I'm afraid I'm done with dahlias

cheryl_p(z5MI)June 10, 2005

I really am, Ladies & Gentlemen. Mine aren't even up a foot yet and here I have spidermites. AGAIN! I have had them for the last 3 years now (fine for the first two)and while I love my dahlias, I sure don't enjoy the heartbreak/ache I get discovering and battling those pests. Seeing those normally beautiful green leaves and stems becoming more and more stipled with yellow.... and I am tired of fretting about using chemicals and hurting or driving away my beautiful toads! No, spraying the undersides with water each morning just doesn't do it here. This year I was extra careful and disinfected pots, planters, everything with 10% bleach. Over the winter I "sulfured" my tubers and stored them with a system that yielded nearly 100% survival. Another bummer, last fall family and friends got "out-of-dahlias" and I adopted their orphans. (I just can't stand to let people put them out with the trash or leave 'em in the ground all winter!!!) Anyway, I know I'm venting (sorry) - next fall, but maybe I should winter them over first if they survive, I will offer them up for free adoption here on GardenWeb. I have dozens and dozens and dozens (my first year of such successful divisions too - drats!!!). Well, thanks for letting me cry on your ethereal internet shoulders.

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Poochella(7 WA)

Cheryl that is heartbreaking (but I must admit I am salivating a bit extra at the thought of your generous offer to share! Put me on the list if you're serious about giving up as I cannot let a good dahlia go either. I have no spider mites (yet.) I had mites in my echinops ritro last season and I understand your total frustration. Am watching them like a hawk this year.

Maybe some sage out there knows of a treatment that would rid you of mites but save the toads? Do the Safer products harm toads? That's what I finally resorted to after trying soda water and listerine, I think.

If more of my dahlias were even a foot tall I'd be dancing the hula or the robot or the twist: ANYTHING! Thanks to our cold extended 'Spring', and I use that term loosely, many of mine are struggling to attain the whopping height of two inches. Whoo Hoo. I know a couple warm days would change that, I just hope those days arrive before September.

Misery loves company. I am truly sorry for your mite problem. I had thrips ruin an entire crop of gladiolas last year and if they ever get into the dahlias there will be wailing audible nationwide from the NW.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2005 at 11:58PM
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Hi Cheryl, So sad to here about your dahlia's. I live for my dahlia's and knock on wood, have never had and infestation of any sort. I have over 150 dahlias planted so thank goodness this has never happened.
What have you tryed to use to get rid of them? I have researched all these nasty villians and make a spray of sulfur and spray the plants exspecially the underside of the leaves(this is where they live). Give this a try.

If you need a home for your dahlia's, like Poochella, I would give them a good home. I feel so sad that this happened to you, dahlia's are the very best flower in any garden.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 8:59PM
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I'm also dying a miserable death. My new husband, bless him--so patient--even crowbarred a hypertufa pot up from the patio after my first attempt (no one told me that it would stick to other cement---duh! Just shows you what an academic education gets you)--constructed four, huge raised beds, had soil brought in, and I was set to go...with great conditions for the first time. I've been growing dahlias for five years in terrible soil and diffident light, but the new soil has compacted---so I've added perlite, peat moss, sand, etc....---finally got them in the ground, and there they sit. These wretched, puny things that I've coddled, loved, fussed over seem to be waiting for me to do something...and they look awful. I put banana peel chips around the tubers, along with fertilizer, manure mulch, and NOTHING MUCH DIFFERENT FROM THE YEARS WHEN THEY WERE GLORIOUS! and the worst of it is that my careful tagging (etched in brass and, therefore, not likely to vanish like most inks) got botched up, so I have to wait until they bloom to know what dahlia is which. I could commit hari-kari....especially since I pollinated some and named them for my granddaughters--Millie the Great and Tessa the Terrific--who live in Australia with loving relatives who want tubers. AAAAAAAGH!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 2:16PM
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Hello Cheryl, I am a newbie to Dahlias, this is my 2nd year. My husband and I love them. I do the planing and planting and he does the hard labor stuff, bless his heart. I dont have but a few, maybe 10 or so, and would love to give a few of yours a new home if you decide to get rid of them. Sorry you are having so much trouble with them. I gave up on zinnias, I know they should grow like crazy here but and they would but the bugs just attack them and the blooms are very puny. They are one of my favorite flowers for sentimental reasons. Please add me to your list if you dont mind. Thanks for your generosity.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 10:30AM
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Sorry about all this bad luck. I use buckets to catch water at downspouts. There is also a systemic that you put in around the base of flowers to prevent these buggers.

