The types of dahlias - The Laundry Garden dahlia guides

Helen Derrin

Jenny Williams from The Laundry Garden

I have been planting dahlia tubers for eight years at The Laundry Garden, and they have become a feature of our borders. More recently, we've started growing them in the cutting garden.

Their form, flamboyant habits and a rainbow of bright and deeply toned colours bring happiness to the garden and the house. Dahlia flowers add a last blast of joy before the colder months.

I want to give you my experience of the different types of dahlias and what they're best for. From the spectacular dinner plate dahlias with large flowers to the petite singles. Which dahlia variety is your favourite?

Dinner plate dahlias

Dinner plate dahlias, as the name suggests, have huge dinner plate-sized blooms. The sheer engineering of the plant to grow a stalk with the strength to hold these flower heads is alone a sight to behold. They are fantastic as a statement plant in the border or to add a ‘Wow’ factor to a cut flower display. I would thoroughly recommend you have at least one in your dahlia collection.

Pompon dahlias

Pompon dahlias (sometimes called pom pom dahlias) are great fillers in a border. They are a great addition to the cut flower garden with strong stems and long vase life. They are slightly smaller than the ball varieties described below.

My favourite variety is Dahlia 'Wine Eyed Jill' for its two-toned flower of deep pink and peach, with a deep plum centre. However, beware that the flower colour can change from tuber to tuber.

Ball dahlias

Ball dahlias are slightly larger than the Pompon varieties. They have tight clusters of lightly upward-curling petals, forming a tight ball. They are great for cutting flowers or for adding structure to a border.

My favourite varieties? The top of my list is Dahlia 'Burlesca' with its two-toned soft peach and pink petals.

Waterlily dahlias

Waterlily dahlias are a relatively new type of dahlia and one of my favourite shapes. As the name suggests, they look like a Water Lily. They have an incredibly delicate and elegant form. I plan to grow Dahlia ‘Blue Wish’ this year as the colour palette will go beautifully with my lilac collection of dahlias.

Cactus & Semi Cactus

Cactus & Semi-Cactus dahlias have a large and loose open flower shape. The petals roll, point, and grow out and downwards, creating a pleasingly relaxed geometric structure. The only difference with a Semi-Cactus dahlia is that the petals at the bottom of the flower aren’t as tightly rolled.

Cactus shapes are great in borders and as part of a cut flower arrangement. They sit well with the ball varieties to add a looser petal contrast. My favourite variety is Dahlia ‘Nuit D-ete’ for its reliability in continuing to flower throughout the season. A great hard-working dahlia.

Anemone dahlias

Anemone dahlias have a graceful appearance to them. They are unusual because they have a dense collection of tubular petals in the centre of the flower. Paired with at least one ring of flatter petals at the bottom.

They are great for borders and are pollinator-friendly as well. I love Dahlia ‘Soulman’ as it was the first Dahlia I ever grew. My other favourite is Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’ for its bushy habit and abundance of flowers - a great border option.

Single Dahlias

Single dahlias have a daisy-like shape to them. They’re open flower makes them great for pollinators. I plant them in drift planting and they are beautiful dancing amongst shorter grasses. I love Dahlia ‘Bishop of Canterbury’ for this - such a versatile dahlia.

Collarette Dahlias

If you love single dahlias, collarettes are a great option. Sitting somewhere between a single-flowered dahlia and anemone, they have a central inner flower. These inner petals create a 'ruff' appearance around the bloom's centre.

One of my favourite soft pastel collarettes is Dahlia 'Teesbrooke Audrey' with soft pink petals and a white inner ruff.

dahlia collections designed for you, border collections of dahlia tubers
dahlia collections designed for you, border collections of dahlia tubers

Dahlia Collections

When planning your dahlia collection, consider what flower head shape compliments the rest of the plants. Decorative and ball shapes are great choices for repetition. However, single and anemone are better for drifting floating styles.

I combine different types of plants in matching colours to make a beautiful border that will look great all season. I've even worked with Crocus to create exclusive collections that will suit different palettes and gardens

The Laundry Garden - Sherbet Fizz Collection
Shop all dahlias
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Sunrise in Jaipur

Inspired by the hot colours and sun of India, this collection is perfect for you bright colour lovers

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Dark Nights

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Dark Nights

Deep blacks, reds and pinks make this collection sumptous and gorgeous. Perfect for a dark border scheme

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