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How to Grow Dahlias Down South

By: Jessie Keith

“How do u get dahlias to grow?  I just get two scrawny limbs that never a bloom.” Question from April of Dresden, Tennessee

Answer: That must be frustrating! Southern gardeners often struggle with dahlias, unless they live in mountainous areas where summers are cooler. This is because most dahlias grow best under milder growing conditions and melt in high summer heat. Thankfully, there are select varieties tolerant of southern heat.

Either way, let’s start with the four basics that dahlias need to thrive:

1. Full to partial sun (6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day.)

2. Organic-rich soil with good drainage (Amending soil with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend helps!)

3. Fertilizer formulated for flowers (Proven Winners Continuous Release Plant Food works great.)

4. Regular water (Soil should be kept just moist, never too wet or dry.)

5. During really hot weather, shade dahlias during the hottest time of day

Then there’s choosing the right dahlia. The Dahlia Society of Georgia has the best list of heat-tolerant dahlias for southern gardeners (click here to view the list). My favorite dahlia on their list, called ‘Bodacious’ (shown above), has big, beautiful red and creamy yellow blooms.

Follow these growing instructions and choose only heat-tolerant dahlias from the attached list, and your dahlia growing will really improve! We also suggest you watch our video on Dahlia growing. It provides even more in-depth instructions on how to make the most of your dahlia growing.

Happy gardening! Jessie Keith

About Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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