Types of Dahlias: Flower Styles and Sizes
Dahlias make it easy to keep your garden colorful from late summer through fall. As other annuals and perennials are starting to fade, dahlias are just getting started. They turn on the flower power in an all out effort to dazzle and amaze, with a show that continues all the way to the first frost.
There are hundreds of dahlia varieties to choose from, and part of the fun of growing these summer-blooming bulbs, is discovering new colors and flower styles. Learning to recognize the various types of dahlias makes it easier to identify the different varieties and figure out which ones you find most appealing.
To appreciate the full range of possibilities, you can visit the American Dahlia Society website, where you’ll find hundreds of varieties indexed by color, flower form and flower size. For a quick overview, here’s a look at the most common types of dahlias.
This is the largest category of dahlias and offers the widest range of colors and styles. You’ll find many wonderful heirloom varieties (such as David Howard, shown above) as well as a steady stream of new introductions.
Decorative dahlias are excellent cut flowers and essential for any cutting garden. Most have a stocky growth habit, which also makes them suitable for perennial gardens and large containers.
If you like BIG blooms, these are your dahlias! Dinnerplate dahlias grow 4 to 5 feet tall and produce flowers that can measure as much as 10″ across. These are large plants and they need plenty of room to reach their full potential.
Plant dinnerplate dahlias at the back of a flower bed, against a fence or outbuilding, or even in your vegetable garden. To help support the large flower heads, be sure to stake the plants at planting time and tie in the stems in as they grow.
Ball and Pom Pon Dahlias
These perky, perfectly round flowers feature a honeycomb of tightly rolled petals. This structure makes the blossoms more durable and longer-lasting than any other type of dahlia. The plants are also incredibly productive. You can expect them to crank out armloads of flowers all season long.
Ball dahlias are the larger of the two. Their flowers measure 3 to 4″ across and are perfect for casual mixed arrangements. Pom Pon dahlias are cute little buttons, just 1 to 2″ across. They are fun for small, hand-tied bouquets and add pops of color and texture to larger arrangements.
Anemone-Flowered and Collarette Dahlias
These blossoms offer lots of interesting texture and the flowers usually display more than one color. Anemone-flowered types have a pincushion of tubular florets at the center, surrounded by several rows of more traditional petals. Collarette dahlias have two different petal lengths: an outer row of standard petals and an inner row of short, frilly petals.
These dahlias are popular for bouquets because the blossoms mix so well with other types of flowers. The plants are prolific bloomers and attract lots of bees and butterflies. They are typically a bit shorter than other types of dahlias, reaching just 2 to 3 feet tall. This makes them a good choice for containers and smaller gardens as well.
These dahlias are the ideal size for lining a walkway or adding late summer color to pots and planters. Border dahlias have a bushy, compact growth habit and stand just 12-18” tall so they never need staking.
Though border dahlias are small in stature, they produce an abundance of full size flowers that measure 3 to 4″ across. You’ll see far more flowers than foliage with these showy little plants. They simply cover themselves with blooms all season long. Though the stems are shorter than other types, the flowers are perfect for table-side or windowsill bouquets.
Single and Peony-Flowered Dahlias. Single dahlias have daisy-like flowers with one row of petals around a contrasting center. Peony-flowered dahlias have two and sometimes more rows of petals around the center.
These plants are typically 2 to 3 feet tall and may have regular or dark-colored foliage. Single dahlias are highly attractive to bees and butterflies. They are a good choice for containers or flower gardens, where their airy flowers perfectly complement late summer perennials including sedums, asters, and rudbeckia.
Cactus and Semi-Cactus Dahlias
Tightly curled, ray-like petals give cactus dahlias a distinctive look. When mixed with other decorative and dinnerplate types, they add sophistication and excitement to any floral arrangement.
Cactus dahlias have slender stems, so you’ll want to stake the plants to help support the fluffy flower heads. In the garden, they are great companions for lilies, glads, garden phlox other late summer flowers.
These blossoms have rounded petals and a broad, flattened profile. Each flower is identical, with perfect form and a classic simplicity that’s always appealing. This makes waterlily dahlias popular cut flowers, and they’re in high demand by floral designers, especially for wedding work.
Waterlily dahlias typically grow just 2’ to 3’ tall, yet the flowers are 4″ or even 5″ across. They are sturdy and reliable plants for flower gardens and also suitable for containers.
To learn more, you may be interested in reading: All About Dahlias, How to Plant Dahlias, How to Deadhead Dahlias (video), How to Grow Border Dahlias in Containers, How to Lift and Store Dahlia Bulbs and How to Pinch and Stake Dahlias.