Thursday, September 18, 2014

FAQ: What is this? It's a dahlia.

A new homeowner in Maine asks questions about plants he finds growing in his landscape. "What is this?"
That's a dahlia. Dahlias are tuberous-rooted plants that are grown from seed, cuttings or tubers.  Most gardeners start with tubers because they are easily obtained and predictable. I don't know which one judging from the picture, but it could be 'Babylon Red'.

Dahlias require exposure to full sun for at least 6 hours per day, and well-drained sandy loam with pH between 6.0 and 7.5.  Their cold-hardiness varies. In USDA climate zones 6 or 7 they can be left in the ground over winter, but you live in zone 5.

After the first hard frost, cut off the plant stalks close to the ground.  After a couple of weeks, the tuberous clumps can be dug and stored over winter.  Store them in a very cool and dark place.  Care must be taken to prevent them from freezing and drying.  Baskets make excellent storage containers because they allow ventilation along the sides.  Without adequate ventilation the tubers will rot.  Sprinkle with water every week or so to replace lost moisture.

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