Caring for Dahlias
Upon receiving your Cut Flower Dahlias, place them in about two inches of water. Change the water when it becomes murky or cloudy to prevent bacterial growth that will shorten the flowers life span. This should occur naturally every 2-3 days so keep a look out for any discoloration. When changing the water, the bottom of the stem will have appeared to turn brown or discolored. With a sharp knife, cut the stem at a 45 degree angle to allow the stem to drink more efficiently. Cutting the stems flat allows the stem to rest evenly with the base of the vase, but also prevents the stem from supplying the flower with adequate water and thus shortening your blooms lifespan. Remove any wilted flowers and trim any foliage that would be resting in the water to help minimize bacterial growth.
Cut Flower Care
Soil tests are important to determine what must be done for a healthy plant to thrive. The PH of the soil should be within 6-7 to ensure good nutrient intake. It is recomended to use low Nitrogen Fertilizers such as 5-10-10 or 0-20-20 depending on the nutrients in your soil. The high Phosphorous count will aid in stem strength and Bloom health and abundance. High Potassium (potash) increases the bulb/root production. Nitrogen will increase the foliage of the plants, but excess levels will out compete the blooms causing open centers, poor bloom quality, and low bloom production.
Plant bulbs several inches down and 12-24" apart depending on how bushy you want your fields/garden. Make sure to wait until it is warm enough to plant your Dahlias if in colder regions. Stake any Dahlias over 3' tall. Dahlias over 3' are susceptible to wind damage and breakage from weak stems unable to hold up the heavier blooms. It is recommended to place the stakes before planting to ensure the tubers do not get puctured.
Dig your Dahlia bulbs out soon after the first blackening frost. Bulbs can get broken necks easily when digging them, so be careful. A good Potato digger will help minimize this for larger fields. For Gardens, a solid pitchfork or shovel will do so long as you stay far enough back so as not to destroy the bulbs. Loosen the dirt around the plant to keep damage minimal. Cut the stems to prevent rot from traveling down into the bulbs. Wash the dirt from the clumps to both prevent rot and for ease of cutting the tubers. Cut the bulbs to maximize bulb the head size if no eyes can be seen. Otherwise, one eye per tuber will ensure a successful plant next year. Store Bulbs at 40-50 degrees with good ventilation to prevent mold. Too much moisture causes rot. Waxing bulbs can help to ensure they maintain proper moisture levels and may protect them from uncontrolled storage climates. Check your Dahlia Bulbs regularly!