Dahlia Plant Types: What Are The Different Varieties Of Dahlia
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
There are 42 species of dahlia but innumerable hybrids. These Mexican flowering bushes are popular for their diversity of size and form. Dahlias are classed by their flower type and size. There are six dahlia varieties and seven form classes. Read on to learn more.
Dahlia Plant Types
If you have ever been to a county fair, one of the biggest attractions is often the dahlia building. Here you can see a vast array of dahlia plant types, represented by their flowers. Serious collectors and hobbyists breed specific forms in an attempt to outdo each other on size and spectacle. The results are an ocean of color with amazing forms across the area.
The different types of dahlia are astounding and mind numbing in their excess. The only way even expert growers can keep them all straight is by ordering the types of dahlia flowers into groups.
The actual appearance of a dahlia plant is very similar among species. Most are small to large bushes with deeply cut leaves that stem from tubers. Plants require sun, well-drained soil, plenty of water, and good air circulation. Once you start trying to tell the difference between the species and hybrids, all other similarities become more vague.
Dahlia varieties are divided into flower form classes. These indicate the shape of the flower and occasionally the character of the petals. The other method of separating the varieties of dahlia is by delineating by flower size. This method is a quick and fairly unsophisticated way to tell a class just by eyeballing the blooms.
Flower Form Classes
This way of dividing the species is poetic and requires observation.
- Decorative types may be informal or formal and bear blooms thick with petals that are usually flat but may be rolled.
- Pompoms and balls are just what they sound like. Round ball-shaped flowers with double flat spirally arranged petals. The ray petals are blunt and may be quill-like.
- Cactus types of dahlia flowers are one of the showiest. These blooms have incurved or rolled petals that are nearly straight. The effect is almost of a starburst.
- A broad class is the singles, semi-doubles, colarettes, and anemones. Each has a star-like appearance with flat petals and a distinctive disc.
- Orchid and peony are open centered flowers with one or more rows of ray flowers around a disc.
- Blooms with creased petals are in the stellar class and those with a closed center and flat, broad rows of ray florets are in the waterlily designation.
Flower Size Classification
Another way to order the different types of dahlia is by using their bloom sizes.
- The biggest flowers are in the giant category and may get nearly 10 inches (25 cm.) in diameter.
- The large flowered category gets just under this size at 8 inches (20 cm.).
- Medium flowered varieties are just under 8 inches (20 cm.) while small flowered varieties may one grow 4 inches (10 cm.) in width.
- There are also miniature at 1 ½ to 4 inches (4-10 cm.) and pompoms, which grow less than 1 ½ inch (4 cm.) in diameter.
Each of these is also divided into the cactus, colarette, or anemone, orchid, waterlily, stellar, and ball distinctions. In this way, the explosion of hybrids can be set into their individual class for an easier understanding of their origins and parent. This becomes extremely important for growers and those competing in breeding competitions.
For those of us that simply enjoy the magnificent flowers, it is a fun way to describe some of the original forms of the amazing dahlia.
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14 New Dahlias for Your Summer Flower Garden
It’s December. Have you ordered your dahlias yet? Planting season is still 4 months away, so it may seem early. But dahlia lovers know that the best varieties go fast. With gardening enthusiasm at an all-time high, we expect this year’s dahlia tubers to be snapped up more quickly than ever.
Since we all need more flowers in our lives, we have added FOURTEEN new dahlias for the coming season. That’s in addition to our regular lineup, which already includes 117 others. If you are eager for a quick look at what’s new, you’ll find them all HERE. If you’d like to see our new dahlia varieties up close, read on!
Bountiful Ball Dahlias
There’s no denying that dinnerplate dahlias are the divas of the dahlia world. But ball dahlias have just as many fans — especially among cut flower growers. These dense, globe-like flower heads feature a honeycomb of rightly rolled petals. This makes the blossoms weather-resistant and incredibly durable.
