Advice, Please?

ceresone(missouri ozarks)May 1, 2011

I have started my Dahlias in about 1 gallon pots, they're all up, can go out in about 10 days. Now, I planned on just putting the pot in the ground, so taking up in the fall wouldnt be so hard. Is this advisable? Or, will they not be able to grow good? and--if I need to remove them from the pots, do they transplant alright?

Long time gardener, but only a couple years on Dahlias. Thanks.

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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

I think the answer to this depends a lot on your climate and soil. Someone on here recommends growing and leaving your dahlias in 4-inch pots. I can't see that working for me. I'm pretty sure that if I kept plants in the ground in pots, they would either get too much water from rain (last summer) and not drain enough, or not get enough water from watering (3 summers ago).
I've kept some plants in pots to keep them from being invasive, and they just didn't grow well at all.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 12:08PM
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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

Thanks. If it helps any, these are the black nursery pots that you buy plants in--they have drainage holes around the bottom.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 12:35PM
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chocolatemoose(Z1, North Pole, Alaska)

Hmmm...guess it's Alaska day to chime in! I just had someone personally email asking the same question, along with a few other questions (including a vole issue) regarding this topic. I am posting my reply to her, along w/a bit more info I thought of after:

I start all my dahlias in a heated garage. I have several flower beds, some raised, some not. One year when it was warm enough to put them outdoors, I just plopped some of the pots in the beds, supposedly temporarily, but it seemed like a good idea so I left them on the surface and the other flowers grew to cover the black pot.

The following years I dug holes in the beds the size of the pots and just placed the pot in the hole, leaving about an inch above soil level so I could grab the pot easily in the fall.
Ease of pulling in the fall. Also, if a dahlia was too tall, too short, not doing well or I didn't like the color where it was, I could just pull up the pot and plop another one in.
Disadvantages: While they grew fine, they certainly didn't do quite as well as if in the ground. This was not apparent to anyone who saw the flowers, just to me as the was a pain in the behind to dig the holes for the pots

Since they are interspersed with everything else in the beds, the dahlias in the pots did not get any special or different watering. I did find the roots would grow through the drainage holes, which leads me to mention...If you have nursery or disposable pots, I know people who cut the bottom out of the pot, which allows the roots to go as deep as they like. I don't know if the voles/moles would burrow up into the pot or not. I bought a lifetime supply of pots from Fred Meyers (a west coast big box store chain) which are basically studier, decorative, upgraded nursery pots. I don't choose to cut the bottoms out so haven't tried that. They measure 11" wide x 10" deep. I had my honey put additional drainage holes in them and find I can push a stake through a drainage hole and directly into the ground when a flower needs a taller stake than the 10" pot would allow. I may also put a separate stake just outside the pot, directly into the ground if more than one stake is necessary. The stakes I use are plastic coated steel w/little nubbs on the side to keep your ties from falling down. I use green parachute cord or plastic tomato vine clips which I purchased cheaper on eBay but here's a pic to show what I'm talking about. ( Because of our 24 hours of daylight, everything here grows significantly taller than usual. I've had bushy, 6' dahlias (supposed to be 4') in pots in the ground. Blooms I'd say up to 8". I've not done dinner plates in this manner.

Any dahlia that is listed to be 5' or dinner plate I do in a separate #7 12"w x 14" deep nursery pot. I rarely put my dahlias directly into the ground. I find because our soil stays so cold and doesn't run very deep, they do much better for me in pots.

I am also the "Queen of Moving Plants Around" and do the same with a good number of my 150ish Oriental and/or hybrid lilies. The Asiatics ultimately go in the ground as they are perennial here.

My suggestion? Try it as see!...and if you're ever bored in the fall, feel free to fly up and help me un-pot all these dahlias,lilies and other things people say we "can't" grow here.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 10:23PM
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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

Thank you too, Barbara.
I just measured, and my pots are about 10" wide and 10" deep. I best be looking for a slightly bigger pot. With all the rain we've had lately, holes should dig easy in the garden.
I'll be 74 when it comes time to dig them, so I want easy--but not at the expense of loosing my beautiful Dahlias.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 9:28AM
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Very nice exchange of ideas. Growing dahlias in pots that are mostly buried in the garden is an excellent way to grow dahlias. As mentioned even smaller pots can be used but the traditional "gallon" pot works very well for most dahlias. In many areas the worst enemies of dahlias are burrowing pests like pocket gophers and the pots are effective against them. The digging and storage of dahlias in pots has advantages too. You do need quite a bit of room to store the pots and dividing tuber clumps(if you want to) is problematical. Growing dahlias in pots that are not buried in the garden is a whole different matter...

