are sending up multiple sprouts quite nicely right now. It will be interesting for me to compare first bloom dates of the overwintered clumps versus the dahlias I started in pots early in my greenhouse.

Question for David: What have you decided about how many stalks to allow to grow on your overwintered clumps? Some of mine are putting up 6 - 8 sprouts.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 8:24AM
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Hi Steve

I have never had 6-8. Probably 3-4 is my norm and I (now) pinch back one or two at 2-3 week intervals in order to get that 5-6 months of constant color. I don't sell flowers so I have little need for 6-8 stalks sending out dozens of blooms at once. I prefer constant, long lasting color.

However, I noticed this year that one of my workhorses from last year (O'Condah) is sending up 5-6 shoots. It is in ground however so I am letting it be for this year. Last year it was a wall of purple all summer and I loved it. Next year however, I will likely dig it up and get rid of extra tubers so I don't get 6-8 stalks.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 8:22PM
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David, some of mine are still pretty short but are at 3-6 nodes already and are ready to be pinched. I've pinched a few already, but they seem so short to be topping off(only 8 inches tall or so). What do you think? If you are looking to get rid of any of your purple flower tubers when you divide this year let me know;-).

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 12:13AM
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Not sure what to tell you Grace. I would only pinch them back to the 3rd set of leaves when they are 3 times the size of yours - meaning 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall.

However, other than severely delaying their blooming, you will likely end up with a much bushier plant with lots of blooms.

I'll let you know when I divide the O'Condah. It won't be before 2014 however but I'll save you some tubers.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 10:37PM
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