Dahlia varieties: your complete guide to all types of dahlias

garden flower closeup close up

Images of the Different Dahlia Varieties

If you are interested in growing dahlias, for your garden or for cut flowers, it is not always easy to understand all the different dahlia varieties that are available. This is not surprising since there are about 30 dahlias species and 20,000 different dahlia cultivars.

This amount of variety within the dahlia genus means there is a huge range of colours and shapes of dahlia flowers: there are single dahlias – those with a simple array of petal around a central disc, pompon and ball dahlias with their complex geometric shapes, cactus dahlias, and many more dahlia types.

How to identify dahlias: types of dahlia flowers

Here you can visually identify the 15 main groups of dahlias from this dahlia varieties list with photos. Further below, we look at each group in detail.

 Single flowered, Anemone flowered and Collerette dahlia varieties
Left to Right: Single flowered, Anemone flowered and Collerette dahlias
dahlia varieties
Left to Right: Waterlilly, Formal decorative and Ball dahlia types
Pompon, Cactus and Semi-Cactus dahlia varieties
Left to Right: Pompon, Cactus and Semi-Cactus dahlia types
dahlia varieties
Left to Right: Miscellaneous, Fimbriated and Star dahlia types
Left to Right: Double Orchid, Paeony and Stellar dahlia varieties
Left to Right: Double Orchid, Paeony and Stellar dahlia types
Table Of Contents
  1. Images of the Different Dahlia Varieties
  2. Complexity of Dahlia varieties
  3. Dahlia varieties grouped by flower characteristics
  4. Dahlia Groupings
  5. Other Dahlia Varieties
  6. Frequently asked Questions
  7. More on Dahlias

Complexity of Dahlia varieties

The classification of types of dahlias (or varieties) is a fluid subject. Botanists argue about the division of species, and growers create increasing numbers of cultivars and varieties.

Thus, the dahlia landscape is both complex and continually changing, so classification of the different varieties of dahlias is not straightforward.

Dahlia varieties grouped by flower characteristics

Order is imposed on the complexity of dahlia varieties by the arrangement of different dahlia varieties into groups. These group are classified according to the characteristics of their flowers.

Even this grouping system is not straightforward, as there can be sub-divisions within the groupings and International approaches can differ somewhat.

For these purposes, I’ll focus on the approach of the UK’s National Dahlia Society (NDS). According to the NDS, the different types of dahlias can currently be divided into 15 groups. The different groups are set out below, but in order to understand the differences between the various groupings, it is useful first to understand something about the parts of dahlia flowers, since it is the flower characteristics that determine the groupings.

Dahlia is a genus within the Asteraceae family, whose members also include daisies, sunflowers, rudbeckia and the like. Asteraceae plants typically have a flower head, or capitulum, that is a composite of a number of smaller individual flowers. This explains why the Asteraceae family was formerly known as Compositaea.

The individual dahlia flowers are called ‘florets’ and there are two different kinds. At the centre of the flower are the ‘disc florets’, which are typically yellow. The reproductive parts of the disc florets are usually readily accessible to pollinators, so this is where we see bees collecting pollen from.

The other kind of floret is the ‘ray floret’. Ray florets are what we usually think of as petals. These are the showy, coloured structures which surround the disc florets on the outer portion of the capitulum.

In dahlias, ray florets are sterile, so no reproductive parts (stamens or pistils) are evident. Ray florets will vary in their characteristics – they may be flat, folding up at the edges (involute) or folding down at the edges (revolute). Dahlia pinnata, for example, has a simple arrangement of flat ray florets.

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Check out my comprehensive step by step guide, with plain language explanations and ultra-useful images and illustrations. This is for you if you love dahlias and want to the best out of the dahlias you grow.

