Flower lovers seeking blooms in an array of colors, sizes, and shapes will find everything they’re looking for in the dahlia. With 40 species and nearly 60,000 registered cultivars to choose from, the vibrant flowers on this easy-to-grow, hardy plant become even more striking in late summer and early fall, after other bloomers have started to fade.
The dahlia’s exotic and flashy appearance makes it a perfect choice for gardeners who love a showy variety of flowers.
As the name implies, these dahlias have a single ring of flat, overlapping florets of one color around the outside, with a contrasting color inside. Three rows of bright yellow or orange pollen lie in the center, which is a special attraction for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
For an even more intense contrast, look for dark-leaved versions with foliage that ranges from deep mahogany to black. The "HS Flame" is a beautiful single variety with bright orange blossoms and darker foliage.
Producing blooms of under two inches, Mignon Single flowers are open-faced, with rounded floret tips that grow in clumps. The florets overlap just a bit, surrounding a pincushion-like center with two furled or unfurled rows, creating an artistic symmetry.
This type of dahlia is just the right size and shape for planting in containers and window boxes, growing to heights of between 10 and 20 inches. You’ll often find Mignons sold in mixes containing red, orange, pink, yellow, and white flowers that bloom well into the fall.
The striking Stellar dahlias have small double blooms with no visible pollen disc in the middle. The cupped florets are long and narrow, with points on the ends, resembling a shooting star.
The dainty "Teesbrooke Audrey" displays pastel pink petals framed by ivory florets and is a brilliant addition to a woodland-style or English garden. It performs well in full sun but appreciates some shade in hotter weather. Expect heights of up to 24 inches.
Double-petaled and open-centered, the Decorative cultivars are must-haves for any flower garden. Choose either a formal Decorative, a more symmetrical-shaped bloom with evenly spaced petals, or an informal Decorative, which features twisted or wavy petals.
If you’re seeking the enormous blooms dahlias are famous for, consider the elegant "Gitts Perfection." The plant grows to three or four feet, sprouting massive 10-inch, ruffled pink flowers that bloom in late summer and last for around four months. This is a fast-growing plant and a showstopper in the garden. Staking is essential to keep the plant upright.
One of the most dynamic varieties, Collarette dahlias produce a flat bloom with a small inner ring of petals encircling the pollen center. They are exceptional choices for flower borders or cut flower gardens due to their compelling shape.
The solid or bi-color blooms are generally small to medium-sized. The Dahlia "Fashion Monger" is a bi-colored variety with white-tipped, carmine-red flowers and a ring of soft, tiny yellow petals in the center.
The globe-shaped Pompom dahlia is not only symmetrical but also breathtaking. The two-inch blooms have tightly quilled petals that add dimension and elegance to a garden or an arrangement.
You’ll find varying shades of pinks, corals, reds, and purples. "Little Beeswing" dahlias are an intense yellow, with red-orange edges around the petals. Pinching off the top of the main stem on these gems is crucial because it encourages more flower growth.
Another double-bloom variety, the Cactus dahlia’s narrow, pointed leaves are similar to cactus spines. This type of dahlia looks best when planted in groups of five, which creates a dramatic and unique addition to your landscape.
One of the most popular types is the deep-red "Chat Noir." The elegant blooms resemble sea urchins and reach an impressive six to eight inches across. Once cut, they stand well in a vase and provide an appealing focal point for any room.
With one row of evenly spaced, uniform florets, the Orchid dahlia will either be a single type, with a ray of florets surrounding the center disc, or a double bloom that hides the center.
"Honka Surprise" is an eye-catching type with an eight-petaled, four-inch flower. Its deep-pink color delicately blends into the yellow heart of the flower. A double bloom Orchid dahlia, like the "Gallery Art Deco," has an unusual triangular center, a vivid coral-pink color, and dark green foliage. It reaches a height of up to 16 inches. Plant it around decks, balconies, and patios.
One of the most exceptional dahlias is the Anemone type. Flat petals surround a center of long, tubular florets that form a pincushion, usually in a contrasting color. Some blooms are bi-colored, with differently colored edges and a vivid yellow center.
These magnificent flowering plants can grow up to four feet tall and explode with large blooms that are four to six inches wide. Try staking them to a trellis, not only to prevent them from falling over but for a colorful, dramatic effect. "Garden Show" is a bi-colored masterpiece in pale pink, with raspberry-tinged streaks and a creamy-yellow pincushion.
Dahlias make excellent companions for vegetable plants, a practice that started long ago. But the petals of these gorgeous flowers and the tubes from which they grow are edible themselves.
The flavors range from carrot-like to spicy apple, depending on the soil. Heirloom varieties like the "Yellow Gem" are much more flavorful than modern hybrids that have been bred for bigger, more colorful flowers. You can find an excellent selection through online nurseries that specialize in Heirloom varieties.