Where to plant dahlias - The Laundry Garden dahlia guides

Helen Derrin

Jenny Williams from The Laundry Garden

Dahlias have become a feature of The Laundry Garden since 2017. Both in the borders and, more recently, in our cutting garden.

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

However, it can be tricky to choose which dahlia varieties are best for your garden with thousands of dahlias to choose from. I want to share my knowledge of what I've learnt and what works best where.

how to choose dahlias for your garden
how to choose dahlias for your garden

How to choose dahlias

The huge range of choices for dahlias can be overwhelming when you first start growing. They come in a whole world of different shapes and colours.

Each year, new varieties (or, more accurately, cultivators) arrive, making it ever more difficult to navigate so many choices. What is your best place to start? Begin with how you're planning to use them, before thinking about height and colour tones.

Dahlias for borders

Dahlias are a great way to bring a shot of colour to your late summer border. Choosing the right variety can be tricky, but I've broken it down for you.

Statement Dahlias

If you're looking for a statement flower, then the huge blooms of the dinner plate varieties give a stand-out impact. My favourites are Dahlia ‘Spartacus Senior’ for its rich, velvety colour to add drama to your border. Or Dahlia ‘Penhill Watermelon’ for its large salmon pink frilly flowerheads held up by sturdy stems.

Filler Dahlias

If however you're after more of a filler, then go for some of the Ball or Pompon dahlia. The ball-shaped flowers float on long elegant stems, adding both structure and colour.

If you're looking for something softer, then the Single varieties are perfect. Their floaty habit and open flower shape mean they're also great for pollinators. My favourite is Dahlia ‘Dark Spirit’ as its colour tone and dainty form mean that it can slot in anywhere. Particularly good towards the front of the border

Designing your dahlia border

When choosing dahlias for a border, give them space. Plant the tubers at least three feet on either side, so they can fill out happily. They also need at least six hours of sunlight for good flower production. So, consider their position in your garden and find a sunny spot.

Think about what flower head shape compliments the rest of the plants. You might be looking for repetition in which the decorative and ball shapes are great choices. If it's a drift of floating flower heads, then your single and anemone varieties are best.

Consider the placement of your dahlia in the border. Dahlias come in a range of different heights, so smaller dahlias to the front and bigger to the back. Make sure you look at height info when choosing your tubers.

Finally comes colour. This needs little explanation, but the joy of dahlias is that they come in such a huge range of colours. Whatever your colour scheme, you should be able to choose several varieties that enhance what you already have.

If you're using them to fill out a border, then it's wise to choose heights, colours and shapes of flowers that go well with the other plants. A variety that could sit towards the mid-border would be Dahlia's ‘Preference’, and it would also fit into most colour schemes. Dahlia ‘Orfeo’ is also a great statement plant for a hot border. Tempting as it is, I would avoid choosing too many clashing colours unless that’s your style, then go for it!

dahlias for pots, design your pots with dahlias
dahlias for pots, design your pots with dahlias

Can you grow dahlias in pots?

Dahlia tubers are also fantastic in containers. But not all of them.

Choose the smaller types such as any of the Bishop varieties. Dahlia ‘Bishop of Canterbury’ or Dahlia Bishop of Oxford both being favourites. Their compact form and prolific flowering habit make them the best dahlia variety for containers.

Do remember, however, that dahlias are hungry plants whose tubers can more than double in size when growing. So, make sure you use a generous pot and plenty of good-quality compost. When they start flowering, begin a weekly feeding plan. Ideally alternating with seaweed and tomato feed for optimum blooms

dahlia tubers for cutting gardens
dahlia tubers for cutting gardens

Dahlias for the cutting garden

To grow dahlias to cut and enjoy at home, pick colours that match your home's decor. If your decorative style is muted tones, then Dahlia Karma Prospero or the much loved Dahlia ‘Preference’ are both ideal. If you prefer a bright colour palette, The Laundry Garden Dahlia Collection works beautifully in a ceramic jug.

The other thing to remember when choosing dahlias for the cutting garden is that some have better stem and vase life than others. The Pompon and decorative dahlias are generally pretty reliable in this regard.

Varieties such as Dahlia ‘Wizard of Oz’ or Dahlia ‘Cornel Brons’, are strong cutting choices. Others such as Dahlia ‘Natalie G’, Dahlia ‘Burlesca’, Dahlia ‘Preference’ and Dahlia ‘Rip City’ are also great cutting varieties.

Generally speaking, the dinner plate cultivators will only last a few days in a vase because of the sheer size of their heads. They are, however, unbeatable for that wow cut flower impact in the garden, in a vase or in a jug.

To learn more about the types of dahlias, read my next guide. Learn the difference between a dinner plate and a ball dahlia.

My top dahlias for a cutting garden
Shop all dahlias
Dinner plate dahlias

Statement Flowers

Dinner plate dahlias

Make a statement in your borders with the large flowerheads of dinner plate dahlias

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Dahlia collections

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Dahlia Collections

If you want the perfect combination of dahlias then we have designed collections of dahlias for you

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