more dahlias because I can’t help myself

by Sharon Santoni

I know I’ve already talked to you about dahlias this month. But here I am again!  What can I say?!  They are intoxicating my daily garden visits.   Their colours, their size and their sheer luxuriance is quite inebriating.

Add to their beauty there is a sense of urgency.  The nights are getting much colder and the inevitable first frost is surely just a few weeks, we know the dahlias are soon to be doomed.  That in a few weeks time we’ll wake to find the garden frozen overnight, sounding the moment to put the garden to bed.  But for now they are still blooming strong, and the more I pick, the more flowers they produce.

When I shared a dahlia bouquet a few weeks ago, I received a lot of emails asking how best to grow them.    Of course I can’t speak for every climate, and I am not an expert, but here in Normandy where we have regular changes of seasons, this is how we do it.

I like to plant any new tubers in the spring.   They can be started off in pots and then planted in the ground, or even left to grow permanently in pots.    If you already have dahlias in the ground, the gardening books tell you to lift the tubers and over winter them somewhere cool and dark..  I have tried that, but getting them back into the ground on time seems to require more discipline than I can display.   This year, the only tubers I’ll lift will probably be a couple of my favourite varieties, or those where I only have one plant.   Any others will be cut back almost to the ground and left in the soil, their protruding stalk base tagged with a label bearing either their name, or at least their height and colour.

The ones that are lifted are cleaned, then put into the cellar in a crate of sand to overwinter.  I put clear labels on each crate so I know where to replant next year.

A girlfriend of mine grows dahlia from seed, which I have never done.   Another friend takes cuttings very successfully in the early spring, but the most common method for propagation is to divide the tuber and plant the separate rhizomes,, making sure that each one has an ‘eye’ ready to sprout.

Apart from that all you need to know is that they need regular water, and do well in sun or dappled shade.  The tallest dahlias like to be staked and supported, otherwise their heavy heads will pull them to the ground.  To encourage new flowers simply keep deadheading or picking the blooms to bring them inside.



It’s worthwhile finding a really good dahlia producer especially if you want some of the more unusual varieties.  Here in France I love to use Ernest Turc, and if I were in the States, I’d be ordering from Floret whose dahlia collection is breathtaking, and who also offers fantastic advice on how to grow and propagate.

Here are a few names of some of my favourites this year, that you can spot in these pictures:  Shiloh Noelle (huge, white flowers with a mauve center);  Café au Lait; Bel Amour; Apelsini Sniega; Emory Paul …. and many more.

I’d love to know how dahlias work for you, and if you are in a very hot, or very cold,  climate whether you have found ways to help them bloom.  Also, if you have the names of any big fluffy blooms for me to try, I’m listening!  Merci!


Nettie September 30, 2020 - 10:50 pm

Gorgeous! You tempt me to try some next year.

Janet Corey October 2, 2020 - 1:07 pm

I, like you love Dahlias and have never been successful taking them out of soil and planting them in time. I will try again and this year will leave one in the ground for a test, until then each Spring I will shop for new ones. I live in Maine

Rosita December 17, 2020 - 6:44 am

I’m from Malaysia. I love dahlias & hzve been pkanting for a couple of years now. Malaysia climate is equatorial, quite hot & humid. Fortunately dahlia grow well here. My favourite is the dinner plate, pure white ‘Fleur:

Bonnie Wood September 30, 2020 - 11:24 pm

Beautiful flowers. I’ve never grown Dahlias. I have 11 Hydrangea plants!!!! DUH!!!??? My garden here in Little Rhody is soooooooooooooo overgrown it’s a crime!!! Started to clean up yesterday, but we have a long way to go. Au revoir and stay safe!!!!

Jeanette September 30, 2020 - 11:41 pm

I grow Dahlias in pots on my deck in North Central New Mexico. I love them. Our elevation is 7500’.

Trish September 30, 2020 - 11:54 pm

Want to see some incredible dahlias?

Check out Charlie McCormick in Dorset.

