Emily Buckley, editor-in-chief
Dahlias are absolutely fun to grow. Adults and children alike are awestruck by the astonishing blossoms that proliferate on each plant. Petals can be spikey or curly or fringed. Flowers can be delicate and pretty, or crazy and funky. Blossoms can grow to be the size of a bouncy ball or the size of a basketball. There is no end to the variety, and once people get started growing dahlias, they often find it hard to limit themselves to just a few.
Dahlias may abound in wedding photographs and magazines, but did you know that these spectacular flowers grow remarkably well in Cache Valley? Ryan and Julie Williams have been growing dahlias around Cache Valley for 13 years. Planting over 300 dahlia plants in their yard and another 300 across the street, their address is a festival of flowers during the summer and fall months.
As members of the American Dahlia Society and the Utah Dahlia Society, Ryan and Julie teamed up with Megan Badger from Salt Lake City (also a UDS member) to start a nationwide online business selling their dahlia varieties to regular gardeners and dahlia enthusiasts all over the country. Instead of selling tubers, however, they sell cuttings, or small plant starts.
“Many people new to gardening shy away from the most impressive flowers for fear that these are difficult to grow, or labor-intensive to maintain,” Julie said. “Similarly, many people aren’t sure what to do with tubers and so avoid using them, sticking with the few common plants found in nurseries. Stonehouse Dahlias is now offering a planting method that is a little simpler for many gardeners.”
At stonehousedahlias.com customers can choose from an expansive catalog of 150 award-winning dahlia varieties. Ryan and Julie then take custom cuttings and get them rooted and growing. In the spring, they ship live, rooted cuttings that are ready to be put in the ground. Local customers can save shipping costs by picking up their order.
“Cuttings take a lot of the guess-work out of planting dahlias,” Julie said. “Tubers are planted deep and can take weeks to grow above ground. Underground, they can be forgotten or accidentally dug up while planting other things. There are also reasons why a tuber may not grow at all, and by the time that is realized, sometimes it’s too late to get a replacement.”
From the start, cuttings from Stonehouse Dahlias are healthy and growing, can be placed easily in any garden design, and can be cared for with confidence.
“Dahlias are fascinating flowers,” said Mark Hurst, president of the Utah Dahlia Society. “You get more bang for your buck with them than any other flower. They start blooming in mid-July and keep blooming until frost.”
Growing dahlias is also a great way to get children interested in flowers and gardening. “Children take a lot of interest in watching a tiny plant grow and produce something so spectacular,” Julie said. “Because the plants continually bloom for months, there are often dead flowers that need to be clipped off. This is a great chore for children. Taking bouquets to neighbors and friends is often a happy, rewarding family activity. Also, kids love taking that are bigger than their heads flowers to their teachers!”
While it may seem a bit cold to be thinking about flowerbeds, winter is a great time to start planning for your spring garden. Stonehouse Dahlias takes orders only through mid-April, so this is the perfect time to peruse their colorful online catalog and dream of warm summer days ahead.
Dahlias are not difficult to grow and are extremely rewarding. Here are a few easy tips:
- Plant in the spring after there is no risk of frost.
- Plant in a space that gets at least six hours of sunlight, preferably more.
- Many varieties grow over three feet tall and should be tied to a stake to prevent tipping over or breaking in a wind storm.
- Cuttings need plenty of water while roots are getting established, then regular watering throughout the summer.
- Look for blooms about 70 days after planting.
- Cut off old, spent flowers to keep plants blooming prolifically.