Dahlias not looking like they did in the advertising pictures?

HighlanderNorthJuly 23, 2011

I bought my first dahlia tubers at a Lowes in 2006, in a box, on the spur of the moment. I had started a landscaping Co 2 years earlier, and most customers, and their neighbors had the same typical flowers and flowering shrubs, and there wasnt anyone growing anything more uncommon, so there wasnt much variety per se.

So I decided that the best way to learn about new plants was to grow them on my own property, so I bought that box of 3 dahlia tuber clusters, a box of Calla Lillies, seeds for Sweet Peas, etc.

I planted the dahlias and within 35 days they were already growing the first flower. They grew to about 40-48" tall and had 4-5" diameter flowers which were bi colored lilac and white. But they did look exactly like the picture on the box said they would.

Then, I began looking on the internet at other dahlia varieties, and discovered that there were thousands! I liked a lot of them, but one really caught my eye. It was Alfred Grille. The picture I saw of that flower on a dahlia farm's website was gorgeous. But it was too late in the year to order, so I waited til 2007. Then in 2007, I looked it up again, and found another garden forum site which included lots of pictures uploaded by people who had grown these different flowers, so i looked at the different "Alfred Grille" pictures, and literally none of them looked even close to what the original picture from the dahlia farm looked like! It was obvious that they were the same variety, but the colors were dull and fairly ugly, not at all as pretty and bright as the original picture.

So I didnt buy it. Instead, I ordered 7 dahlias from "Dan's Dahlias", and was disappointed when I got the order in and found that they had been out of stock of 3 or 4 of the dahlias I'd ordered, but they still allowed me to order them, and didnt contact me to let me pick out some other dahlias to substitute. Instead they sent me 3 or 4 undesirable, cheaper dahlias. Then to add insult to injury, only 3 of the 7 actually grew! Then, one of them died! The 2 left over that lived were not what I'd ordered!

So this year, I ordered 7 dahlias from Swan Island Dahlias, and bought 3 more from a local store. 2 of the varieties I ordered were "Crazy Legs" and "Fuzzy Wuzzy". Granted the names are stupid, but the pictures looked really cool, so I ordered them. Then I looked up other pictures of these 2 varieties, and they didnt look as good as the advertisement pics, so I'm hoping when they flower they will look good, but who knows.........

Has anyone had the same experience with dahlias not looking as good as advertised?

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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

I've had them look both better and also not as good. I've been growing Arabian Night for about 5 years. Some years it's blah, and then there's this year, where everyone comments on how gorgeous it is. I ordered 10 from Swan Island this year, and so far 4 have bloomed. One is too early to tell if it's as good or not, 2 are much more richly colored than the online catalog, and on the 4th, it's about the same, but maybe a little paler.
I've noticed that the weather and placement (how much sun and what is growing around them) have a huge difference

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 4:34AM
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Linda's Garden z6 Utah

Most of the dahlias I have ordered from Swan Island do look like the pictures in the catalog. I also have noticed that depending the weather the colors are different. Mine are much more vibrant once fall comes around and the temps are cooler. I think the hot summer weather fades some of them.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 12:12PM
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This is common issue with people who are new to dahlias. First, may I comment that dahlia pictures are taken to flatter the flower and to encourage you to buy it. Seed sellers have been doing this for over a hundred years when they put color pictures of flowers and vegetables on the face of the seed packet. Growing dahlias is like growing any other flower and it does take some gardening skills. The first challenge is to get them to sprout out of the ground, 90% of the time when someone says their dahlia did not grow, it was eaten by a slug or a snail. You need to control them.

As far as the colors of the flowers, do as the other person said and look up other pictures of the flower on a google search and then make up your mind. Remember that some dahlia varieties do fade in bright sun while most do not. And also, most dahlia sellers will replace varieties if they do not grow. Send an e mail and a list to whomever you bought them from and they will probably make it right next year.
Growing dahlias can be quite rewarding and if possible look up a local dahlia club for help and possibly some free or very inexpensive tubers along with their advice.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 2:13PM
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Some varieties will just grow better in your placement, soil, weather, etc than others. There is a lot to learn about dahlias. I've been growing them for over 10 years and until recently, I haven't been connected with the dahlia community. And I found out that I had a lot to learn, even though I wouldn't call my prior gardens unsuccessful. There's just a lot to know. Take for example a catalog picture of one of the big ones (AA) and you plant it expecting it to be at least 10 inches. A newcomer might not know that to get the big flowers, you have to sacrifice a few other buds. Further, a newcomer might not know to separate the tubers in the following year rather than leave the clump in the ground, wondering why the flowers get smaller. There are a lot of little things to pick up.

I don't know how big your garden space is. If you only have room for a handful of plants, then it would be difficult to control expectations. It seems when you grow a lot of them, some will be magnificent, some good, some ho hum, and some will be compost in the fall. I buy a lot at club sales. The prices are reasonable, the advice good, and the product comes from local gardens that have been exposed to similar weather that yours will be exposed to.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 8:58AM
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I guess there are a lot of factors that affects the growth of dahlia flowers like the soil, the variety and, of course, the weather. With good sunshine and enough water, your dahlias should turn out just fine. Don't forget to post some pics if you manage to pull off awesome flowers.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 12:40PM
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Swan puts a disclaimer in their catalogue about their pics sometimes not matching due to pre-press ink colors etc.

But I have had every experience dealing with names and colors that everyone here posted and I am convinced some dahlias are just hard headed. I had (the equivalent of) Awe Shucks (from Connells?) bloom last year and it was so YELLOW after the first bloom that I moved it from the orange section to the yellow section this year. So what does it do? It's been every bit the orange I thought it was supposed to be originally. I only moved it 8 feet away - same soil, ground, feeding and watering.

I planted a store bought smallish rust orange tuber, planted it in the orange section in the ground and it barely bloomed at all last year. Got perhaps 6-7 small flowers. Color was 'muddy' - not at all what I thought it was supposed to be. So I moved it to a container in the 'graveyard' and this year it has been spectacular. Numerous blooms off a taller plant with rust orange blooms starting out reddish orange.

The bottom line (IMHO)is that like others have said, so many factors can affect size, color and hardiness that I suspect few identical dahlias look and grow the same in any 2 gardens. I've learned to be patient (up to 3 years of no blooms even) as long as the plant looks healthy and simply accept what you get. For a color coordinated gardener like me, this advice drives me nuts but it is reality in a dahlia world. Dahlias just aren't like roses which always look like the box!


    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 9:42PM
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