Dahlias delight with a blazing return to fashion

The dahlia now comes in such a variety of colours and sizes that you can make a summer-to-autumn bed from dahlias alone.

Put the tall ones with the big flowers at the back and the shorter-growing varieties at the front; maybe stick in a bit of alyssum and greenery to soften the plant palette and you’ve got an easy-grow, easy-care floral display that at dusk and dawn will look rather like an impressionist painting.

The downside of dahlias is, of course, that although today’s varieties can keep you in colour from late spring to late autumn, they do disappear back underground for almost half the year.  

We don’t usually lift bulbs in southeast Queensland as they do in cold climates, so you need to plant that same bed with winter-spring flowering annuals during the dahlia “down” period.  

Then, in late spring to summer, depending on variety, they’ll pop back up again to surprise you with a vivid show, just as the pansies and petunias are ready to be pulled out.

The same goes for pots.  Plant some dahlias now – spoil yourself, be lavish – and when they stop flowering  in late autumn, simply cut back the daggy foliage and pop in some cheery annuals.  

First, replace the old potting mix with new. In very large containers, remove the top section of the mix, gently loosen around the bulbs for aeration, then put new mix on top.  Top up mix again in spring when you remove the spent annuals.

Dahlias don’t need much care.  

Mulch beds in early spring, first adding plenty of compost to the soil.  If compacted, dig over lightly.  

Soil should be slightly sandy and very well-drained.  Feed well and regularly once the leaves appear, until late summer.  Water thoroughly and regularly.  

Spraying with a soap spray or Pest Oil will control most leaf-chewers and other insect pests.

For more on gardening in southeast Queensland visit gardenezi.com