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Dahlia planting tips


Water plants two days before planting.

Plan and place stakes before planting ( common spacing is 30 inches between larger  plants and 20 to 24 inches for smaller plants).

60 inch stakes with 12 inches in the ground is good support.

Dig hole twice the size of pot and sprinkle in a small amount of slow release fertilizer (14-14-14 or 10-10-10)

Place plant in hole, tamp in and tie up immediately. (leave slack in loop or it will grow into stem as plant develops)

Water thoroughly and leave for two weeks, unless extremely hot.  ( This allows for strong deep root development)



These planting tips have worked with some of our members in the past, if you have other methods you have found successful please feel to leave a comment. You can do this by clicking the “leave a comment” below. Your knowledge will help us grow better dahlias.


  • Bring tubers fifteen days… three weeks out of cold storage to stimulate and break dormancy.
  • Transfer to an area of normal house temperatures.
  • Check tubers for any root or softness.
  • If tubers are in a clump form, wait for the eyes to show and then divide tubers off of the clump.
  • When the eyes are evident, pick out the stronger eyes tubers and prepare to pot them.
  • Using 6”‐8” pots, fill them ¾ full with planting soil or peat moss.
  • Plant the tuber in a horizontal position, with the eye ½” below the surface of the soil.
  • In two weeks, green foliage should begin to appear.
  • By June 1st you should be able to transplant them outside to your garden.
  • Each plant should have three sets of leaves and be 6”‐8”. Keep in mind, DAHILAS CANNOT STAND ANY FROST. Before doing this, make sure to check the weather forecast.

Started Dahlia Tubers


In central Alberta, we plant our tubers directly into the ground between the 15th of May and the 1stof June.

Weather varies each year, so we cannot stress enough to check the weather report.


  • The soil should be rototilled or dug to a depth of 8”‐10”.
  • A 10‐10‐10 or 14‐14‐14 slow release fertilizer can be dug in at the same time.
  • Stakes should be put in the ground with each plant.
  • The stakes should be 3’ high and spaced approximately 20” apart.

Eight Week Old Dahlias


  • Place the plants next to the stake and tie the plant to it. You should use a non‐abrasive material, such: light string, cotton, nylon, pantyhose, etc.
  • Place the tuber with the eye next to the stake, the tuber should be horizontal with the eye covered with ½” of soil.



These planting tips have worked with some of our members in the past, if you have other methods you have found successful please feel to leave a comment. You can do this by clicking the “leave a comment” below. Your knowledge will help us grow better glads.


  • Bring corms ten days—2 weeks out of cold storage to stimulate and break dormancy. Transfer to an area of normal house temperatures.
  • Peeling off the husks is not strictly necessary, but it does permit inspection of the corm.  DO NOT PLANT CORMS THAT HAVE SOFT OR ROTTEN SPOTS.
  • Each corm has about 6 eyes or potential shoots.  Two or three of these will sprout.  If you wish to grow the biggest, then remove all but the strongest eye, using a paring knife or potato peeler.  It’s a good idea to disinfect the knife regularly in a mild bleach solution

A Q-tip dipped in a mild bleach solution to disinfect the “wound” on the corm works well.

  • Prepare field stakes.  Use a Sharpie “Industrial Strength” permanent ink marker to write variety names on the stakes.  Write on BOTH sides because the ink does tend to fade.
  • Do any Organization of corms according to one’s color scheme in the garden—or  planting areas.

Here in southern Alberta, we plant when the May Tree starts to leaf out, and when the soil is dry enough to be worked.  This has been as early as April 15, but generally about April 25 until May 10.  We have found that it’s best to get them in as early as possible.  Glads planted can stand the May frosts, will still sprout (slowly) and if they are out of the ground, can tolerate 2 or 3 degrees of frost.


  • The soil should be dug or rototilled to a depth of 7 or 8 inches and then raked level. Using a shovel, trenches can be dug in rows to a depth of 4-5 inches.
  • If you are landscape gardening, dig holes about 12″ in diameter to the above depth for clumps of 5–6.
  • If your soil is reasonably fertile, then fertilizer is probably not necessary before planting.  In the past, for exhibition purposes, we lightly scattered 11-52-0, and Pink Vigoro in the trench, scratched it in and then set the bulb on top of a handful of sand.


  • Place the corms in the row/hole with the base down, with the shoots pointing straight up.
  • One can use Bulb Dust lightly sprinkled over the corms to discourage fungus and to foil cutworms.
  • Soil is then raked in to fill the trench/hole.

