Barbara’s Question About Dahlias: Barbara G-H. moved here from New York where dahlias have to be dug up every autumn, stored over the winter, and replanted each spring. During a golf outing, she told me about her dahlias that had become quite ragged-looking the previous summer, and that she and her husband had pulled them up and trashed them. She asked about growing them here in central Florida:
My Answer: As far north as Zone 7, dahlias can be left in the ground for years. Most likely, Barbara’s dahlias were suffering from the heat and periods of dryness we experienced that summer. Here in Zone 9-A (central Florida), dahlias can be left in place year-round. They will likely suffer during times of extreme heat, and if they begin to look too badly, they can be cut back. As with many flowers, when the heat wave is over, they will perk up and begin to bloom again.
At the time we spoke, I had not grown them here, so I didn’t know for sure whether they would die completely down to the ground during winters, as many plants don’t during mild winters. If we were to have a hard freeze, they probably would die back to the ground. I have now grown them here, but just this year, so mine have not yet had to deal with winter. I do know that the best times to plant them in here Zone 9 are March, April, October, and November.
Update to come after this winter.
I had beautiful red dahlias when we lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, much farther north than we are here in Florida. There, of course, the dahlias died down every winter, and came back every spring. Barbara was disappointed to learn that she could have simply trimmed off the ragged part of the plants, and waited for them to put out new growth. I wish we had had our conversation a month or so earlier — her dahlias could have been saved.
Here are two more dahlia photos showing the fruit-like flower buds, then the lovely single-layer blossoms of these mini dahlias. Those buds remind me of tiny heirloom tomatoes, but, no, they most definitely are not edible.