Dahlias in Texas...Advice?

dahlia_newbie(9)June 3, 2008

I am new to dahlias...I guess that's obvious from my name...I ordered ten different varieties from a farm in Michigan, who said that the plants would grow here, but to protect from the heat of the afternoons here if possible. I planted them next to my house, facing North, in a slightly raised bed. Amended the soil which had been producing stellar elephant ears for several years with some aged manure, planted eye-side-up, mulched, and waited. I was warned about slugs, so I've put down slug bait/poison in the vicinity, and haven't noticed any nibble-holes in the leaves...It's been three weeks, and all tubers have sprouted - between 3" and 8" tall now. Unfortunately, I don't think they are getting a full day's sun where I planted them. They get about 4 strong hours, and filtered sun before and after that. Will they still bloom? I hate to have goten so excited to get 3' tall bushes with no flowers...Is there something I should be doing now besides watering and watching anxiously? I work till after dark most days, so I rush home and stare at them using a flashlight every night...haha...All are supposed to have 2-4" blooms, and grow 3-4' tall. How long will it take to see buds? TIA.

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Poochella(7 WA)

It sounds like you've done all you can. 4 hours of sun would be a very minimum, but the only way to see if it's enough is to see what happens with your plants. I have grown many in only 5 hours of sun and they do just fine.

Length of time to bloom depends on the variety- anywhere from 60-120 days is the general information.

3 footers would do very well in pots too. That way you could move them to a sunnier spot perhaps.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 4:40PM
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Thanks poochella. I will wait till next month to see if I get any blooms. If not, maybe i'll pot up the healthiest looking plants and move them around. Perhaps a portable garden is the way to go next year. I was told by the seller that I should use 5-10-10 fertilizer, but I can't find it around here anywhere...what works for you?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 12:10AM
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Here the problem has a lot do with humidity due to the low sunlight exposure, 4 hours like Poochela mentioned is about the minimum, add extra hours of filtered sun and it´s sure you´ll get lots of blooms but humidity ( rain or watering ) can be a problem if you didn´t plant the tubers well appart to provide enough air circulation between the plants, dahlias are prone to fungus if they don´t have enough sunlight and plenty air circulation to evaporate or remove the humidity, the plant rapidly becomes a dying mass of white leafs and blooms. Doesn´t affect the tuber in my experience but not only it looks ugly but it shortens dramatically the life expectancy of the plant.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 4:17PM
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Thanks Raul. That is very good information. I planted about 26" apart, because I read that somewhere and knew they needed good air flow. I guess that I should water only when it looks like they need it? I planted about three weeks ago now, and I've watered every few days. I go out of town for a week tomorrow, and we got a good rain today, so hopefully that keeps them till I get back...I am thankful for the info on what to look for in a humid area - I really appreciate it. Right now, the plants range from 8" to 20" tall (all different varieties), and they all look happy and green. I can't WAIT till they bloom! I'm very excited - especially for Chilson's Pride - should be really pretty!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 12:06AM
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Poochella(7 WA)

Raul, pardon if you've addressed this before, but how can you have low sun exposure down there? Have the travel agents brainwashed me into erroneously believing that all of Mexico is a sunny paradise? I understand the humidity part, and sympathize with the description of plants affected by mildew/fungus. I picture all of Mexico as a sunny paradise (filled with dahlias, of course.)

D Newbie, I've used everything from nothing, my own compost, Osmocote Indoor/Outdoor (too high in Nitrogen) Osmocote Veggie and Bedding formula which is 14-14-14, Jobs Tomato Spikes 5-24-8 I think,and now am using 10-20-20 immediate release bulk fertilizer. Check your local farm and feed store for something similiar there. Or drive to one if you're in a city!

I add either Mor Bloom or triple phosphate when buds are setting, if I remember and can. But the best thing is just to have generally good, well-draining soil that would grow your average vegetable or perennial and you'll be okay.

People also use Miracle Gro too and put out very nice flowers.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 12:31AM
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Poochella, thank you AGAIN! I have printed out the fertilizer suggestions so I can take it to a feed/farming supply and get the right thing (I'm between the burbs and the country, so lots of places to choose from). I had heard that growing tomatoes and dahlias is very similar, same nitrogen, same drainage, staking...that would have inspired confidence, except that I've never grown tomatoes either...haha.

Also, I just got done looking at your pics from last year in the gallery, just happened upon the thread that was yours. Absolutely breathtaking. I don't know if I'll get the gumption to tackle dinnerplates, but yours were all beautiful, and it was great that you noted the ones with the best stems...I'm after good-looking cut flowers, so I've bookmarked the thread for next year. Some that I got for this year are Maarn (orange ball), Hulin's Carnival, Rebecca Lynn (M), Kathy G (BB), Cornel (BA)-dark red, and Chilson's Pride (BB)-pink/white. I didn't choose them, they came in the "boquet" mix from Hamilton Farms in Michigan. I'm really looking forward to Chilson's Pride and Cornel...Hopefully I'll have some pics to share this summer! Your photos are very inspiring, I'm so glad to have found this forum and your pics!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 2:11AM
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Is not always sunny here Poochela, it depends greatly in which area of the country you live, I live in the State of Guanajuato ( central Mexico, where dahlias are originary from ) where we have a very well defined seasonal pattern, from November to late May it´s warm, sunny and dry most of the time, then from late May until late September it rains for days in a row, then we have a few days break before it rains again ( whenever you see in the weather channel a hurricane is forming and moving in the Gulf of Mexico heading it´s way to the Gulf States you can picture me with a rain coat and an umbrella ), it gets sunny, humid and I can barely keep the lawn under control or it become a jungle in a couple of weeks ( gotta mow twice a week ).

Many of the mysteries of dahlia growth have a reason, dahlias are native to the central part of Mexico ( the zone where I live in ) even though what we grow is grown somewhere else and even with the manipulation by man to create new varieties the plant continues to follow the seasonal schedule of growth and development from the place from where it originated and maintains the same requirements, we can´t eliminate millions of years of evolution with a few hundreds years of domestication. That´s why dahlias grow when it´s warm and the soil is moist ( during the rainy season ), that´s why in warm areas tubers don´t need to be lifted during the winter, down here it sedomly gets too cold for the tubers to survive and the soil never freezes over. The plant grows when the climatic conditions are right, warm and with plenty of water ( the seasonal pattern I described ) and go dormant when one of the conditions is not fulfilled which is the abundance of water ( when the rainy season ends and there´s no longer any rainfall ), the plant withers and all that remains is the tuber.

Back then during the age of the dinosaurs when I was a child I remember that along the roads dahlias grew wild ( wild varieties ) exactly during the summer just to dissapear during the late autumn, but they didn´t grow one next to the other, they grew individually several feet away ( where they get plenty of sunlight but also with lots of air circulation to maintain the foliage dry ). We are the ones that insist in growing them close together so we are not imitating the way the grow in the wild, they can tolerate and even thrive on how we keep them but the price we pay can be diseased plants if we push it.

It was quite a show to see the infinite color scheme and simplicity of wild dahlias that you no longer see because the land being developed for other uses and more modern farming techiques where farmers don´t grow crops on the road because they need it to transit, also, no longer you can see a lot of plants growing along the roads because they mow continously in order to keep the area around the roads clean of vegetation, where there used to be dahlias now there´s only grass.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 1:00PM
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