Note:  The foregoing could be applied to clump planting, using 5–6 corms per hole.  (An aside, for a more dramatic effect, plant clumps in all the same variety, then the blooms will be finished about the same time, and one can tidy the area, leaving the leaves).


 It is time to pull your tubers out of storage and give them a thorough check. Look for any rot, if the tuber is 3/4 rotten discard. If it is 1/2 rotten you can cut the bad part off as this will sometimes save your tuber. Check for broken necks on your tubers, and if they are weak or broken discard. Also check the top of the tuber for stem rot. This will show up as black rot above the eye of the tuber. You can trim this up and a good idea is to spray this area with lysol. With this all done check your medium that you have your tubers stored in and make sure it is dry. If it is moist put in fresh dry medium. With this all done put your tubers back into storage and check them again Feb 1.  Good Luck

Designing the Holidays

Linda O’Connor, a floral designer working with James Harasimowicz on the Barton House, runs a cut flowerfarm in Ransomville called Summertime Blooms. She hopes that when visitors walk into the Barton House they see a “peaceful elegance.”

Her holiday decorating recommendation is to keep holiday decor simple.

She recalled how, this past summer when she marketed her cut flowers at area farmers markets, she would take a single flower, like a sunflower or dinner plate dahlia, and place it in an empty wine bottle. “People would say, ‘oh my gosh, I never thought to do that.”

O’Connor suggests doing the same for the holidays. Take a few empty wine bottles, add a single fresh flower in each and some assorted small candles to illuminate the bottles from the base.

“For the winter I would probably use a hydrangea and some grasses,” she said, adding she is currently working with white flowers for the Barton House but that holiday decorators could use any color flower that goes with their decor.

“I like to use blue wine bottle because they really set off the flowers but you could use green bottles for the holidays or clear bottles and put red water in them,” she said.

When asked whether to strip the labels first, she noted: “If it happens to be your favorite wine, you can leave the labels on. I have one from a brewery in Ellicottville called Snowfox. I leave the label on because it has snow flakes and a little white fox on it so it works for the holidays.”

“And it was a good wine, too,” she said with a laugh.

Her biggest recommendation for the holidays is to enjoy them. “I m just thinking people need to sit down and enjoy their family and friends for this holiday instead of trying to do all this stuff.”

Exert from: Designing the Holidays.

Post an example of how you decorate your table for the holiday and help share creativity with our community.

Submissions will be added to our Arrangements Gallery.

Ernie Henderson Tribute

The Alberta Dahlia and Gladiolus Society along with CGS; ADS,NAGC  and the Montana Dahlia Society can with little doubt claim to have had oldest living member of any  active society of gardeners.

Ernie Henderson was 106  at the time of his passing, November 9, 2011.

This picture of Ernie, with his grand champion dahlia Elma Elizabeth, was taken at this year’s (2011) show in Red Deer. Ernie first started showing flowers in the late forties. Gladiolus and dahlias became his particular passion.

Exhibiting was not new to Ernie as he had grown up showing heavy horses. As well as showing horses and flowers he had a brief “run” at showing dogs; in particular, Cocker Spaniels.

He was an accredited judge of gladiolus, dahlias and horses.  During her life Fanny, his wife, would often inquire whether the weekend was to be a “horsey one” or a” flower one” as Ernie was frequently off to shows as an exhibitor, judge or both.

Ernie also had the distinction of being the oldest living person to have served with the RCMP. In 2005 wearing his Red Serge Jacket (see photo) Ernie was the parade marshal for the Little Britches Parade here in High River (see photo). In that year both Ernie and Alberta  turned 100. As a member of the RCMP Ernie was part of the first Musical Ride. Along with his horse, Pard, he was  an extra in the movie “Rose Marie” starring Nelson Eddie and Janette McDonald.

Ernie and his friend Bill McClaren were awarded life membership in ADGS  at our founding meeting. This was most appropriate for these two were great friends- Though showing  Ernie did much to raise the interest  in dahlias here in Alberta. Ernie rarely if ever missed the mall show of the Montana Society in Kalispell, until the last few years; when other friends questioned the wisdom of his travelling to the U.S.
On the door of his room at the Medicine Tree manor Ernie had a sign stating” Gardeners don’t grow old they just lose their bloomers”- This is, perhaps, more humorous to those of us pre-Victoria’s Secret but Ernie never did lose his bloomers as illustrated by his accomplishments.  Also,some of us are still growing his dahlia introduction Alberta Flame (B FD Flame ).
The Alberta Dahlia and Gladiolus Society thoughts go out to the Henderson family. Click here to post your personal condolences.