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Plants we Love: Darling Dahlias

It’s hard to believe these blooming beauties were once considered old-fashioned.

Don’t be fooled by their diva appearance though, they’re actually very easy to grow.


I love dwarf and dark foliage dahlias that don't require staking, like Dahlia ' David Howard'. It grows to just 75cm in height and the dark bronze to purple foliage adds depth and drama to any flower border.

Dahlias are back. And in a big way. Their showy flowers, ranging in size and form from sweet pom-poms to giant dinner plates in various hues of reds, pinks, oranges, yellows and whites, put on spectacular performance from summer to autumn. But if you want to enjoy this gorgeous floral show, now is the time to buy them. Check out dahlia catalogues and order your favourites before they sell out.


Grower's Guide 

The Drewitt family has been growing bulbs for over 60 years in the Yarra Valley. Tim grew up on the family farm, planting bulbs as early as 2 years old. His fascination with dahlias started with his grandfather, who had a passion for these beautiful blooms. As a 10-year-old, he was in awe of the large flamboyant flowers and in 2004, took over the family business. Here, Tim shares his growing secrets.


When is the best time to plant dahlias?

We usually start taking orders from late July for September dispatch, it’s looking like a bumper season. Don’t plant your dahlia too early. Here in Victoria, we plant from mid-November onward.

What are your top tips for great dahlia blooms? 

"Select a well-drained position, in either the full sun or part shade. Prepare your soil to a depth of 20cm and enrich it with aged compost or manure – dahlias LOVE cow manure! Wait until the frost risk for your area has subsided, and plant your dahlia tubers laying flat on the side. There really is no up or down, they will sort themselves out. One crucial thing to remember: don’t over water a newly planted tuber as it is likely to rot.

If you have boggy soil or live in areas with high summer rainfall, plant dahlias in raised beds to ensure adequate drainage. Once planted, apply a layer of mulch, like sugarcane or rice hulls.

To extend the life of your blooms, apply a liquid fertiliser on a fortnightly basis. Dead head spent flowers to keep the blooms coming well into autumn."


How many varieties of dahlias do you grow?

"Currently we have around 250 cultivars in production or trial phase. We will harvest over 60,000 clumps this season by hand, carefully washing and storing the clump prior to dividing for sale."


What are your favourites?

"This is like asking me to pick a favourite child!"



a fantastic dinner plate decorative dahlia with peach and lemon tones on long, strong stems. Many people know the allure of ‘Cafe Au Lait’, well, Kotara leaves her for dead with the strength of growth and consistency of blooms.



Hot Shot

if you like red, look no further! A brilliant grower, frequently reaching 2.4m in height and covered in fire truck red flowers. This cultivar does not need staking and provides for months upon months of colour.



Winkie Cavalier

A shorter grower to 1.2m, this brilliant cultivar tends to grow wider than it does tall. Well-formed mauve/pink flowers on strong stems make it a fantastic cultivar for picking.



Bonnie Skye

 many overlook the joy of the single dahlias, but the bees certainly do not! Brilliant hot pink and mauve blooms from very early until very late in the season – bees will travel from miles around to get to this delight.



Mrs Rees

simply one of the best cacti dahlias available. Beautiful, strong growth with fantastic bloom size on long strong stems.


Where to buy

Drewitt’s Bulbs

Supplies pre-packaged dormant bulbs to independent garden centres across Australia.

0433 644 779


Red Earth Bulbs

Online mail order bulbs




About this article

Author: Sandra Ross