How to Grow Dahlia Seeds

Grow Guide #2261
Family: Asteraceae
Binomial name: Dahlia variabilis
Life Cycle: Perennial (usually grown as an annual in cold climates)

This 'How to Grow' guide details everything a home gardener needs to know to plant, grow and care for Dahlias (Dahlia variabilis).

(This guide provides instructions on how to grow dahlias from seed. Dahlias can also be grown from tubers, the swollen roots of dahlia plants that are dug up and sold bare rooted (without soil). To learn how to grow from tubers, click here.)

When to Sow Dahlia Seeds

Dahlia is a warm season flower. Use the table below to identify the best time of year to sow dahlia seeds in your climate.

  JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Cool
Temperate
Sub-Tropical
Tropical
Arid

Preparation

Dahlia plants are best grown in full sun or part shade. Choose a location that will receive at least 3 hours of full sun each day.

Dahlia plants need a well drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. Prepare soil by weeding it thoroughly, digging it over to loosen it and adding aged animal manure or compost. Keep the area free of weeds until planting. Learn more about preparing soil for planting here.

Dahlia plants can be grown in containers. If possible choose a variety that’s recommended for container growing. Use a good quality potting mix and make sure your container is large enough for mature plants; a minimum of 40 litres is recommended for dahlias. During the growing season, keep in mind that container grown plants may need additional fertiliser to encourage healthy growth.

How to Sow Dahlia Seeds

Dahlia seeds do not require any treatment (eg soaking, stratification) before sowing.

Dahlia seeds can be sown directly into the garden OR seedlings can be raised in trays or other containers and transplanted to the garden once established.

Sow Direct

  1. Sow seeds directly in the garden 10mm deep and 30-45cm apart.
  2. Keep soil moist but never wet or dry.
  3. Seeds should germinate in around 3-5 days at a soil temperature of 18-21°C.
  4. Young seedlings will need protection from pests, pets and weather until they are established.

Raise Seedlings

  1. Fill trays, punnets or jiffy pots with a good quality seed-raising mix, or use soil starter pellets.
  2. Sow seeds 10mm deep.
  3. Keep soil moist but never wet or dry.
  4. Seeds should germinate in around 3-5 days at a soil temperature of 18-21°C.
  5. Transplant seedlings to the garden once they have their first true leaves and are large enough to handle (usually 5-10cm tall).
  6. Plant out, spacing plants 30-45cm apart.

Dahlia is a tender crop that’s sensitive to frost. Do not transplant seedlings or sow seeds outside until all danger of frost has passed.

Optional: In cool climates dahlia seeds can be sown indoors 6 weeks before the last expected frost. Grow them in a warm position with plenty of natural light.

How to Grow Dahlia

Dahlia plants may need watering during the growing season. Water when the soil is dry about 5cm below the surface (test this by scratching away a little soil with your finger). Water deeply in the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid watering the leaves of plants to avoid fungal diseases. Learn more about watering here.

If soil was well prepared no extra fertiliser should be necessary. In poor soil or to give your plants an extra boost, application of a high-potassium fertiliser or one formulated for flowering plants can be beneficial:

  • Apply slow release fertiliser at the recommended rate when transplanting or when seedlings are 5-10cm tall.
  • Apply liquid fertiliser at the recommended rate and frequency while plants are fruiting or flowering.

Dahlia plants may need to be supported as they grow. Depending on the expected size and height of the plant, use a stake, bamboo cane, trellis or string lines to support plants. Make sure you have the support in place when you sow seed or transplant seedlings to avoid disturbing the plant's roots later.

Optional: Pinch out the growing tips of dahlia plants to encourage denser growth with stronger stems and more flowers. Using sharp secateurs or snips remove the top set of leaves, cutting just above a set of lower leaves.

Dahlia plants should flower in approximately 110-130 days.

Deadhead dahlia flowers regularly during the growing season. Using sharp secateurs or snips cut fading or dead flowers off just above a set of leaves. Removing old flowers regularly will encourage plants to produce more flowers. Learn more about deadheading flowering plants here.

If growing dahlias for cut flowers, use sharp snips or secateurs to cut the longest stems possible, removing the lower leaves and placing the stems immediately in a clean bucket of water. Learn more about cutting and conditioning homegrown flowers here.

If growing as perennials - When plants have finished flowering prune stems to half their height. When leaves begin to change colour in autumn or winter, prune stems to 10cm above ground level. Tubers can be left in the ground over winter in very well drained soil, but will benefit from being lifted and divided every second year. Use a garden fork to gently lift the entire plant and wash off the excess soil. Using clean, sharp snips or secateurs, divide the tubers, retaining part of the old stalk and making sure there is at least one eye per tuber. Store tubers hortizontally in just-damp potting mix, sawdust or coir until replanting.

Common Problems when Growing Dahlias

Like all plants, dahlia is susceptible to some pests, diseases and other problems. Below is a list of the most common problems gardeners encounter when growing dahlia plants:

  • Aphids
    Aphids are small (2-4mm long) sap-sucking insects that congregate on the new shoots or the undersides of leaves. They can cause leaves to wilt or become discoloured, and also excrete honeydew which can attract ants and other insect pests. To manage aphids, remove them by spraying with a garden hose, apply a soap or alcohol spray, or encourage predatory insects to your garden. Read more about aphids here.
  • strawberry with botrytis
    Grey mould (Botrytis sp.) is a fungal disease that causes flowers to become mouldy and fruit to rot. Spores are transported by wind and can survive in soil or on green waste. The fungus spreads most in cool, damp weather. Prune off affected flowers and fruit, water plants at soil level (not on leaves) and if necessary spray with an appropriate fungicide or homemade spray.
  • Frost damage
    Frost damage can cause leaves to wilt and go black. Do not plant seedlings in the garden until all danger of frost has passed in spring, and harvest plants before winter. Prune all frost-damaged leaves to avoid them rotting on the plant.
  • Powdery Mildew
    Powdery mildew is caused by fungal spores reproducing on the leaves of plants. First showing as white spots on leaves, affected areas can spread quickly to cover the entire leaf surface. While rarely fatal, powdery mildew can reduce yields. Water plants at soil level (not on leaves) to prevent spreading spores, allow good air flow between plants, remove affected leaves and if necessary spray with an appropriate fungicide or homemade spray. Read more here about powdery mildew here.
  • Slugs and Snails
    Slugs and snails are molluscs that feed on tender leaves and shoots, mostly at night, leaving slimy trails behind them. Control them by removing their hiding places, keeping free range poultry, collecting them by torchlight or by placing traps. Read more about slugs and snails here.
  • thrip on a flower
    Thrips are black, beige or white flying insects (<1.5mm) with larvae that suck tissue from leaves and petals, leaving behind very small white or transparent markings. While not usually causing serious damage, the marks affect the look of flowers and foliage and thrips can also transfer pathogens from one plant to another. Wash thrips from affected plants using a garden hose, encourage predatory mites and lacewings with companion planting, or spray with soap, eco-oil or neem oil.

Browse Dahlia Seeds

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Dahlia- Cactus Flowered Mix

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$2.00

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Dahlia- Fireworks Mix
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Dahlia- Fireworks Mix

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$8.50

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