The mountain regions of Mexico and Guatemala are the birthplace of today's dahlias where they have been grown and used for countless generations from the time they were first cultivated by the ancient Aztecs who ruled this region. During the 16th century the Spanish conquistadors arrived on the scene. In addition to conquering the Aztecs they also brought with them botanists, whose job it was to bring back plants from the New World for Spain.
These botanists discovered what we today call the Tree Dahlia, whose flowers are open centered single blooms. The Tree Dahlia (D. imperialis) has stems that are hollow and can grow to 20 feet or more. Often used for hauling water or as an actual source of water to Aztec hunters, the Aztec name for the dahlia was "Acocotli" or water-cane.
Over time, Dahlia seeds and tubers were distributed throughout Western Europe from stock grown at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Madrid, Spain. In the beginning dahlias were grown for their tubers, which were used as food similar to the potato, but this never quite caught on.
By the beginning of the 18th century, as hybridization work continued, the first fully double forms began to make their appearance, as did many new color combinations. In 1872 a crate of dahlia tubers was sent from Mexico to Holland, however upon arrival it was discovered that only one tuber had survived the long Atlantic crossing.
This lone tuber of a new variety (D. juarezii) produced a bright red bloom with petals that were rolled back and pointed. Interest in the dahlia by plant breeders was renewed at once and the successful combination of this new variety with earlier varieties served as the parent stock for the current multitude of dahlias variations.
Today, the Dahlia family is a large and varied genus comprised of about 20 different species, with numerous cultivars and varieties, all natives of Mexico and Central America. The family takes its name from Swedish botanist Dr. Anders Dahl.
After 200 years of culture, selective breeding, and hybridizing, today's dahlia has one of the largest arrays of forms, colors, and sizes of any flower grown. In this past century alone nearly 50,000 named dahlia varieties have been developed, listed and registered in more than 570 individual classes!
More Dahlia hybridizers are active now than at any other time in history, which means a rapid addition of new forms, sizes and color combinations each year. That's just part of the reason growing dahlias is such an active and dynamic hobby.
The dahlia also has one of the longest bloom seasons of any garden flower, which means you will be enjoying gorgeous blooms long after your friends and neighbor's flower gardens have ended for the season. Dahlias also last a very long time as cut flowers, making them a great choice for arrangements and bouquets.
The first Dahlia Society in San Francisco was founded in 1917 and on October 4th, 1926, the Dahlia was selected as the Official Flower of the City of San Francisco, California!
|AA||(Giant)||over 10 inches in diameter.|
|A||(Large)||over 8 to 10 inches in diameter.|
|B||(Medium)||over 6 to 8 inches in diameter.|
|BB||(Small)||over 4 to 6 inches in diameter.|
|M||(Miniature)||up to 4 inches in diameter.|
|BA||(Ball)||over 3.5 inches in diameter.|
|MB||(Miniature Ball)||over 2 to 3.5 in. in dia.|
|P||(Pompon)||up to 2 inches in diameter.|
|MS||(Mignon Single)||up to 2 inches in diameter.|
There are generally 20 "classes" (Forms) of Dahlias recognized by the American Dahlia Society (ADS), with many sub-types noted.
These classes are:
|FD||Formal Decorative||IC||Incurved Cactus|
|MB||Miniature Ball||MS||Mignon Single|
|NX||Novelty Fully Double||O||Orchid-flowering|
|ST||Stellar|| ||WL||Water Lily|
Dahlias are available in almost every color except black and blue, as a general rule. All shades and combinations of Pinks, reds, purples, oranges, yellows, and whites exist.
The Color and Code abbreviations are:
|BI||Bi-Color (EX: BI W/R = Bicolor white & Red)|
|DB||Dark Blend (Deep Multi Colored)|
|FL||Flame Blend (Reds & Yellows)|
|LB||Light Blend (pastels, Yellows and Whites)|
|V||Variegated (multiple colors on each petal)|