If our sunny deck weren’t covered with orchids, it might be covered with dahlias instead. These flashy perennials come in many different colors and shapes, and they are San Francisco’s official flower. We’ve made room for a few varieties in the back garden.

Dahlia flower and leavesDahlia flowersDahlia flower and buds

These are just a drop in the bucket of dahlia shapes and colors. With a multitude of forms ranging from flat, daisy-like petals to spiky pompoms, and just about every color but blue, it can be surprising that these flowers are related. Near the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, the Dahlia Dell has many kinds on display. Depending on the variety, blooms can range from a petite 2 inches (5 cm) to giants over 10 inches (25 cm.)

Dahlia flower close upDahlia flowers side viewDahlia

Besides being San Francisco’s official flower, dahlias are also the national flower of Mexico. In fact, they’re native to Mexico and Central America. Three dozen naturally occurring dahlia species readily crossbreed to create thousands of hybrids. To grow dahlias, provide rich soil, full sun, and regular water. Deadhead old flowers to keep new ones coming. In cold areas, tuberous dahlia roots need protection from winter freezes. We only rarely go below freezing in San Francisco, one of the reasons they do well here.

Dahlia flowers and leavesDahlia with black leavesDahlia with black leaves

My favorite dahlia in our garden is the yellow one in the last two pictures. Its sunny flowers provide spectacular contrast to its black foliage. This plant can grow 5 feet (1.5 m) tall, and it flowers through the summer and fall as long as it receives regular water.

For more info on dahlias, check out the American Dahlia Society and Dahlia.com.

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4 Comments on “Dahlias”

  1. Aimee Shepparton Says:

    lovely flowers. I really like the ones with black leaves.

  2. Polly D. 72 Says:

    Thanks for sharing your great picturs!

  3. Carolina H. Says:

    Dahlias are some of my favs, too.
    I grow the spiky cactus kind. We have to dig them up every year andoverwinter them in the basement. they come back every summer with great flowers. My friends always think they are fake until they touch them!

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