‘Lift’ and protect dahlias from the ‘worst of the winter weather’

Deadheading, the process of removing faded or dead flowers from plants, is crucial for maintaining a plant’s appearance and enhancing its overall performance throughout the growing season.

Dahlias are particularly known for their autumnal beauty, with many varieties blooming well into September and even October. To ensure continuous flowering, it is essential to deadhead dahlias regularly. By removing spent blooms, gardeners redirect the plant’s energy towards further growth and bud formation, extending the flowering season.

Identifying when dahlias need to be deadheaded can be challenging. Monty Don, the renowned presenter of Gardeners’ World, suggests looking for a key indication: “Spent dahlia flowers can be tricky to differentiate from unopened buds, but the foolproof difference is that when they have finished flowering, they become pointed and cone-shaped, whereas the unopened buds are rounded.”

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According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), regular deadheading is crucial for dahlias to thrive and produce more flowers. It is recommended to deadhead dahlias weekly to ensure that the plants channel their energy into flower production rather than seed formation.

When deadheading dahlias, it is important not to simply cut off below the spent flower. This can leave an unsightly stem without flowers and won’t promote new blooms. Instead, cut back just above the point where the flower stem joins the main stem. This will encourage tiny buds nestled there to come to life and bloom within a week or two.

In addition to deadheading, gardeners should also pinch out the shoot tips of dahlias when the main stem reaches about 40cm tall. Pinching out the tip just above a pair of leaves will stimulate branching, resulting in a bushier plant.

For those growing dahlias for giant or cut flowers, it is recommended to remove the smaller flower buds behind the central larger bud. This will allow the plant to focus its energy on producing larger, higher-quality flowers. However, if dahlias are grown for border displays, this step is not necessary.

To protect dahlias from harsh winter weather, the RHS advises that once the foliage is killed off by frost in late autumn or winter, gardeners can choose to either leave the plants in the ground or dig up the tubers and store them in a frost-free place. If dahlias have been grown from seed, select the best plants with developed tubers for storage indoors.

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