Ruth October 1, 2020 - 12:15 am

I feel so fortunate to have sandy, loamy, sharp draining soil and a moderate climate that allow me to leave my tubers in the ground as long as I cover the remaining stems to prevent rot. I am a confessed lazy gardener. 🙂

mary October 1, 2020 - 12:42 am

I THINK DEER LIKE TO EAT THEM because mine are all gone.

Penny October 1, 2020 - 2:19 am

Delicious! Reminds me of my Daddy’s garden growing up in Carmel, California

Diane Semper October 1, 2020 - 3:10 am

I luv dahlias too- but after cutting yo make a bouquet- slimy black bugs come out- how do you get rid of them?

L. October 1, 2020 - 4:42 pm

I had so many beautiful blooms this year I felt overwhelmed — but they filled my home with so much joy! Next season my plan is to try to take bouquets over to my local senior living center! I am obsessed with Dahlias and have loved seeing your pics!

Jae October 1, 2020 - 4:47 pm

I also am a collector of Dahlias here on the North Oregon Coast, US. Unfortunately, just as they were profusely blooming the elk herd came into my garden and devoured them along with all of the apples and apple leaves and anything else they could find. I also have approximately 35 Hydrangeas, which make deer sick but the elk will sample anyway. I am glad you can grow so many varieties of plants in France as that is my next destination for retirement. I will close my pastry shop here in Canon Beach in anticipation of the quarantine being lifted. Normandy is the region I am considering. Maybe we will run into each other.

Kathryn Gauci October 2, 2020 - 3:54 am

Simply glorious. You have obviously mastered the art of growing them. What a show!!! Well done. If my garden was like yours, I would sit outside all day, enjoy it and never get any work done.
My grandfather in Yorkshire used to grow dahlias and show them at the Chelsea flower show.

Lyn johnson October 2, 2020 - 4:09 am

My Dad grew dahlias, he staked them. labeled them, stored them in sand and when they flowered, we enjoyed the beautiful blooms. Each season we travelled by train out to Essendon, (Victoria, Australia) to visit the ‘Dahlia Man’ he grew a profussion of PomPom dahlias, I loved to see the extensive colourful areas. Its all covered with houses now. Sharon sharing you lovely photos and hints about dahlias has revived many happy memories spent with my Dad and his dahlias. Thank you.

Joanna Dawson October 2, 2020 - 11:49 am

I have only just discovered dahlias (to be honest, only lately come to gardening. ) My neighbour gave me some dahlia plants that they had grown from seed which I scattered about the garden. I was thrilled when they all turned out to be different, so colourful and showy. I was wondering what to do with them when I read your piece. So now I know. Living in the south of England just a hop across the channel from Normandy ( one of my favourite places to visit. Have been known to pop across and spend a day on one of the lovely beaches then back home again in the evening. I’ve really missed it this year and am feeling quite bereft)
As the climate here is pretty much identical I shall follow your instructions to the letter and I look forward to more beautiful blooms next year.
I really enjoy reading your blog and following you on the various platforms. I am definitely a lover of all things French so you are providing me with my fix while I cant visit in person. So thank you.

Savitri October 2, 2020 - 5:08 pm

I love dahlias and have tried growing them in my garden, unfortunately rabbits love them too!!! (FYI they also are great fans of Japanese anemones…) The buds of both appear to be quite the gustatory delight!

macleung December 7, 2020 - 10:35 pm

I’m here to recommend a home based freelance blogging site where I can easily earn $300 to $800 a day at is really good!

Rosita December 17, 2020 - 6:48 am

Sprinkle sluggo or any other snail baits sold at agriculture centre or plant nursery

Mama Perkins January 10, 2021 - 4:39 am

My son gave me some seeds for my birthday. I have no idea what’s gonna happen, l am probably gonna try planting them in some long pots in February or March and praying that something grows. I have no knowledge about these flowers, i just hope l don’t ruin them.

Mae pearson March 5, 2021 - 10:18 pm

How can you order them


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