Smaller Dahlia varieties – size classifications

Smaller dahlia types are also often classified by size, usually for exhibition purposes. The classifications are as follows (the abbreviations noted are used below in relation to the cultivars listed):

  • Dwarf bedding dahlias (DW.B) – plants grow up to 60cm (24 in) in height.
  • Lilliput dahlias (Lil) – plants plants grow up to 30cm (12 in) in height, flowers up to 7.5cm (3 in) in diameter.
  • Gallery Dahlias – plants plants grow up to30cim (12 in) in height, with flowers larger than Lilliput dahlias.

Dahlia Groupings

Details of all 15 Dahlia types by organised by group are below:

Group 1 – Single Flowered Dahlia

Single flowered dahlia
Single flowered dahlia

These dahlias have flowers with a single ring of flat ray florets, which often overlap. Contrasting colour often appears towards the centre. The disc florets form a central disc.

Suggested Single Flowered Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Chessy (Lil) (Yellow)
Magenta Star (Lilac)
Hadrian’s Sunset (Orange)
HS Romeo (Red)
HS Princess (White)
Niki Preston (Orange/Pink)



Group 2 – Anemone-flowered Dahlias

Anemone flowered dahlia 'Jive'
Anemone flowered dahlia ‘Jive’

Anemone flowered dahlias have blooms with one or more outer rings of flat ray florets, which are usually flat, with central display of tubular florets. No disc is visible.

Suggested Anemone Flowered Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Alpen Fury (Red/Yellow)
Bayou (Lilac)
Evita (Purple/Yellow)
Pasa Doble (White/Yellow)
Ryecroft Jim (Pink/Yellow)

Image: Anemone flowered dahlia – Cillas Wikimedia Commons


Group 3 – Collerette Dahlias

Collerette dahlia ‘Poo’

Collerette dahlias have an outer ring of 8 or more flat overlapping ray florets, with an inner ring of smaller, symmetrical ray florets (the Collar), which are often of a different colour. The centre forms a disc.

Suggested Collerette Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Bride’s Bouquet (White)
Christmas Carol (Red/Yellow)
Clair de Lune (Yellow)
Olivia (Purple/White)
Linda C (Pink)
Kirsty G (Red)


Group 4 – Waterlily Dahlias

Waterlily dahlia

Waterlily dahlias have fully double blooms with broad, somewhat sparse ray florets that can be straight or slightly involute along their length. This gives the flower a shallow appearance.

The centre of the flower should be firm and closed and the depth of the flower overall should be around one third of the diameter of the bloom.

Suggested Waterlily Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Anna Lindh (White)
Sascha (Yellow)
Rancho (Orange)
Shep’s Memory (Bronze)
Wildwood Marie (Pink)
Kate’s Dream (Red)
Creme de Cassis (Lilac/Purple)

Love Dahlias?I've written the book on them

Check out my comprehensive step by step guide, with plain language explanations and ultra-useful images and illustrations. This is for you if you love dahlias and want to the best out of the dahlias you grow.

Group 5 – Formal Decorative Dahlias

formal decorative dahlia
Formal decorative dahlia

The essence of decorative dahlias is that they have fully double blooms, with no disc showing. The ray florets are generally flat, broad and are often involute for most of their length. The florets may be slightly twisted and usually bluntly pointed. Many modern varieties have a high petal count.

Blooms sizes are:
Giant flowered decoratives – over 25 cm (10 inches) in diameter
Large flowered decoratives – 20 – 25 cm (8-10 inches) in diameter
Medium flowered decoratives – 15 – 20 cm (6-8 inches) in diameter
Small flowered decoratives – 10 – 15 cm (4-6 inches) in diameter
Miniature flowered decoratives – Up to 10 (4 inches) in diameter.

