Once shunned by fashionable gardeners, these flashy, colorful jewels have staged something of a comeback, and are now considered an essential feature of the mid- to late-summer border, as well as injecting life into tired autumn gardens. They also provide lots of cut flowers for indoor displays.
When to plant: Late spring.
At their best: Midsummer to autumn.
Time to complete: 30 minutes for planting.
You will need: Dahlia tubers, well-rotted organic matter – such as manure, slug rings or organic pellets, stakes and twine for staking, wooden boxes, potting mix, plant labels.
Plant the tubers
Once the danger of frost has passed, dig a hole 12 in (30 cm) deep and add a layer of organic matter to the bottom. Place the tuber in with the buds pointing up, as well as a stake for support, and carefully refill with soil.
Pinch out shoot tips
Provide slug protection as young growth appears. When stems are 12 in (30 cm) high, pinch out the top bud to encourage bushiness and lots of flowers.
As soon as the first light frost has blackened the leaves, cut off the foliage and dig up the tubers. Place them somewhere airy and frost free, so that the stems can dry out fully.
When dry, brush the soil off the tubers, label them clearly, and plant them in wooden boxes or large pots of dry potting mix. Keep them in a cool, dry, frost-free place until you can plant them out again the following spring.