When it comes to growing dahlias, full sun and well-drained soil are key

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Tom Milano's last name.

Michael Genovese of Summer Dreams Farms in Oxford says gardeners sometimes are scared about growing their own dahlias but they don't need to be.

Yes, dahlia tubers have to be dug up every year and replanted, but Genovese says there's another option: buy new tubers every year. Genovese sells them on his website and they range in price from $5.95 to $7.95.

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Tom Milano of Detroit Abloom, an organic flower farm in Detroit's Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, also sells dahlia tubers online. They cost $6.

Summer Dreams Farm in Oxford grows roughly 250 varieties of dahlias on five acres. Owner Michael Genovese grew up farming. His parents started Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm in Oxford.

Both Genovese and Milano say when it comes to growing dahlias, full sun is key. The tubers don't become active until the soil temperature is around 60-65 degrees so Genovese says planting them around Mother's Day "is normally pretty safe" for southeast Michigan.

Here are some other tips:

Plant them in well-drained soil: Genovese says tubers can rot if the soil is too wet so make sure you plant them in an area where the soil drains well.

Plant them 3-4 inches deep: Lay the tubers flat, horizontally, suggests Genovese. If they’re too high, they’re "really going to flop on you," he says. "If they're too deep, it’s going to delay the time until your flower blooms."

Tim Milano, director and chief executive officer of Detroit Abloom, cuts off dried dahlias so other stems can bloom. Dahlias will keep blooming until the first hard frost.

Water thoughtfully: Milano says when you plant the tuber, water it once and then don't water again until it emerges from the soil. "Then, as the plant grows, give it a deep watering at least every 5-6 days, when the weather is dry," said Molina. "One deep watering that saturates its tubers is better that enumerable superficial waterings."

Put a stake in it: Prone to flopping, dahlias need to be staked up. "They usually need to be staked up and their branches corralled a bit, so that they don't bend and break," said Milano.

Cut the blooms: Once they begin to blossom, Milano says you can cut blooms regularly so that the plant keeps on flowering. "A wonderful thing about dahlias is that they bloom until the first hard frost," he said.

Genovese agrees: Dahlias "keep on producing flowers. Once they start producing flowers, most varieties will produce many, many stems in a season. It isn't uncommon to get 20 stems off of a plant."