Come August, the dahlias get all of the attention on our farm. Even though we have at least 50 other types of flowers blooming right now - and way more than 50 when you count each color and variety of flower (for example, we have 7 different types of zinnias alone) - but the dahlias are queen. Their colorful, textured blooms are what flower-lover dreams are made of.
Dahlias are a very diverse type of flower: some varieties that have blooms as small as a quarter and others as large as a dinnerplate. We grow a wide range of varieties with varying colors and sizes, but our primary consideration is for plants that have long, sturdy stems, colors that are in demand for weddings and plants that are highly productive, pumping out blooms week after week. Each year add new varieties to trial and we inevitably cull others that don’t make the cut for our farm’s needs. Some dahlias are more prone to powdery mildew, some only produce a handful of blooms each season, and others are a must-grow due to their unmatched coloration even though they are fairly high maintenance (I’m looking at you, Cafe au Lait).
We do grow some varieties and colors that are necessary for our market, but are also high maintenance when it comes to growing dahlias in the south. ‘Cafe au Lait’ blooms in a blush to beige (and sometimes straight up pink) color that you just cannot find in another type of dahlia - they are in huge demand for weddings! However they have a notoriously short vase life, are prone to powdery mildew and bug damage and have spindly stems after about a month of cutting. White colored dahlias are in high demand because its such a popular color for weddings, but we constantly battle bug damage. Every imperfection shows up on white blooms (kind of like how its impossible to keep a white shirt clean).
I wanted to share with you some true workhorse dahlia varieties that will always have a spot in our dahlia field. These are all heavy producers, have a great vase life and are easy to source tubers. I photographed these on two different backgrounds since the colors can look so different depending on the lighting, background, screen settings, etc.
Linda’s Baby is a peachy-pink ball variety. Long, sturdy stems for cutting and very productive. Our plants tend to bloom brighter than photos from growers I’ve seen in other parts of the country (where they may be more muted peach). Their color is really gorgeous and fades as the bloom ages.
Diva is an incredibly productive dark purple or plum ball dahlia. The plants grow 4.5’ tall with very long sturdy stems. The petals lighten to an almost lavender color on the tips. Its the only purple dahlia that I ever want to grow. The bugs don’t seem to love them as much as other dark-colored dahlias, a total bonus.
Cornel Bronze is a true peach colored dahlia in my opinion, in that its actually the same color as a peach (the fruit), however pumpkin is probably a more popular color description since it has an orangey hue. The blooms are so firm, sturdy and it is very productive.
Meagan Dean is a perfect lilac or pale lavender ball dahlia. Smaller in size at about 3-4” across, it is productive, sturdy with long stems. The petals lighten to an almost blush/white at the tips.
Ivanetti is a dark red to burgundy ball dahlia. It is very (very!) productive, grows on long stems and lasts a long time in the vase. Its color can be tricky to describe because it can look more red than burgundy or maroon at times, but it blends beautifully with other colors and is perfect for fall weddings.
FAVORITE SOURCES FOR DAHLIA TUBERS
Even though I have many more favorites that I could add on the list, I wanted to include varieties that are somewhat easy to source. Most people are not willing to set alarms and plan their day around online stores opening (been there, done that too many times, too much disappointment). Because we grown on a large scale, I primarily order tubers through brokers at a wholesale rate so that I can secure larger quantities of 25-75 tubers per variety. I work with Ednie Flower Bulb Company and Flamingo Holland for wholesale ordering.
I also love to support small farms who provide very high quality tubers to the general public! Here are a few favorites: Swan Island Dahlias, Eden Brothers, Sunny Meadows Flower Farm, Five Fork Farms and Summer Dreams Farm. Late winter is the best time to order dahlia tubers because that is when most farms are diving tubers and have open their online stores.
Now is the time to start compiling your dahlia wish list for next year’s garden while the dahlias are in full bloom. I’d love to hear if you have any tried and true favorites!