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When to Plant Dahlias in Michigan? A Complete Guide


Dahlias have vibrant blooms and a robust presence. They are a favorite among gardeners. The key to growing dahlias in Michigan lies in understanding the optimal planting schedule.

Michigan's Climate and Growing Zones

Michigan spans a considerable area and hosts an array of climate zones. These varying pockets of weather are organized into USDA Hardiness Zones 4a to 6b, which dictate what plants can thrive where. When deciding on a planting strategy for dahlias, it's crucial to identify your local hardiness zone and understand the average date of the last spring frost.

For example, if you reside in Zone 4a of the Upper Peninsula, you'll be more inclined to start your dahlia tubers indoors early, possibly in March, to allow for a full growing season. However, if you find yourself in Zone 6b of the Lower Peninsula, you may have a bit more leeway, with a mid-May planting window sufficing.

Types of Dahlias to Plant

Different Types of Dahlias

Dinnerplate Dahlias have gigantic flower heads. They can grow 12 inches in diameter.

Waterlily Dahlias has double blooms. These varieties resemble water lilies with their layered petals.

Anemone-flowered Dahlias has single outer petals around a mass of elongated petals.

Specific Varieties for Michigan's Climate

Some recommended varieties for Michigan include 'Kelvin Floodlight,' a stunning golden-yellow dinnerplate dahlia, 'Hollyhill Spider Woman,' with its unique cactus-shaped flowers, and the waterlily dahlia 'American Dawn' in soft peach tones.

When to Plant Dahlia Bulbs in Michigan?

The best time to plant dahlias in Michigan is mid to late May. This timing allows the soil to warm sufficiently. The plants will not be set back by any late cold snaps.

Preparing the ground a few weeks ahead. Using well-draining soil and amendments with organic matter. Consider starting your dahlias indoors in pots about a month before the last expected frost. Monitor and move them to safety if needed.

Preparing for Planting

Selecting a Suitable Planting Site

Selecting a location with six to eight hours of sunlight daily. Work the soil 12-15 inches deep. Using organic matter to improve heavy clay soils. For example, compost. This can enhance its structure and fertility.

Testing and Adjusting Soil pH

Dahlias prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH 6.5-7.0. You should test your soil and adjust the pH. Add ground limestone if your soil is too acidic. You can mix elemental sulfur in to lower the pH if it is too alkaline. Wait at least a week between soil adjustments and planting. This allows the amendments to integrate fully.

growing dahlias in michigan

How to Grow Dahlias in Michigan?

Digging the Planting Hole

Dig a hole about 6 to 8 inches deep and wide when planting dahlias in Michigan. Ensures the dahlia roots can establish themselves well. The swollen part of the tuber is about 4 to 6 inches below ground level.

Placing the Tuber

Set the dahlia tuber into the hole with the growing point facing upwards. If unsure, a slight growth or tuber shrinkage indicators can help guide placement. Fill the hole with soil. Gently tamp it down, and water thoroughly.

When do Dahlias Bloom in Michigan?

In Michigan, dahlias usually bloom from June or July until October. September is the peak season.

Caring for Dahlias

Watering Techniques

Dahlias prefer consistent moisture. But they are sensitive to overwatering. Water in the early morning or late afternoon. This avoids evaporation and leaf scorch. A soaker hose can provide deep watering without wetting the foliage.

Mulching Strategies

Mulch can retain moisture, maintain soil temperature and suppress weed growth. Organic mulch can contribute to nutrition and overall fertility. For example, straw or wood chips.

Staking Tall Varieties

Tall dahlia varieties can grow up to 6 feet. Staking can prevent their heavy blooms from bending or breaking the stems. Do this when planting or shortly after. Using sturdy stakes and ties without damaging the plant as it grows.

Fertilization and Maintenance


Balanced fertilizers can help keep your dahlias healthy. Apply fertilizer when the plants are established. But avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers. These can promote leafy growth at the expense of flowers.

Deadheading for the Win

Deadheading is the act of removing spent blooms. Your garden will look beautiful. The plant will produce more buds.

Pinching for Lushness

When your Dahlia plant is about a foot tall, consider pinching out the top center growth. This action, known as topping, will encourage the plant to grow more laterally. It results in a bushier plant with a greater number of flowering branches.

How to Protect Dahlias for Winter Months?

Frost Covers or Greenhouse

If you have the means, placing frost covers over your dahlias can help extend their growing season. In colder areas, consider transplanting your dahlias into a greenhouse, as they need protection from both frost and snow.

Preparing for Winter

Lift and store your dahlia tubers after the first frost. Clean off the soil and dry them thoroughly. Store them in a cool, dry place for the winter. In Michigan, storing them in a bucket of peat moss or sawdust will protect them from harsh cold.

Spring Planting Considerations

Inspect and Prepare

In Michigan, the oscillation between snow and sunshine can make the spring planting window unpredictable. However, for dahlias, the process remains a delicate dance of timing and preparation. Once you’ve readied your tubers for growth, it’s smart to pot them indoors. This not only offers an insurance policy against late frosts but also jumpstarts the growing process.

Indoor Starting

Choose a sunny windowsill or a grow light setup. Plant the tuber in a well-drained pot with a good-quality potting mix. Burying the tuber about 4 inches below the surface. Maintain a consistent and moderate watering schedule. Ensuring the soil doesn't dry out completely or become waterlogged.

Transplanting with Care

Dahlias thrive in the full sun. Plant the tubers 2-4 inches below the surface. Covering them with soil and a light mulch.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Dealing with Pests

Aphids, earwigs and slugs are common pests. Natural predators can control pests without resorting to pesticides. Physical barriers and traps are good control methods for slugs.

Managing Diseases

Powdery mildew and dahlia smut are common fungal issues. Good air circulation, proper spacing, and watering the soil rather than the leaves can help prevent outbreaks. Neem oil and sulfur-based fungi are eco-friendly options for control.

Enhancing Flowering

You can use a balanced fertilizer high in phosphorus. It can encourage more bloom production without encouraging excessive foliage growth.


You can grow dahlias in Michigan with careful timing and nurturing. By understanding the climatic nuances and adjusting your care regimen accordingly, your dahlias will flourish.

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