I'm looking for a few tubers too. Sylvia J, Don Hill, Valley Porcupine, Twynings Candy, Kidds Climax, Apple Blossom-CO, Kenora Sunset. Just to name a few.

I'm a dahlia nut that went from 10 to 300 tubers. Thankfully, I have buddies that are helping me grow them.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 11:50AM
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My heart aches for you! I have just discovered dahlias. I saw them on a TV program and was captivated. I was reluctant to order them as all the suppliers seem to be in the cooler parts of the county and I am in Central FL. I finally ordered 5 (what agony trying to decide) and they are just fabulous! When I master the digital camera I will send photos to renew your enthusiam and give you the determination to try, try, again.

I also would be interested in extra tubers....

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 5:07PM
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KatrinaG(5 IN)


I'm so sorry. I, too am new to dahlias (and new to gardening in general). I discovered them at a local nursery and just think they are beautiful. I would be willing to provide a loving adopted home for some of yours. But there's got to be something you can use that won't hurt the toads and won't require you to give 24 hour care. And you could keep your beloved flowers. Have you checked the rose forums? I am dabbling in roses (and daylilies) also. There seems to be lots of discussion on creepy-crawlies over there.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 8:20PM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

Don't be in too much of a rush to give your babies away. As you can see there are lots of willing takers. I'm NOT asking for anything, except asking you to try to weather the battle with the bugs or what not, and then save only the best tubers.

Actually I thought that I had lost quite a few this year after planting....ones that I was sure were in good condition. However, they are springing up again. Sooooo it appears I am winning the battle with the bugs and slugs, and chipmunks et al.

I can sense your frustration, but as you know when they start to bloom, it is worth all the headaches.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 9:52PM
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welltraveled(z5Mid Mich)

Please don't give up .Michigan needs all the Dahlia lovers it can get.. Where in Michigan do you live?? I live south of FLint on a lake and a wonderful dahlia grower here has many of us hooked... So far no spiders but I see a bit of slug damage on one of them...

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 10:54AM
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trowelgal(Kansas Zone 5)

Hi Cheryl,
I feel for you as I am also a Dahlia lover. I did a search for information on spider mites for you. This site was very informative:
Wish I knew how to link that for you.
Hope you can get your problem under control so you won't need to adopt out all of your lovely Dahlias.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 8:32AM
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Poochella(7 WA)

HeeHoo, I hope by now, some warmer weather has sprung your dahlias from their wretched puny status to taller upstanding citizens of the raised beds.

I wanted to ask what "banana chips" are comprised of and why they are useful. They sound edible and delicious- must time for breakfast : ) I seem to recall hearing banana peels thrown around the base of roses was helpful for potassium, I think. But how do they help your tubers?

Trowel gal, to post a link is easy.
Go to the page you want to direct the viewer to.
Find the address bar (you have to have your browser set to display the address- look under VIEW and check 'address bar' if you have Internet Explorer)

LEFT click on the displayed address (http:// etc) to blue highlight the entire address of the page. RIGHT click on that highlighted address and highlight/choose COPY with a left click.

Come back to your Garden Web post. Put your blinking cursor in the Optional Link URL box by clicking there once. Then RIGHT click and choose PASTE with a left click. The copied address should turn up.
When you hit Preview Message the link will appear.

It's pretty much click, click here; click, click there; here a click, there a click, everywhere a click click..... and you get a link displayed!

Here is a link that might be useful: A link to this very page

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 10:26AM
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calpat(zone9ab No.Ca.)

