Choosing Dahlias for Cut Flowers

With so many dahlia cultivars available out there it can be hard to decide which ones you should grow! If your main intention is to have them for cut flowers than here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the right varieties for your garden.

All dahlias can be cut for floral arranging, but depending on what you plan to do, different types will be better suited than others. Knowing the characteristics of each will help you choose the best type, or form, for your project.

For the longest vase life, ball types are by far the best choice. The ball types are spherical, very “full”, and generally have many layers of curled, almost tubular petals. We love to use these in our mixed bouquets- particularly those that may take a day or so until they get into the hands of our customers. We typically get around 5-7 solid days from these flowers, but after that and they’re ready for the compost pile. There is also a group called “formal decorative” which are ball-like in form, but usually not quite as fully spherical- these are great in the vase too!

Although they’re quite striking, we find that in general the very large, “dinnerplate” dahlias have the shortest vase life. Often they’re used as focal flowers in show-stopping  bridal bouquets, and they make fabulous statement pieces for events since you only really need them to look great for the day of the celebration. But they typically only last for 2 to 3 days, so keep that in mind when using them in arrangements. If you’re planning a big celebration remember that you can “green up” your centrepieces in advance- basically filing up your vessels by creating a base of greenery which typically is much longer lasting- and then the day before your event you can finish off your pieces by filling in with your flowers. Save the dainty and fragile finishing touches to add in on the day-of, once you have your arrangements in place.

The cactus and decorative types usually lie somewhere in between. I often don’t use cactus types in my market bouquets, but will certainly incorporate them into custom bouquets and arrangements because they add such beautiful texture and interest.

But really, if you’re a home gardener- just go for it! Know that certain varieties won’t last as long as others- but doesn’t that almost make them a little more special? Their ephemeral beauty is there to brighten your days and then, like a beautiful sunset it’s gone. You can always pluck out spent stems and replace them with fresh cuts from the garden.

Here are some tips for getting the longest life out of your dahlias, no matter the variety:

  • Always cut early in the day while it’s still cool
  • Make sure your clippers and buckets are CLEAN
  • Immediately place them in fresh, clean water
  • Bring them inside and recut the stems, and place them into very HOT water
    • Boil the water first and then allow it cool a bit before adding your stems
    • Allow your dahlias to remain in the water until it cools (about an hour), this will help them hydrate and stay fresh longer
  • Change the water in your vase daily to get the longest life from your flowers
  • Keep your flowers out of heat and direct sun. Cool is always better!

Now, armed with this knowledge, hopefully you’ll be ready to pick out the right dahlia for the occasion- whatever that may be! Below I’m sharing a few of my favorites. But honestly, once they start blooming, they all become favorites in one way or another.

Pictured above our some of my favorite dahlias for weddings. Cafe Au Lait, Sweet Nathalie and Lady Nathalie.

These are some of my favorite Ball types for using in mixed bouquets: Jowey Winnie, Linda’s Baby, and Cornel Bronze

Some of my favorites for adding texture and interest to bouquets: Mango Sunset, Polka, and Labyrinth

If you have any questions leave them in the comments below!

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