Suggested Formal Decorative Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Hamari Gold (Giant Flower) (Pink)
White Perfection (Giant Flower) (White)
Lavender Perfection (Giant Flower) (White)
Cafe au Lait (Large Flower) (White/Bronze)
Ryecroft Rebel (Large Flower) (White/Pink)
Berwick Wood (Medium Flower) (Purple)
Mary Margaret Row (Medium Flower) (Yellow)
Oreti Classic (Medium Flower) (Lilac)
Barbarry Sultan (Small Flower) (Red)
Edinburgh (Small Flower) (Purple/White)
Hillcrest Firecrest (Small Flower) (Yellow/Orange/Red)
Requiem (Small Flower) (Purple)
Andrea Lawson (Miniature Flower) (White/Lilac)
Barbarry Respectable (Miniature Flower) (Pink)
Gallery Singer (Gall) (Miniature Flower) (Red)


Group 6 – Ball Dahlias

Ball dahlia
Ball dahlia

Ball dahlias are similar to decorative dahlias in that they have fully double blooms, which are ball shaped (obviously) or slightly flattened.

The ray florets follow a spiral form and are tubular, rounded at the tips and involute for most of their length.

Suggested Ball Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Amy Cave (Small Ball) (White)
Marble Ball (Small Ball) (Purple/White)
Regal Boy (Small Ball) (Purple)
Aurora’s Kiss (Miniature Ball) (Red)
Downham Royal (Miniature Ball) (Purple)
Ruskin Tangerine (Miniature Ball) (Orange)

Wine Eyed Jill (Pink/Peach)

Ivanetti (miniature Ball) (Magenta)


Group 7 – Pompon Dahlias

Dahlia varieties - pompon dahlia
Pompon dahlia

Pompon dahlias are globular double blooms with tubular ray florets which are blunted at the tips. They are usually less that 5cm (2 inches) in diameter and popular in gardens or for cut flowers. Large Pompons have blooms between 5 and 7.5 cm (2-3 inches).

Suggested Pompon Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Amgard Beacon (Large Pompon) (Yellow)
Franz Kafka (Large Pompon) (Purple)
Ms Kennedy (Large Pompon) (Orange)
Bowen (Pompon) (White)
Pensford Marion ( Pompon) (Pink)
Martin’s Yellow (Pompon) (Yellow)
Wizard of Oz (Pompon) (Pink)


Group 8 – Cactus Dahlias

Cactus dahlias have fully double blooms with pointed and narrow ray florets that are revolute for more than half of their length. Sometimes the florets curve inwards.

Cactus dahlia 'Pianella'
Cactus dahlia

Blooms sizes are:
Giant flowered cactus dahlia – over 25 cm (10 inches) in diameter
Large flowered cactus dahlia – 20 – 25 cm (8-10 inches) in diameter
Medium flowered cactus dahlia – 15 – 20 cm (6-8 inches) in diameter
Small flowered cactus dahlia – 10 – 15 cm (4-6 inches) in diameter
Miniature flowered cactus dahlia – Up to 10 (4 inches) in diameter.

Suggested Cactus Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Good Earth (Medium Cactus) (Pink/White)
Sure Thing (Medium Cactus) (Red)
Clearview Sharron (Medium Cactus) (Yellow)
Deborah’s Kiwi (Small Cactus) (Pink/White)
Karras 150 (Small Cactus) (White)
Embrace (Small Cactus) (Orange)
Gracie S (Miniature Cactus) (Purple)
Weston Pirate (Miniature Cactus) (Red)
Tui Avis (Miniature Cactus) (Pink)

(Image: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46202)


Group 9 – Semi-Cactus Dahlias

Semi-Cactus dahlias have fully double blooms, but differ from true Cactus dahlias in that they have broader ray florets that are only revolute for about half their length. The florets may be broad at the base can be straight curve upwards. (Image:By I, ritchie66.eu, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

Dahlia Varieties - Semi-cactus dahlia Frau Louise Mayer
Semi-Cactus Dahlia ‘Frau Louise Mayer’

Blooms sizes are:
Giant flowered semi-cactus dahlia – over 25 cm (10 inches) in diameter
Large flowered semi-cactus dahlia – 20 – 25 cm (8-10 inches) in diameter
Medium flowered semi-cactus dahlia – 15 – 20 cm (6-8 inches) in diameter
Small flowered semi-cactus dahlia – 10 – 15 cm (4-6 inches) in diameter
Miniature flowered semi-cactus dahlia – Up to 10 (4 inches) in diameter.