A couple of months ago I was ready to give up too. Last year which was also my first year, the Dahlias were up and blooming by June. In our area I could have left the tubers in ground as we don't get a freeze, but I just had to try the plastic wrap storing method and it went great. No rot, but no eyes. Planted all 60+/- tubers and so far only 2 have come up, about a foot high now.Very discouraging, but more disgusted with myself. Well come fall this garden gets a new "facelift" & I'll start collecting new tubers for next spring. I just hate giving up!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2005 at 6:28PM
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cgdahlias(Cent. CA Coast)

Don't give up yet! We grow thousands of dahlias and control our mites by using predatory mites that are commercially available. They are Phytoseulis persimilis. Very effective. Widely used in ag and hort crops in place of sprays.

We get ours from a local insectary. I have seen them in some of the organic catalogs - maybe Gardens Alive? Try a web search.

They are easy to use. Release about 20 per dahlia plant for serious infestations, more if possible.

Good luck! They really do work.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2005 at 7:59PM
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Poochella(7 WA)

Ooh that is a really good tip CGdahlia on the mite predators. And a bonus new word for me: insectary. I think my yard is an insectary, but not in a postive way.

Thanks for the mite tip. Have any advice for thrips?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2005 at 9:58PM
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LAA668984(z4/5 ny)

This is my first year growing tall dahlias. I guess I am very lucky, because right now, I have some 4' tall and blooming like mad. And these were inexpensive tubers I got at Walmart. They are just beautiful though, I am hooked on dahlias now. I have no spider mites or mildew, which seems to be common, but I do have japanese beetles and earwigs. Those darn earwigs nestle inside the petals and I didn't notice them and brought some indoors. Then, they came out of the flowers, my cats caught and ate them and got sick. Ugh! I hate earwigs.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2005 at 8:50AM
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My reading suggests that the mite predators perform better in enclosed hoophouses. Is your success in the field? Or under cover?

Many thanks, I've got to do something and have hesitated to buy these b/c all my dahlias (and my mites) are field grown.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2005 at 5:45PM
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whitejade(z5 MI)

Here's another Michigan dahlia lover and I too am one who thinks you shouldn't give up either! I find dahlias really easy to grow from seed - have done it twice now and they are gorgeous. Maybe new dahlia plants would be good as opposed to tubers. (??) I grow lots of plants from seed and I have to say dahlias really ARE very easy to do. I don't use a grow light - just place the tray on/near the windowsill of south window. They do just fine. I have found that if I start the seed early - like early March - and pot the seedlings in their own 2 by 2 grow containers (in one plastic tray there are about 20 planter cubes so with two trays and you've got a whole garden practically ) that I have tremendous results! Mine are flowering already - they have been for a week now , though they need to gain steam . (I did Stargazer dahlias , mixed)

It's possible that new plants each year could be a great way to go for you...who knows...maybe if the plant acclimates to your energy there from the very start that will make a difference for you.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 8:13PM
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anna_in_quebec(z4 QC)

Whitejade - I too love starting dahlias from seed, but I never have tried it early indoors. They don't get too leggy or suffer from dampoff disease?


    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 9:36AM
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lola1(z9 Cen. CA)

I hear your frustration, Cheryl, and I understand your desire not to use harsh chemicals. Predacious mites can work in the field, but it takes a while to attract them. Have you tried spraying with neem oil? Perhaps you've already considered it, but spraying 2T/gallon of neem will not hurt any birds or other wildlife. The natural, organic oil is safe, but mites HATE it. Yes, you'll need to spray every 4-5 days for about 2 weeks or so. After that, your dahlias should only require a maintenance spray, I don't know, perhaps every week or so.

