Summer Bulbs

    • Petunias can be planted now. Their bright flowers will bloom all summer in hot, sunny locations and they will take a light frost.
    • Tomatoes and peppers can be set out now, but be ready to cover them if cold weather returns.
    • Fertilize established roses now and begin spraying them for insect and disease problems. Neem oil is a very effective, less toxic spray that works against both insects and diseases.
    • Bleeding hearts are charming perennials for the shade garden. Look for them now for a special accent.
    • The average date of the last frost in Willits is May 12. So protect young flowers and vegetables on clear, cold nights.

Dazzling Dahlias

Diverse and versatile, dahlias are prized for their bright-colored, summer blooms. They are one of the most varied of the summer flowering “bulbs”, and are actually tubers. Although native to Mexico, dahlias are very adaptable.

They come in simple, daisy-like flowers; cactus flowers with rolled petals that give them a spiky look; smaller pompon flowers with many petaled, globe-shaped blooms; and decorative dahlias with large, fluffy blooms of many pointed and twisted petals. Flowers range from 2 inches to more than 8 inches across and come in a rainbow of colors. Plants range from 8 inches to 4½ feet tall, and bloom for months.

‘Harlequin’ Dahlias have small flowers, 2-3 inches across, with a single layer of outer petals and a burst of shorter inner petals that surround the eye. Their long-lasting blooms are bicolored or solid and come in many colors.

Bedding dahlias include ’Figaro’ Mix with green leaves and ‘Redskin’ Mix with dark foliage. They are compact and uniform with double flowers that are ideal for borders as well as containers.

The larger dahlias are particularly showy in the garden. The cactus dahlia, ‘My Love’, produces an endless supply of white, 6 inch flowers all summer long. ‘Kevin Floodlight’ is a bright yellow dinnerplate dahlia with flowers up to 8”-10” across on a four foot bush. ‘Thomas Edison’, a deep purple dinnerplate, is a heavy bloomer, with up to 15 huge flowers per plant.

The tubers are planted in spring after the air and soil have warmed. They grow in full sun on the coast but need shade during the hottest part of the day, inland.

Dahlias like well-drained, fertile soil. Space roots of larger dahlias 3 to 4 feet apart, smaller types, 12 inches apart. Mix in some composted steer manure at planting time.

For tall varieties, drive a 6-foot stake into the hole just off center, then plant the root next to it. Place the root horizontally about 2 inches from the stake with the growth eye pointing up, and cover with 3 inches of soil. Water well to settle the soil. When the sprouts show up, in about three weeks, top-dress with fertilizer. Use as a background screen or hedge plants for a striking accent.

As the plants grow, tie each stalk loosely to the stake with soft tie material. Dahlias begin blooming two to three months from planting and continue until frost. Pinch tall-growing plants at 4 to 6 inches to encourage branching.

Dahlia’s are ideal for cut flowers, borders and containers. Their fancy flowers with their wide variety of shapes and colors will add a burst of color and life to your summer garden and home decor.

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