Suggested Semi-Cactus Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Aitara Majesty (Giant Semi-Cactus) (Yellow)
Inca Dambuster (Giant Semi-Cactus) (Yellow)
Candy Keene (Large Semi-Cactus) (Pink/White)
Black Jack (Large Semi-Cactus) (Red)
Aloha (Medium Semi-Cactus) (Yellow/Red)
Cleo Laine (Medium Semi-Cactus) (Orange/Pink)
Nancy Margaret (Medium Semi-Cactus) (White)
Veritable (Medium Semi-Cactus) (Lilac/White)
Avoca Comanche (Small Semi-Cactus) (Orange)
Match (Small Semi-Cactus) (Purple/White)
Ruskin Andrea (Small Semi-Cactus) (Pink)
Shandy (Small Semi-Cactus) (Orange/Pink)
Badger Twinkle (Miniature Semi-Cactus) (White/Purple)
Weston Dusky (Miniature Semi-Cactus) (Red)
Weston Stardust (Miniature Semi-Cactus) (Pink/Yellow)


Group 10 – Miscellaneous Dahlias

Dahlia varieties - dahlia pinnata
Dahlia pinnata (spp)

This group includes those that do not come within Groups 1 – 9 inclusive and Groups 11, 12,13 & 14.

Species dahlias, such as Dahlia pinnata, with its red dahlia flower, also fall within this group.

Suggested Miscellaneous Group Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Akita (Red/Yellow)
Dahlia coccinea (Species) (Red)
Dahlia pinnata (Species) (Red)
Jewel Orange (Dw.B) (Purple)
Samantha (Lil.) (Pink)
Lorona Dawn (Purple/White)


Group 11 – Fimbriated Dahlias

Dahlia Varieties - fimbriated dahlia
Fimbriated dahlias

On Fimbriated dahlias, the tips of the ray florets have two or three even splits or notches, creating a ruffled or fringed effect.

The florets themselves can vary and may be flat, involute, revolute, straight, incurving or twisted.

Suggested Fimbriated Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Apache (Red)
Jean Ellen (Yellow)
Kenora Frills (Pink/White)
Mel’s Orange Marmalade (Orange)
Promise (Yellow)
Marlene Joy (White/Pink)


Group 12 – Star Dahlias

Star Dahlia – Honka variety

Star dahlias have a single outer ring of ray florets around the central disc, which are either all involute or all revolute. Unsurprisingly, these are arranged like a star to give a very delicate appearance.

The ‘Honka’ cultivars are amongst the best Star Dahlias.

Suggested Star Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Hillcrest Cheryl (White)
Honka (Yellow)
Honka Surprise (Pink)
Midnight Star (Dark Red)
Sophie Taylor (Orange/Yellow)
Veronne’s Obsidian (Purple)


Group 13 – Double Orchid Dahlias

Dahlia varieties - double orchid dahlia
Double orchid dahlia

(Image by Marktee1 at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)
Double Orchid dahlias have fully double blooms showing no disc and have triangular centres. Ray florets are narrowly lance shaped and either involute or revolute.

These are perhaps the most exotic and dahlias, that look really good in a tropical style garden.

Suggested Double Orchid Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Gallery Art Deco (Gall) (Orange)
Gallery Art Nouveau (Gall) (Pink/Purple)
Giraffe (Yellow/Bronze)
Jescot Julie (Orange/Purple)
Tohsuikyoh (Pink)


Group 14 – Paeony Dahlias

Dahlia varieties - Paeony dahlia
Paeony dahlia

Paeony (or peony) flowered dahlias have several rings of ray florets encircling a central disc. The ray florets are often revolute along their length but slightly involute at the bases.

Many of the paeony dahlias, especially the ‘Bishop’ cultivars have very attractive dark foliage. This makes them especially garden worthy, since the foliage of some types of dahlias can be quite scruffy and disappointing.

