Dahlias: Ugly Ducklings to Swans

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Dahlia Roots Aren’t Pretty and That’s Okay

Dahlia tuber clump ready to plant
Ready to plant dahlia tuber clumps take many forms, all funny looking.

Dahlia root clumps are top contenders in the horticultural ugly ducking contest, with a brown lumpy look only a mother or warmhearted gardener could love.

Here’s a strong recommendation to go ahead and love them. And find a place for them in your landscape.

Because later this season, they’ll burst into glorious bloom, with flowers that everyone covets for cutting and color, in a rainbow of hues and blends to take your breath away. Your ducklings will become beautiful swans!

Go ahead, show them off, tell everyone you grew that stunner . . . be proud.

Here are several ready to plant ducklings to help you get a feel for what dahlia roots look like. Oddly formed.  Knobby. Weird. And bursting with promise (really!)

Dahlia tuber ready to plant in the garden
Some dahlia tubers are long and slender, others are pudgy and round.


This is one of those moments that leans on trust.

Know that your curious root clump will sprout and grow into a strong, beautiful plant, like so many others before it. The clump has been keep in a carefully controlled setting, with temperature and humidity managed to keep the eyes from starting to sprout prematurely and the tubers from drying out.

  • Brush or blow off the bits of peat the clumps are packed in.
  • Find last year’s stem. Growth won’t come from there again but this year’s sprouts will appear in the area where that stem joins the root tubers.
  • Plant with the old stem facing upwards.
  • Give your dahlia time to wake up and start to grow.
rounded tahlia tuber clump ready for planting
This little bundle of horticultural energy is itching to get growing.

Find complete growing instructions here.

Always on the lookout for fun, vigorous new dahlias? Here are a handful we’re looking forward to growing in our test gardens this summer:

  • Ice Tea – a coral pink sweetie with darker centers
  • Pink Sylvia – the pink sister of Maarn/Sylvia
  • Lady Natalie – a lovely white cutting variety
  • Brown Sugar – a sweet caramel orange
  • Siberia – another contender for “the perfect bouquet white”
  • French Doll – a warm pink and soft yellow confection

Circle back for a review of these dahlias at the end of the growing season, in case any of these cultivars are on your “I should try” list.

Dahlia Cafe au Lait in bloom in the summer garden
Dahlia Cafe au Lait in bud and bloom.


Find this season’s selection of ready-to-plant dahlias here.


A tapestry of dahlia flowers in the summer garden.
A tapestry of dahlia flowers in the August garden.

1 thought on “Dahlias: Ugly Ducklings to Swans”

  1. I just love dahlias. There was a wild one growing in my front yard when I moved in 34 years ago. It is bright yellow, like a Black Eyed Susan and pairs well with the purple hues of the plants around it. It is drought tolerant and never gets pests. The Dahlia Cafe au Lait looks yummy. Considering planting that in my backyard.

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