Culture Tips for 'Dapper' Dahlias

December 31, 2002 - 13:33

This dahlia takes vegetative dahlias to new heights, combining its smaller flowers, uniformity and flexibility with reliable pot and garden performance.

'Dapper' dahlia is one of the newest dwarf series on the
market, with six colors. Dapper features small, semi-double, 2-inch blooms;
dark green foliage; and a uniform habit. The Dapper colors are consistent
across varieties ? from Bronze through Deep Rose, Pink, Scarlet, White
and Yellow.

Dapper plants are early to flower and versatile in style="mso-spacerun: yes"> 4-inch and larger pots, baskets, color
bowls, patio planters and window boxes. Dappers, available as both rooted and
unrooted cuttings, work well in combination pots, as their dwarf habit and
flower power really shine. This series also performs well in the landscape
because of its sturdy, compact shape and nicely mounded, 8- to 10-inch habit.

Scheduling

Dapper is fast-cropping at 6-8 weeks from a rooted cutting
to a 4-inch pot. Use one cutting per 4- to 6-inch pot or 1-gallon container. Add
an additional 2-4 weeks for finishing larger pots and gallons. If using Dapper
dahlias in a basket, use at least three cuttings per 10-inch or five cuttings
per 12-inch basket.

Propagation

Clean and disinfect your propagation area thoroughly before cuttings
arrive. As with all vegetative material, quality is dependent on how quickly
the cuttings can be put into propagation.

Open the boxes upon arrival, and stick the cuttings as soon
as possible. If the cuttings have to be held until the following morning, store
the opened boxes at a temperature of 42° F.

Rooting hormones containing 500-1,000 ppm IBA will aid in
rooting. Be sure to shake off any excess hormone, as too much can cause damage.

Rooting time is 15-21 days with a bench temperature of
68-72° F. Mist lightly for the first 4-6 days. It?s important to
avoid over-misting, as keeping the foliage too wet can contribute to disease
pressure, especially Botrytis.

Growing On

Use a well-draining, soilless media with a pH of 5.8-6.2,
and keep the media evenly moist. If the plants are kept too wet early, growth
and flowering will be slowed. Do not allow to dry down to wilt, as this can
have an even bigger effect on the final quality of the crop.

Dahlias are moderate feeders, so fertilize at a constant rate
of 200-250 ppm nitrogen. Alternate between 20-10-20 and 14-0-14. Keep an eye on
your ammonia levels, as excessive amounts will cause soft growth. Most
importantly, dahlias are sensitive to high soluble salt levels, so maintain an
EC as close to 1.0 as possible.

Maintain a night temperature of 62-65° F and a day
temperature of 68-72° F. Cooler temperatures (mid to lower 50s) will
promote tuber development and delay flowering; temperatures higher than 80°
F can also delay flowering and cause bud abortion.

With regard to lighting, there are two critical factors for
the best-quality crop: Dahlias need over 2,000 foot-candles of light, as lower
light levels can result in leggier plants with fewer buds; and dahlias need daylengths
over 12 hours for early flowering, as shorter days will promote tuber
development instead of vegetative growth and bud set. Use night-interruption
lighting (minimum 10 foot-candles incandescent or 400 foot-candles HID) from 10
p.m.-2 a.m. during short-day periods.

Dappers are bred to be compact and branching. They generally
do not require growth regulators. If necessary, B-Nine can be used at 1,500 ppm
2-3 weeks after potting. Bonzi at 2-4 ppm has also been reported as effective
on dahlias.

Pinching is not required, but it can improve branching if
done 12-18 days after transplant. Keep in mind that in doing this, flowering
will be delayed at least 5-7 days.

The most common insects on dahlias are thrips, aphids,
whiteflies and fungus gnats. Use labeled rates of insecticides for control.

Pythium, Rhizoctonia and Botrytis are the main dahlia
diseases. Preventative applications of fungicides can be applied to avoid these
problems. Culturally, avoid overhead watering, and maintain good air circulation
to help prevent Botrytis infections. Allowing the media to dry slightly between
waterings will also help prevent root diseases. yes">

About The Author

Lori May is account manager for Goldsmith Seeds. She can be reached at (517) 333-4282.

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