Ball dahlias are robust plants and they produce tons of mid-size blooms that measure 3 to 5” across. PomPon dahlias look just like ball dahlias but they are smaller, measuring just 2 to 3″ across. Both kinds are a joy to work with and last days longer than other types of dahlias. This year’s new additions include Zundert Mystery Fox, Wizard of Oz, Burlesca, Linda’s Baby and Cornel.
Collarette and Anemone-Flowered Dahlias
These dahlias are currently very popular in Britain and are starting to catch on here in the US as well. Both types are distinctive and look more like daisies than dahlias. In the middle of anemone-flowered dahlias, such as Lifestyle and new Totally Tangerine, there is a pompon of tubular petals. These centers are usually lighter or darker in color than the petals that encircle them.
Collarette dahlias such as Kelsey Annie Joy and Kelsey Sunshine are also daisy-like but feature a collar of short, frilly petals around the center. Both types are prolific bloomers and rarely need staking. Bees and butterflies love them, too.
Dashing Decorative Dahlias
Decorative dahlias offer gardeners a mind-boggling array of colors, sizes and flower styles. The blossoms may have flat or slightly rolled petals and, depending on the variety, can measure anywhere from 4 to 7” across.
All of our new decorative dahlias are varieties that are popular with flower farmers. The attributes these growers rely on are equally important to home gardeners: sturdy, vigorous plants that produce lots of flowers on strong stems. We know you will be impressed by Milena Fleur, Daisy Duke, Sweet Love and Blue Boy.
Even More Dahlias to Tempt You
Here are two additional new dahlias for 2021: Libeccio and Tamburo. In color, Libeccio’s flowers are the same amazing coral/violet combination as American Dawn. But the petals are narrower and more relaxed, and this dahlia’s flower heads are almost twice the size.
The flowers of cactus dahlia Tamburo are similar to Nuit d’Ete, which it replaces. The blossoms are about 4″ across and dark as can be. They will add depth and sophistication to all your summer bouquets.
Can’t decide among all these choices? Our exclusive dahlia collections and dahlia color mixes are always an easy option. We have four new collections and two new color mixes. You’ll find them all HERE.
Want to learn more about the different types of dahlias? This infographic breaks it down and lets you see the choices at a glance: Dahlia Flower Types and Sizes.
Tried & True Favorite Dahlia Varieties
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!
Failure in the Garden Growing Dahlias
Growing dahlias for the first time was quite the learning experience. After being lured in by several dinnerplate varieties, I settled on selecting ten different types for the garden. When spring arrived, I planted them after the last frost. I had done some reading, but mostly assumed that the plant would be as easy to grow as other common summer flowering bulbs.
In the months that followed, I was met with one disappointment after another. From bug damage to plants which were completely devoid of blooms to say I was disappointed, would be an understatement.
Through research, I learned that most dahlias will require staking. I devised a plan that I would use large wooden stakes. I set the stakes at planting time and patiently waited for the tubers to begin growing. By the time the weather had warmed, over half the sprouts had been eaten by slugs. Though slugs are normally not an issue in my garden, the wetter than usual spring had made my garden their personal buffet. As the plants grew, I consistently staked them and fertilized as scheduled.
Soon, I had managed to grow plants that were 6 feet (1.8 m.) tall. The problem? No blooms. As it would turn out, I had been fertilizing my dahlia plants with too much nitrogen. Additionally, the hot mid-summer temperatures in my garden caused the plants to become stressed. Next, the plants were overcome with beetles and began to show signs of disease. Though growing instructions had called for a full sun location, many quickly wilted when temperatures climbed above 90 F. (32 C.).
By the end of the growing season, only two dahlia plants were left in my garden. Even though I had technically followed all the advice that I had found online, it took a complete failure in the garden to realize that growing dahlias, in my southern garden, needed extra care and attention in order to truly thrive.
