How to add Dahlias to Your Garden

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As peony madness fades with the summer heat, it’s time to hail the beauty of dahlias. Dahlias are an easy addition to any existing garden and offer a large range of colors, petal shapes and sizes to fit your desires.  Also, planting a tuber around the frost free date will provide you with beautiful blooms in July and August, a quick, and bountiful payoff not often common in the garden.  There is a bit of maintenance of digging and storing tubers over the winter in very mild climates like zone 9, but you should have no fear in planting these in your garden and will have a great time selecting the varieties to add.

Dahlia 'Cafe au Lait', Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'- How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood





Since you can add tubers to an existing garden, you have lots of options to place dahlias. Look around your home to see if you have any of the locations below that meet the full sun and well-drained soil requirements, if you do then move on to selecting the varieties you want to order!


– In a perennial border, or in an existing bed at your home. Looking at the existing foundational plantings around your house, see if there are spaces you can place a few dahlias.  The taller varieties are great in the background or mixed near taller plants, while place some of lower varieties in the front.

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This is a client’s front yard perennial bed. It is located behind a boxwood hedge and is filled with a mixture of blue/purple perennials. We have a few containers spaced through the bed to add seasonal color, along with these cafe au lait dahlias.  



– In a container. Anyone with a front porch, stoop, balcony or patio that gets full sun can do this option.  Use the taller varieties (30-40 inches) as the “thriller” in your container.  Or fill an entire container with the shorter varieties (20-24 inches).

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This is a garden created by Deborah Silver from Detroit Garden Works I visited a few years ago with the Association of Professional Landscape Designer (APLD). Deborah added dahlias with other perennial and annual flowers in these large containers. You can also do in smaller container, with 1-2 of each plant variety. 



– With your Vegetables. Pollinators love dahlias and so will your vegetables. Since you are already in with the vegetables watering, feeding and harvesting, this is an easy location to add some dahlias. You can add these along the edges our outside the fence line. This is a great place for the taller varieties.

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Here is a client’s vegetable garden which features a pollinator and cutting garden  inside the vegetable garden. To the left of these dahlias there is a swing and the dining table in the center allows the homeowners to enjoy the blooms while they are still in the garden. 

   How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood  

Here is a harvest of both the dahlias and vegetables from a client’s garden. Fresh food and flowers for dinner is a great combo. 



The best place to plant is in a location that gets full sun and well-drained soil. Since you are planting these for the blooms, provide lots of organic matter when planting and weekly feeding once buds appear for the best blooms.


How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


I mentioned earlier there is a wide variety of distinctive features to dahlias, giving you lots of options in color, petal shape and size to select. Two great sites for selecting which colors, shapes or varieties you like are the following;

The National Dahlia Collection – This site provides you with a vast listing of dahlias that helps you see the options in shapes and colors. Broken down into; ball, cactus, collerette, decorative, dwarf, pompon, semi cactus, waterlily, miscellaneous.  –

Floret Flowers – A specialty cut flower grower extraordinaire in the pacific northwest, she is a big fan of dahlias, and shares all favorites with successes and failures in beautiful flowers.




Since dahlias are typically planted from tubers, online ordering is very easy and offers a large selection. You will want to time your ordering to get the best selection – think early January to place a preorder for spring shipping. But you can start pre-shopping suppliers now for your selected varieties and confirm when they expect to start taking dahlia orders.


If you are a bit more impatient to get blooms this year – you can check at your local garden center to see if they have some established plants growing for you can transplant into your garden. However, at this point it will be slim pickings for the varieties (if any), but worth a try.




April to do – Plant Sales


Happy first day of April! March went by quickly, but that is generally true for every month in Ohio expect for February. March went by with cleaning up and prepping gardens for Aprils showers and warmer weather. We do some planting in April, but the frost in Ohio makes it difficult on some plant varieties. Another great thing for gardeners to do in April is visit local garden club, arboretum and plant society sales. These are the best resource for unique, native or difficult to find plants.  I posted last year on this topic. I don’t want to be redundant, but this year I am ahead of the major sales so want to share some more tips and remind you (and myself) to mark your calendars.


WHEN:  Depending on the part of the country, lot of the sales start in April, run into May with a few repeating again in the fall. Last year I visited the Chadwick Arboretum (May 7-9) and the Granville Garden Club’s Daffodil Sale (April 18-19). I missed the Dawes Arboretum Sale (May 16).


HOW TO FIND: Start with checking the websites of local Arboretums and Conservatories. Here is a database search by ZIP CODE from the American Horticulture Society. Another great resource would be to check local master gardeners or garden clubs. Here is a link (also from the American Horticulture Society for Master Garden clubs by State. And here is a link to find garden clubs in your state too, via the National Garden Clubs website.  You can also do a good old Google search for “Plant sale” and your area’s name and see the results.



  • These sales often have wagons you can use, but if its a popular sale (like Trade Secrets) it might help to bring your own wagon. However please be courteous while pulling in crowds, I have received (and given) a few bruised shins in the past.
  • Plants are grouped by type, seller or both. Know the site conditions you are looking to fill (sun/shade/soil/water), since this will help you narrow down where to look and save you for making a purchase that is not successful in your garden.
  • Use your phone to search images and care information on plants you are not knowledgeable. Often these are cuttings from someone’s personal garden or the arboretum so don’t include those informational tags at nurseries, just the plant name. And there are tons of knowledgeable plant people around so ask them questions.


IF YOU MISS THE SALES: Don’t worry, go to your local nursery as early as possible to get the best selection. If you purchase a plant before your frost free date, protect the them with old sheets at night when there is a potential for frost.


I hope everyone is able to get out to at least one sale this year, or like me try to visit as many as you can.

15 Fresh Greens for Holiday Decorating

Advice, C O N T A I N E R S, container, decorating, Get the Look, Holiday, Uncategorized

The week after Thanksgiving is a rush to get our clients homes decorated for the holiday season. Even though the week is busy, we look forward to flexing our festive creative muscles. I shared photos of a few projects on instagram throughout the week (NickMccland),if you want a preview. There were questions about the types of greens we used and thought I would share a list of all the different types of fresh greenery we use as a info graphic for quick reference. These are the greens that work well in Ohio’s December climate or we use only indoor (such as pepperberry). There are infinite combinations you could make with these greens, highlighted with ribbon, ornaments, pinecones and branches.


15 Fresh Greens for Holiday Decorating Containers, Wreaths or Garlands from Thinking Outside the boxwood



One of our favorite tricks is using a variety of these fresh greens tucked in a standard Frasier Fir wreath or graland. The fir provides a dense base for tucking in other greens for distinctive texture and color. You can purchase greens from florists or take clippings from your own backyard. The dense fir wreath will hold the green’s branches with in the existing wiring, or use paddle wire to secure to the frame. This trick provides you with a nice fresh wreath, that is unique to only your home without the custom made cost or time.