Suggested Paeony Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Bishop of Llandaf (pictured)
Bishop of Auckland (Dark Red)
Bishop of Canterbury (Purple)
Bishop of Leicester (White/Pink)
Bishop of York (Yellow)
Classic Rosamunde (PinkD


Group 15 – Stellar Dahlias

Stella Dahlia "Alloway Candy'
Stella Dahlia “Alloway Candy’

Stellar dahlias have double blooms with no disc and long, narrow and pointy ray florets, that are partially involute (u-shaped) and in multiple rows.

There are spaces between the florets in each row and the florets recurve (turn back) towards the stem.

Suggested Stellar Dahlia cultivars for garden use are:
Alloway Candy (Pink/White)
Camano Pet (Yellow/Orange).

Image: Stellar Dahlia ‘Alloway Candy’ – Mary St George


Other Dahlia Varieties

There are other types of dahlia groupings that don’t fit in precisely with the classifications above. This may be because they are groupings that are applied outside the UK, e.g. in the USA, Canada, Australia, or that these are common names given tto various dahlias sharing similar charateristics. Examples of the these dahlia varieties are set out below.

Mignon Dahlias

Mignon dahlias are similar to single dahlias. They differ in that they are small – no more that 2 inches (5cm in diameter, with florets that are rounded at the end and only two rows of disc florets in the centre.

Dinner Plate Dahlias

Dinner plate dahlias are not a separate group. Instead this is a name applied to any varieties that produce huge blooms – i.e. more that 20cm (8 inches) across. Often dinner plate dahlias are from the decorative or fimbriated groups.

Dwarf Dahlias

Dwarf dahlia varieties are also often known as bedding dahlias. Dwarf dahlias are technically perennials like any other dahlia, but very often they are grown as bedding plants that are treated as annuals and discarded at the end of the season.

Dwarf dahlias are small dahlia varieties that only grow to a height of 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90cm) tall. Given their height, they are well-suited for use in containers and small gardens. Dwarf dahlias come in almost every colour except blue, and there are many different flower forms available including singles, doubles, cactus, and more.

One of the benefits of growing dwarf dahlias is that they don’t need staking as their short height makes them sturdy and less prone to toppling over. Dwarf dahlias can also be incorporated nicely into mixed flower borders in the garden. Growing them is the same as standard dahlias, providing sun and rich well-drained soil. With their diversity of colours and forms, dwarf dahlia varieties are a great option for big visual impact from a compact plant.

Dwarf dahlia Dark Ange - Pretty Woman
Dahlia ‘Dark Angel Pretty Woman’ (in need of some deadheading) by F. D. Richards is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Some popular examples of dwarf dahlia varieties include ‘Lil Becky’ which has soft pink double flowers on a compact 20 inch plant. ‘Parkland Plum’ is a striking purple dahlia that only gets 16 inches tall. For bright red blooms, ‘Fire Mountain’ is a free-flowering scarlet red decorative dahlia that grows to 2 feet tall. The ‘Dandy Candy’ series offers a rainbow of bicolor duplex-style blooms on dwarf 18 inch plants.

Frequently asked Questions

How many varieties of dahlias exist?

A: There are more than 50,000 registered varieties of dahlias. Their appearances can significantly differ due to the wide range of colors, sizes, and shapes available. Some common types include the pompon, ball, decorative, and cactus dahlias.

Can you suggest some popular varieties of dahlias to consider for planting?

A: There are many wonderful varieties to choose from, depending on what you’re looking for. The ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ is known for its scarlet blossoms and dark foliage. ‘Cafe Au Lait’ dahlias are popular for their large, blush-colored blooms. If you’re looking for something smaller, consider the ‘Topmix Purple’, which produces vivid purple flowers. If you want heat tolerant varieties of dahlias read our special post on the topic: Heat tolerant dahlias.

