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Sunday, October 28, 2001
Garden Life

Dahlia days are here again
Satish Narula

WINTER offers a range of gorgeously coloured, long-lasting (vase life) and free blooming cut flowers. Among these easy-to-cultivate flowers is the dahlia. This flower is available in the single or double variety and is brilliantly coloured.

Dahlias are propagated mostly through cuttings
Dahlias are propagated mostly through cuttings

Dahlia is suitable for both bed planting for mass effect and for pot cultivation. Of late, dwarf varieties have also been available that can be used for edge planting. The plant has a range of flowers like the anemones, the formal decorative, informal decorative, showy or double dahlias, pompon dahlias, double cactus, paeony flowered and single dahlias.

The propagation of dahlia is mostly through cuttings grown in sand like any other plants and they have a good success rate. It is also propagated by tubers which one can buy from nurseries. The tubers are sprouted by keeping them on sand or wrapping them in gunny bags. After they get ‘swollen eyes’ or have sprouted, they are cut in pieces , retaining at least one eye or sprout and planted in a bed or pot individually.

Do not forget to treat the cut pieces with bavistin dissolved in water (1 gm to a litre of water). Keeping the tubers dipped for about half an hour in this solution will ensure their survival. Using seeds is another method of planting dahlias but be ready for a surprise if the bloom is not the same or turns out to be single. There may be improvement in the bloom size as the fleshy roots develop over a period of time.

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Dahlias need sandy loam soil enriched with a good amount of manure. It should be well-drained when you put the plant in the pot. Add a handful of sand at the base. The pots should be kept in full sunlight. But as the plant grows it has to be kept at a place away from the wind, else the shoots break. Keep removing side shoots. As the plants grow to a height of about 25 to 30 cm they should be staked. Water frequently and liberally.

Do not let the plant sag for want of water. The plants should be planted at a 50-cm distance from each other. When the plants have established themselves, you can add 1 tbsp of CAN (kisan khad) around the stem of each plant. Do a little hoeing to mix it with the top soil and give water. Add a similar dose a month later.

The dahlia remains comparatively free from pests. However, as the effect of the flower and pot depends upon the foliage supporting the bloom, even the basal leaves have to be protected.

Thrips live in the folds of petals or emerging foliage. These insects feed on the sap, cause curling of leaves and shorten the bloom’s life. The leaves thus get distorted. Aphids also cause similar symptoms on leaves. Spraying rogor or metasystox (one millilitre to a litre of water) controls these pests. Repeat after 10 to 15 days.

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This feature was published on October 21, 2001
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