Photo: p2squared (flickr)
The dahlia is native to Mexico, and Gertrude Jekyll, a British plants-woman, once said, “The dahlia’s first duty in life is to flaunt and to swagger and to carry gorgeous blooms well above its leaves, and on no account to hang its head.”
The so called dinner plate dahlias are named for their size, measuring 10-12 inches or more across. To obtain these huge blossoms, one buys giant variety tubers and then ruthlessly removes all but a few buds. You always get larger flowers and longer stalks if you prune.
- Pinch out the tips of growing shoots at a leaf axil when the shoots are approximately a foot long.
- Repeat this again with the side branches.
- As side buds form on each branch, remove them so that only the terminal bud remains.
This strategy makes the plant slightly but not overly bushy, and it produces fewer but larger flowers. Be sure to remove any smaller buds that form below the main bud on each stem.
Remember that there are also small bedding-type dahlia plants with short stems that are not bred to produce large cut flowers, so do not de-bud them!
The heads of the dinner plate dahlias are quite heavy, and sometimes they are displayed in a large float bowl so viewers can look down on their gorgeous petals.