As my most recent plantings of dahlia flowers continue to grow and bloom profusely, I am always thankful for learning my lesson the hard way. Take your flower gardening fails, or any other, in stride. While they may be disappointing, they’re also teaching moments that help us become better at what we love doing most – gardening.
10 varieties of modern Dahlia flowers:
1. Single-flowered Dahlias:
Flowers in this group consist of a single set of petals around the central disc. The blooms are about 10 cm in diameter.
2. Star Dahlias:
The blooms are small, consisting of 2 or 3 rows of somewhat pointed petals which are slightly incurved forming a cup around the central disc.
3. Anemone-flowered Dahlias:
In this group, the flowers have a dense dome-shaped central disc of tubular florets surrounded by an outer ring of petals.
4. Collarette Dahlias:
The flowers of this group somewhat resemble the singles, but there is an additional ring of small petals (the collar), which are about half the length of outer petals. Buy flower seeds online in India .
5. Paeony flowered Dahlias:
This group consists of semi-double blooms of a few rows of petals surrounding a central disc. The blooms may be of large, medium or small size.
6. Decorative Dahlias:
The blooms of this class are fully double, and the central disc is not visible until the blooms are aged. The petals are flat and broad with a blunt point.
7. Cactus dahlias:
These also have fully double blooms like decorative Dahlias. Petals in this group are narrower and more pointed like cactus spines. Sometimes petals tend to curve backwards. Buy decorative flowering plants online .
8. Double show & fancy Dahlias:
The blooms in this group are also fully double, almost globular, with small central florets. The Margins of petals are incurved, tubular, and blunt at mouth. The flowers are over 10 cm in diameter.
9. Pompom Dahlias:
These resemble exactly the double show and fancy Dahlias in shape of bloom except that these are much smaller in size.
10. Dwarf bedding Dahlias:
The height of the plants in this group is between 30 and 60 cm which is much less than regular Dahlia plant, but the formation of the flower may belong to any of the above groups.
Apart from these, there are many small groups of Dahlias which are not covered by any one of the above classes. These are referred as miscellaneous Dahlias.
Dahlia Tubers VS Dahlia Seeds
While many garden flowers are planted by seed, most dahlias are planted as a bulb referred to as a dahlia tuber. If you see a variety of dahlias that you like and you want to grow the same plant, then you must start with a dahlia tuber. By planting a dahlia tuber, you will grow an identical plant from the mother plant.
Clump of dahlia tubers.
Dahlia plants produce tubers that grow in the ground. Each year the mother tuber (the original bulb) typically produces anywhere from 5-20 new tubers. By dividing these tubers in the winter, you can multiply the original plant and grow identical dahlia flowers.
Growing Dahlias From Seed
Close-up image of dahlia seeds.
Growing dahlias from seed is very different from growing dahlias from tubers. When you grow dahlia flowers from seed, no two plants will ever be the same! That’s right, by growing dahlia flower seeds, you are actually creating a new variety of dahlias that’s never been grown before. Whereas when you plant a dahlia tuber, it will grow an identical plant from the mother tuber.
Growing Dahlia Seeds
Dahlia flower seeds get their genetic makeup from the seed parent as well as the pollination of bees. That’s right, the bees and other garden pollinators actually play a huge role in determining what your dahlia seeds will eventually grow. The bees carry pollen from one dahlia plant to the next and actually modify the genetic make-up of the dahlia seeds. Most dahlia seeds will grow single or semi-double blooms with an open-center. You can learn more about growing dahlias from seed by clicking here to read my in-depth post on growing dahlias from seed.
All this information about dahlia flowers is for you to understand the differences between these types of plants, but also for you to be able to grow them. Now that you are aware of the maintenance that they require and the specific types of soil they all need, you are able to see which one works best for you and where you live.
Dahlias are great flowers to have in any garden but they also look good if you would like to grow them indoors or if you simply put them in a vase.
These exotic flowers will surely bring lots of colors, scents, and life to your home, garden, event, or even present!
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*Featured Photo by swisshippo/depositphotos