Dahlias ahead of schedule somehow..... But why and how?

HighlanderNorthJuly 3, 2014

Ok, so we had another cool spring this year, but when I checked out my overwintering tubers in late April, many of them were already sprouting stems and a few roots. So my options were to leave the tubers in their bags, where they will continue to grow and become stunted, or go ahead and plant them individually 6-7" deep and hope for no late frosts. So thats what I did on April 28th. These are all dahlias that grow to at least 4-5 feet tall.

Just a few days later we had a big rain storm, and I discovered the area I planted them to be holding water, so that when I dug down a few inches, I literally hit water a day after the storm! I had to dig the tubers up and transplant or they would rot in the spring rains.

So I decided to get a sand/soil mixture and build several 8" tall mounds above the holes where they were originally planted. I replanted the tubers about 6" below the tops of the mounds, so that they were now at or above ground level to avoid excess water. It took them at least 2 weeks to break the soil surface. Then for the next few weeks they were all thin, weak looking plants. I topped at the 2nd or 3rd leaf levels. They were hardly growing yet and were just 6-8" tall with thin stems.

Then about 2.5 weeks ago they began growing more rapidly. I was away for 1.5 weeks, but when I got back I saw the dahlia plants had MUCH thicker stems and were now growing. Then 1 week later, they are roughly 2 feet tall with thick stems and they have their first flower buds, which appear to be within a week of opening.

Also, I had forgotten to dig up and split the tubers from a Crazy Legs dahlia that had grown in a slightly different area last year, so I noticed a few stems popping up from this group of tubers about a week after I planted the tubers mentioned above^. But this dahlia has been growing much faster than all the others, maybe because of no spring transplanting, and its now 5 feet 5 inches tall as of yesterday, and its first flowers are just starting to open. I allowed 2 stems to grow from this group of tubers, so that makes it look even thicker. Its extremely healthy!

I grew all these varieties starting in 2011, and I carefully kept records of their growth/blooming, etc. They all took between 72-92 days from planting til the 1st flowers opened in 2011, under ideal and hot conditions. In other words, this year these dahlias will only have taken 65 to 70 days, even though they appeared to have started out more slowly than in 2011.. One of the dahlias thats just about to flower is Citron De Cap. This was one of the dahlias that took the longest to bloom(92 days) in 2011, but this year it'll take only 70 days!

Cant figure out how they went from being thin and spindly looking, to thick and healthy looking, then to blooming in just 65-70 days, when they were originally advertised to take at least 90 days!!

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Good luck? I notice my simple Sky Angel (I like to cut the blooms from that as they're a nice color) is also ahead this year. But it's been pretty warm here.

The new dahlia I added are exploding as well, and those were planted very late (and on clearance sale).

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 2:13PM
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portia(PA 6B, Brandywine)

This is my first year with dahlias but I already have a few budding..! Some were slow to get started, others slow to recover once planted in the ground (started in pots in April), but I am surprised to see buds so early here..figured not til late July. We shall see. Only a few have buds, some others are slower, and yet others barely seem to be growing. I have a few Crazy Love tubers that were going gangbusters in pots, transplanted, they have stagnated since. Other tubers planted AFTER the CL's are the ones budding! It's amazing how some varieties just seem so robust and others aren't--even in the same bed!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 10:45AM
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My understanding is that there are typically two indicators of when dahlias will bloom... Growing conditions and leaf set counts. (A buildup of virus plays a factor in the growing condition, which can stunt a plant)

Each variety of dahlia has a genetically pre-determined number of leaf sets required before a plant sets buds. For example, Mingus Toni (a nice varigated informal decorative) always blooms for me after about eight sets of leaves starting from the tuber. (This year, I had the sad task of disbudding a terminal bud in April before I even got it into the ground. Still waiting for the first blooms from that one, as I topped the plant to help it develop side branches.) Regardless of where this variety grows, one should have an average of eight leaf sets from bloom to tuber. I've seen as few as six (Hollyhill Spiderwoman) to mid-20s (Levonne Splinter) leaf sets, with citron de Cap somewhere in the middle (12? 14?)

When growing conditions are optimized and even, advanced growers can use leaf count data for each variety to time blooms for shows. Some delay blooming by debranching and extreme disbudding, counting the leaf sets and only allowing the plant to set a bud at the right time.

Perhaps tracking leaf sets might interest you.... But it is from the tuber and not the ground level, so there is a risk of damaging the plant/tuber at this point to get the exact count. I only casually notice them, as it's interesting but not pertinate info for how I grow.

It sounds like growing conditions really excelled after things settled down, and you've got some great dahlias coming on to make all the early stress well worth it!


This post was edited by CCvacation on Mon, Jul 21, 14 at 13:30

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 1:02AM
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