Available in almost every color imaginable, dahlias make a great addition to any garden if you give them proper care. With names almost as interesting as the flowers themselves--Red Warrior, Silver Slipper, Twinkle Toes, Barbarry Banker and Purple Royalty, to name a few--it's no wonder gardeners like dahlias. Showy blooms also make great cut flowers for your indoor vases, giving you the opportunity to enjoy dahlias both inside and out.
Dahlias prefer sunny locations. While they will tolerate a bit of shade, make sure the location gets at least six hours of sun each day. Dahlias can grow to several feet tall, so keep an eye on where you plant them in the landscaping. Consider planting them in the back of the garden so shorter plants display well once the dahlias grow to full height.
After all danger of frost has passed, plant dahlia tubers in well-drained soil in holes about 6 inches deep and about 2 feet apart. You may also want to place stakes in the ground at this time to avoid damaging the plants later on. Once the plants start to grow, some gardeners pinch dahlias above the third leaf to grow a bushier plant and to encourage more blooms.
Freshly planted dahlia tubers require no watering since spring rains provide all the water they need. Once the plants start to sprout, wait until the soil is a bit dry before watering since dahlias are susceptible to rot. Established plants do well with a deep soaking once or twice a week in the hotter, dryer summer months.
Slugs love the green shoots of almost any plant, especially dahlias. Use slug bait or other means of keeping the slugs away until the plant reaches a height of 12 inches or more. Earwigs are also attracted to dahlias. Consider spraying an insecticidal soap on your dahlias about every two weeks during the summer to keep them away.
Once your area experiences its first deep frost, it's time to dig, divide and store your dahlias for the winter. While you may choose to leave your dahlias in the ground all winter, the plants will grow weaker stalks with smaller flowers in the spring. You can also avoid digging up tubers by planting new ones each spring. For the healthiest plants from year to year, dig up your tubers and divide them. Start by removing the main tuber, then get rid of any rotten tubers. You're then ready to divide the plants and store them in a cool, dry place until the following spring.