I have never had much luck w/ spraying water or insecticidal soaps. I have, though, had a lot of luck w/ neem. This year has been a bad one for mites.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2005 at 7:59PM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

I'm still trying to get the whole Dahlia thing figured out. Each year they get a little less disreputable looking--fewer spider mites, more flowers. Eventually I'll get it right. I know I will. Someone near my workplace grows the things in 5-gallon nursery cans and theirs are ALWAYS spectacular.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2005 at 5:48PM
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Thanks to everyone for the words of encouragement AND the info. Nearly half of my 75+ dahlias are grown in 5 gal. nursery cans on the deck. Those are the afflicted ones! I haven't tried predatory insects yet - figured it to be too late in the year. I have been on the rampage with insect. soap for weeks! I also will try Neem to rid myself of the buggers (spider mites, although yup, the very few blooms I got have earwig damage). I very successfully wintered my tubers dusted with sulfured vermiculite in plastic ziplock bags. I read that the female s.mites do winter over, but where? Could they have been hiding in the very short stem remnant? And could they withstand sulfur dust? I washed absolutely everything (except the deck!) with bleach water before planting. I wonder if the combo of pots and deck humidity, light reflection, etc. gave them just the right environment. Anyone hear of this ever?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 3:46PM
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richg62inNY(z5 NY)

Oh Cheryl:
sounds like you have gotten good advice from all. I have been extra lucky this year with my Dahlias my reds are flowering like crazy about 2 1/2 ft tall or more and a full 2 ft. in circ. my whites are even taller and rounder. I have had mites but, not on my dahlias (thank the lord) I used a small omount of clove oil and sulpher mixed with water. But I don't know if this will affect your toads you would have to check with the amphibian experts on that one. Please don't give up yet there must be something one can do in your situation. Best of luck to you, your family , and your toads. Richgin NY

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 11:24AM
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I just thought I'd revise this thread since we are in the depths of spider mite season here . . . again!

I've grown dahlias for years and the mites are my worse problem. Oh yeah, the earwigs eat holes in the leaves and then wreck the petals but the mites have even killed my plants!

This is a hot, dry part of the country and the Colorado State U website TrowelGal recommended comments on the problems with mites in those conditions. Also, they say that Isotox is effective. I've been using that pesticide weekly and still the mites always show up in a major way. (Suspect that Cheryl would NOT want to risk her toads to Isotox for good reason.)

I once worked in a rose greenhouse and the head grower was convinced that washing the plants did nearly as much good as spraying them with a miticide. But, it was in combination that the system worked best. Blasting the mites off the plants with water, allowing the foliage to dry, then spraying was most effective. It works fairly well for me also probably because the mites on the ground nearly always get sprayed whereas the mites under the leaves may be shielded. Contrary to what may have been said about my aim - I can hit the floor with both my hat and the bug spray.

My question, is there anything else I can be doing? Unlike Lola, my experience using neem was absolutely unsatisfactory.

And Cheryl, did you give up on dahlias? Look, I've battled the mites on dahlias for well over a decade and still put out hundreds of tubers each year. I don't think a self-respecting toad would come anywhere close to this arid landscape so I don't have them to worry about but, gosh, seeing those bright, beautiful blooms every year is worth an effort.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 10:18PM
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HI Cheryl,
I feel your pain. My crocosmia this year was COVERED in spider mites, and nothing seemed to help. Did you ever figure it out? I didn't get on top of them right away, but I am thinking about bailing on crocosmia and it is one of my favorite things in the garden.
curious to know how you resolved this.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 9:40AM
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Well, just a "catch-up" for anyone who might benefit.... I had a much better dahlia year this year. Hardly any signs of spider mites at all - yea! My tubers had wintered over well enough but in the spring when I planted them I used a systemic insecticide/fertilizer made by Bayer called '2 in 1 Rose & Flower Care'. Has anyone used it? Every few weeks I hit them again, soil-wise, with it. Of course as might be expected, I got a whole lot of foliage, but I did get some real beautiful blooms too. (No success with any reds though!) So, I don't know, maybe that's the secret to solving my problem. I've looked for other systemics such as this one by Bayer, but haven't found any. Is this the only manufacturer of such a systemic insecticide? Anyone know?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 11:31PM
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AVID is an excellent systemstic to use on spider mites. It is very expensive $90 or so a pint, but it works and it only takes a very small amount. A pint will last a lifetime or at least 10 years. I mix it in my spray each time I spray my dahlias. It can be purchased at Southern AG located in Hendersonville, NC and in Florida.

Here is a link that might be useful: Southern ag

    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 11:59PM
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