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A tremendous amount of fuss is made about cultivating dahlias when, in reality, they are one of the easiest and most rewarding of flowers with which to enliven your surroundings.These gorgeous, sometimes dinner plate size flowers, can be grown from seeds, from established tubers or multiplied using cuttings.

Seeds are sown from the end of June until the end of September in the plains. Sow the seeds just under the surface in good quality, well draining, organic compost put in seed trays or clay pots. Space seeds two to three inches apart and transplant into individual pots when they are large enough to handle.

Seed trays or pots with young seedlings must be kept out of direct sunlight until they are fully established and ready (around October) to plant out in their flowering position in the garden or in large pots on a sunny balcony.

Dahlias are thirsty plants but rot or suffer from fungal growth in wet conditions, therefore good drainage is essential. Traditional advice recommends seed sowing from August but the end of June is perfectly fine.

Tubers are planted at the end of August; it is preferable to plant whole tubers, without cutting them up, although if the tubers are
in a clump when purchased, they can be separated, at a depth which allows approximately three inches of soil on top
of the tuber.

Whether grown in pots or in the ground, excellent drainage is essential. Despite traditional recommendations, there is no need to lift and store the tubers after the plants have finished flowering as long as drainage is good.

Cuttings, just three to four inches in length, are taken from fully grown plants; this is best done just before flowering commences. Any flower buds on the cuttings must be removed. Plant the cuttings to a third of their depth in good compost, place in partial shade and keep moist but not wet.

Dahlias are simple, colourful and absolutely glorious. Give them a try!

– B Khan

First Published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 16, 2013.

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