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 11:56AM
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Teddahlia or others, can you explain your last sentance...."growing dahlias in pots that are not buried in the garden is a whole different matter." I was thinking of leaving some of mine in pots above ground as well as sinking pots per Barbara. What are your thoughts about leaving the pot above the ground?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 9:57PM
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I am having a hard time understanding what the advantage of leaving them in pots is. You still have to dig a hole to plant them, and use a shovel to dig them up in the fall - dont you? I have always divided my tubers in the fall, so they would just have to be pulled out of the pots anyway, but even if you dont divide until the spring, and leave them in the pots all winter, you would need to un-pot every year. After dividing, I can wrap them individually and store up to 75 or so in a big plastic bin, or cardboad box. Finding a cool space for 75 pots would be impossible for me.

Am I just missing something?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 6:18AM
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Well, my plan is to leave them in pots because I have such a vole/mole problem. The moles tunnel under the roots leaving the plants high and dry, and the voles nibble the bulbs and tubers. Other than that I would plant them directly in the ground as I expect the dahlia would fair better directly in the ground.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 3:09PM
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chocolatemoose(Z1, North Pole, Alaska)

My personal reasons for doing pots:
1. Our summer growing season is very short. I let my dahlias "eye up" in flats of moist soil. Once I see it's going to grow, they get planted in pots. They are pretty well rooted and anywhere from 1 to 4 feet high by the time they can go outside and stay, approx. June 1. This process gets me blooms June through September. We usually have a first frost or two in August. Otherwise they are not established enough for me to enjoy.
2. Our soil is very cold, even in the summer. Transferring them from the pots they started in, into our cold soil slows down growth. They like the warmth/insulation of the pots.
3. No digging of the pot in the fall. It has a lip and I just pull it up from the bed and dump or bring them inside to work on. Fast and easy to un-pot.
4. I tend to move my lilies and dahlias around my various beds, both decks and in front of our out buildings (sheds/greenhouse) as the plants come into and go out of bloom. One year I planted 14 dahlias in my main bed. We were never happy with the bed that year and I couldn't put my finger on why. Looking at previous pictures, I realized many of the dahlias were nothing but lush foliage until July and/or August. By plopping a lily in the hole, I had color all season and the lilies would bloom out just about the time the dahlias would come into bloom. I probably rotate plants in and out of bloom more than some people, but with a maximum 90 days to enjoy after a very long, white winter, I want color everywhere, everyday.
4. It allows me to leave them outdoors to enjoy as long as possible. Late Aug/early Sept. temps can be comparable to your late October and working to beat Mother Nature's chill and snow to pull them out of the ground would have to be done early. Pots allow me to leave them out longer and just bring all the pots into my warm garage to un-do the process at my leisure in late Sept.
5. The process works for me. Would I do it if I were in a warmer zone? Probably not unless I had the vole/mole issue. It's a lot of work. But it also allows me maximum enjoyment, flexibility to move a plant that is not producing well or that is supposed to be a cute little 3 footer that turns into a 5 footer in the front row...LOL

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 12:46AM
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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

For me, it will be less work. like was said, it's easy just to pull the pot out of the ground, and store in my unheated garage. If they look as if they need divided, I'll do it then.
A;lso, they can be started 2 months early.
Biggest draw for me is convenience.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 8:47AM
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Teddahlia or others, can you explain your last sentance...."growing dahlias in pots that are not buried in the garden is a whole different matter." I was thinking of leaving some of mine in pots above ground as well as sinking pots per Barbara. What are your thoughts about leaving the pot above the ground?

Pots in the ground is more like dahlias in the ground than dahlias in pots above the ground. Growing dahlias in pots above the ground is very difficult especially in warm climates. They get way too warm and need extreme amounts of water. If you use extremely large pots and make sure they do not get too hot in the sun, they do OK. It is easy to grow dahlias to full sized plants in the above ground pots and they look good for one flush of blooms. After that, they look worse and worse. Pots in the ground are much cooler and the plants have access to water and fertilizer through the weep holes in the pots. Having said all that, low growing dahlias with small flowers do pretty well in pots. Another huge advantage of growing submerged pots is maintenance: you can miss watering them for a day or two or three. Try that with an above ground pot!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 11:35AM
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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

Sixteen months since the original question. I planted in the ground this summer, 100+ temps, sever drought, and starving deer.Absolutely no blooms, lost 4 completely. I've potted for the winter, thinking of ordering pots that are 24" across tops, 19" tall, and leaving on my deck, where they can be protected, on my self watering system. Wish me luck for next year.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 10:26AM
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