How to grow dahlias in pots
Mar 29, 2023
No flowerbeds, no problem! You can grow these vibrant flowers in containers too
Dahlias are one of the most beautiful blooms to add to any garden. They come in essentially every colour of the rainbow, it should be easy to find something that works well for you. And you don't need to have a garden to enjoy these flowering plants, as you can learn how to grow dahlias in pots.
Whether you’re looking to add real visual impact to your container garden ideas with dinner plate-sized flowers or prefer the smaller single-species dahlias, they typically bloom from mid-summer well into the autumn, making them the perfect flower to enjoy during the warmer months and into September and October.
We asked the experts to take us through the most important things to know about growing them in a container and how to help them truly thrive.
‘Dahlias are perfect for most gardens and homes due to their versatile nature,’ says Dani Turner, customer experience director at family-run florist Bunches. And they can flourish in containers, provided the pots are large enough.
There are several different dahlia varieties to choose from. However, when it comes to growing dahlias in pots, ‘it's worth choosing a Dahlia variety that is slightly smaller and compact as some can grow as tall as 5ft,’ suggests Dani.
But what will you need on hand to get started potting your dahlia plants?
‘For Dahlias that are going to be grown in a pot, it is best to choose one that is at least 30cm in diameter and 40cm deep,’ Dani recommends.
Gardening expert Fiona Jenkins at Myjobquote.co.uk echoes this sentiment. ‘For most dahlia varieties, you want to choose a fairly large pot. However, it doesn't need to be too deep. A 12 – 14 inch (30 - 35cm) diameter pot is ideal and 12 inches of depth is perfect.’
Because they, ‘put on a lot of top growth, a fairly heavy pot is required to counter-balance all the top foliage, otherwise they will blow over,’ says Angela Slater, Gardening Expert at Hayes Garden World. She recommends a heavy terracotta or glazed clay pot. You may also need to stake your dahlias as they grow, to prevent them from falling over.
First of all, you’ll want to choose a variety of dahlia that is suitable for container gardening. As, ‘some dahlia plants can grow quite large, it's best to opt for dwarf or compact varieties,’ says award-winning garden designer Jason Williams, also known as The Cloud Gardener. ‘These smaller plants are well-suited to container growth, maintaining a more manageable size while still producing an abundance of beautiful blooms.’
You’ll also want to wait for warmer weather – now is ideal – before planting your dahlias, as this will give them the optimal conditions to develop and grow, compared to when a sudden frost could hinder their growth or potentially kill the plant entirely.
‘To plant, mound a few inches of potting soil at the bottom of the pot while forming a little bit of a hill. Balance the tuber on the mound and then carefully fill in around the tuber with your potting soil,’ Fiona instructs. 'Press and firm it around the tuber gently as you go along.’
‘Dahlias are sun-loving plants that require at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day to thrive,’ suggests Jason.
‘Place your pots in a sunny spot on your patio, balcony, or in your garden. Ensuring that they receive adequate sunlight will encourage strong growth and abundant blooms.’
In particularly scorching summer weather, you can move your potted dahlias into the shade to give them some respite but they do prefer sunny conditions.
‘Dahlias are not fussy, and will grow in any fertile, moist, but well-drained soil. To enrich the soil and help them grow, you can add organic matter, such as manure to give the soil more nutrients,’ suggests Dani.
Despite this, they are ‘greedy feeders,’ according to Angela, so they ‘need a constant supply of nutrients.’
Once your dahlia plants begin to flower, you need to regularly provide them with fertiliser to help them maintain a healthy foliage throughout the growing season. ‘Use a balanced, water-soluble fertiliser that is suitable for flowering plants,’ affirms Jason.
‘Dead-heading or picking the blooms is essential to keep the plant flowering as long as possible,’ proffers Angela.
As you may expect, you will need to water your dahlias for them to thrive. ‘While they do require consistent moisture, it's important to avoid overwatering, as this can lead to tuber rot,’ reveals Jason.
‘Check the soil moisture regularly by inserting your finger into the potting mix. Water the plants when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.’
You’ll also want to ensure that the pot or container that you’ve chosen has good drainage to prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged, which can also be detrimental to the plants.
Aphids can be a problem for dahlias, but, ‘they can be controlled by rubbing off between finger and thumb or by feeding the birds who will dispose of them for you,’ says Angela.
‘Earwigs can also be a problem but can be controlled by placing an upturned pot stuffed with straw on top of a cane.’ Keep an eye on your beautiful blooms so that you can immediately see if you have any pest problems and deal with them before too much damage is done.
The added benefit of growing your dahlias in a pot or container is the fact that you can easily move them, either if or when you move home or during the less hospitable colder months.
Dani reveals, ‘although dahlias are usually bought annually, they can be kept alive during the winter months.’
‘To do this, after the first frost has killed the foliage, bring the potted dahlias inside to a cool, dry and darkened place – a basement or a garage would be perfect for this.’
‘They don't need much water during the winter but just keep checking on them to make sure they aren't too wet or are in need of some water to rehydrate them,’ she concludes.
Ellis Cochrane has been a Freelance Contributor on the Ideal Home Website since 2023. She graduated with a Joint Honours degree in Politics and English from the University of Strathclyde and between her exams and graduation, started a lifestyle blog (www.ellistuesday.com) where she would share what she was buying, reading and doing. In doing so, she created opportunities to work with some of her dream brands and discovered the possibility of freelance writing, after always dreaming of writing for magazines when she was growing up.
Since then, she has contributed to a variety of online and print publications, covering everything from celebrity news and beauty reviews to her real passion; homes and interiors. She started writing about all things homes, gardens and interiors after joining Decor & Design Scotland as a Freelance Journalist and Social Media Account Manager in 2021. She then started freelancing at House Beautiful, Country Living and in Stylist's Home team. Ellis is currently saving to buy her first home in Glasgow with far too many Pinterest boards dedicated to her many design ideas and inspirations.
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By Joanne LewsleyDahlia tubers; A pot or container of at least 30 cm (12 in); An all-purpose, fast-draining potting mix; A slow-release fertiliser;