What information can you give me on growing dahlias for cut flowers?

H.L.ArkansasAnswer: Dahlias are currently among the most popular and best selling cut flowers. They can be grown from tubers or cuttings and are very productive; they bloom in northwest Arkansas from late June until frost. Dahlias come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. A relatively new series called Karma dahlias were bred especially for cut flowers. You can see photos of many of them at the website http://www.ednieflowerbulb.com and http://www.dutchbulbs.com/. These companies sell tubers. You can also purchase Karma dahlias as rooted or unrooted cuttings from Germania or Gloeckner. They are grown in the U.S. by Bosgraaf, www.wehop.com/PDFs/Bosgraaf_2009-2010_Karma_Dahlias.doc. The rooted cuttings are less expensive than tubers, but you have to buy lots of them. Last year I purchased some dahlia tubers from Banner Flower Farm in Michigan. Co-owner Patricia Banner was present at a specialty cut flower workshop in Memphis, Tennessee, that I attended in November. She has written an article on starting dahlias from cuttings that will be in the January issue of Growing for Market, and she will be giving a presentation on dahlias in November 2010 at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers annual conference, which will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Several of her articles are referenced below. You can find more of her articles at the website www.bannerflowerfarm.com/ as well as the descriptions and photos of varieties they sell. Among the referenced articles, I think the one titled “Culture Profile: Dahlia” gives the most specific information about how to plant and manage dahlias. A few notes from my experience follow.Dahlias benefit from a heavy mulch of straw or leaves, and do not need to be dug up in the winter in Northwest Arkansas if they are well mulched. They need to be kept well watered in the summer. (They thrived with all the rain during the summer and fall of 2009.)They require strong support netting. I use Hortonova poly net, which I stretch horizontally over the bed about 2 ? feet high. With the tallest varieties, a second layer of netting may be helpful. You can find sources for floral netting listed in the ATTRA publication Keep cutting the flowers! The longer I cut the stems, the longer they seem to grow. The plants and flowers look much better in the fall than they do in the heat of July and August.You can find contact information for Gloeckner and Germania, sources for floral netting, and more in the ATTRA publication Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing.Resources:Banner, Jim and Patricia. No date. Growing Dinner Plate Dahlias for Market; Maximizing Vase Life of Cut Dahlias; Early Blooming Field Planted Dahlias, Cooling, We’re Just Wild About Bouquets. Banner Flower Farm. 13 p. Online at www.bannerflowerfarm.com/Schaafsma, Craig. 2002. Dahlias simplified: An expert tells how to grow them without much fuss. Growing for Market. p. 13-14.Banner, Jim and Patricia. 2007. Growing dahlias: ?These are your money makers.’ Growing for Market. p. 16?18.Blount, Allison. 2004. An unsubtle love for dahlias. In Good Tilth. p. 13. DeVault, Melanie. 2004. Good Karma?Dahlias that is. The New Farm. 5 p. Preston, Bill. Culture profile: Dahlias. The Cut Flower Quarterly. p. 6-7.