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The Darling Dahlia

Believed to represent grace and elegance, the Dahlia was once referred to as the “valley flower”.  This moniker was a nod to the Swedish Botanist and Professor – Anders Dahl (1751 – 1789), whom the perennial is named after; the translation of Dahl is said to be valley.  Today, the Dahlia, a member of the compositae (Asteraceae) family, is simply referred to by its genus.  Introduced to Europe in the early 19th century, the bulb of the Dahlia was a food staple in Mexico and Central America.

Revered for its beauty, the Dahlia and its hybrids are classified by their size, color, and flower type.  Dahlias range in size from 4 to 10 inches, and bloom in a wide variety of colors including shades of purple, red, pink, orange, bronze, yellow, and white.  Although Dahlias do not endure dry, hot temperatures well they are capable of being grown in zones 7 through 11 provided they receive proper care beginning with where and when they are planted.  Growing in areas receiving partial shade and sun, the Dahlia is tolerant of soil conditions including acidic, clay, loam, and sand.  Requiring a spacing of 18 to 24 inches, the Dahlia prefers warm soil conditions as their roots have been known to rot in cold, wet soil.

Propagated by cuttings, the Dahlia are susceptible to aphids, European corn larvae and stalk borer, leafhoppers, thrips, mites, bacteria wilt, and Botrytis blight.  As with all plant materials, it is vital to implement and maintain a practical integrated pest management (IPM) program to preserve the beauty and health of the Dahlia.  To learn more about incorporating this valley flower into your landscape, visit the University of Florida’s IFAS companion website – Gardening Solutions.