What is the difference between a cactus and a decorative dahlias?

A: Look at the pictures above, cactus dahlias have long, spiky petals that give them a star-like appearance, whereas decorative dahlias feature large double blooms with flat or slightly curled petals.

What is the difference between an anemone dahlia and single flowered dahlia?

Anemone dahlias have flowers with one row of ray florets that are broader at the tip, creating a ruffled, anemone-like look. Single flowered dahlias have flowers with just one row of ray florets that are more uniform in width. Anemone dahlias have a fuller, more decorative look compared to the simple, daisy-like single flowered dahlias.

What is the difference between a decorative dahlia and a stellar dahlia?

Decorative dahlias have fully double flowers with broad ray florets that are evenly arranged and slightly curved. Stellar dahlias have flowers with long, narrow, straight ray florets that give the bloom a spiky or star-like appearance. Decorative dahlias look fuller and rounded while stellar dahlias have a distinct spiky shape.

What is the difference between a cactus dahlia and a semi-cactus dahlias?

Cactus dahlias have flowers with long, narrow, pointed, and strongly revolute (rolled back) ray florets that give them a spiny cactus-like look. Semi-cactus dahlias have flowers with ray florets that are still somewhat long, narrow and pointed but not to the same extreme revolute extent as in cactus dahlias. Cactus dahlias appear more spiny while semi-cactus are only moderately spiky.

What is the difference between a ball dahlia and a pompon dahlia?

Ball dahlias have globe-shaped, fully double flowers composed of very short, round, blunt ray florets. Pompon dahlias have fully double spherical flowers made up of small, short, petal-like ray florets with rounded tips. Ball dahlias look like perfect balls while pompons have a slightly fluffier appearance.

What is the difference between a waterlily dahlia and a decorative dahlia?

Waterlily dahlias have flowers that are broad rather than deep, with ray florets that curve back from the center, creating a wide, flat bloom reminiscent of a waterlily. Decorative dahlias have flowers that are more rounded and fuller, with broad ray florets that are evenly arranged and slightly curved but not to the flattened extent of a waterlily dahlia.

What is the difference between a double orchid dahlia and a star dahlia?

Double orchid dahlias have flowers with two or more rows of long, narrow, straight and slightly twisted ray florets, giving the bloom a spiky pinwheel look. Star dahlias have flowers with long, thin, straight ray florets, but unlike the double orchid they have just a single row of ray florets, creating a spiky star shape rather than a pinwheel.

What is the difference between a fimbriated dahlia and a cactus dahlia?

Fimbriated dahlias have flowers with ray florets that are long, narrow, pointed and revolute like a cactus dahlia, but the tips are split into fringed or fimbriated segments. This gives them a frilly appearance compared to the smooth florets of cactus dahlias. Cactus dahlias have uniform narrow, pointed, revolute ray florets that lack the fringed tips of the fimbriated type.

What is the difference between a peony flowered dahlia and a single flowered dahlia?

Peony flowered dahlias have flowers with two or more rows of ray florets that are broader at the ends, creating a rounded, peony-like bloom. Single flowered dahlias have daisy-like flowers with just a single row of uniform ray florets. Peony flowered dahlias are fuller and more double than the simple single flowered type.

What is the difference between a fimbriated dahlia and a semi cactus dahlia?

Fimbriated dahlias have flowers with long, narrow, pointed, revolute ray florets that have split, fringed tips. Semi-cactus dahlias have flowers with ray florets that are moderately long, narrow and pointed but not extremely revolute like a true cactus dahlia. The key difference is the fringed tips of the fimbriated type compared to the uniform florets of the semi-cactus.

What is the difference between an anemone flowered dahlia and a collerette dahlia?

Anemone flowered dahlias have blooms with a single row of wide, ruffled ray florets that create a full, anemone-like flower. Collarette dahlias have a single row of broad ray florets like an anemone dahlia but with the addition of a second row of smaller florets in the center that resemble a collar. Anemone dahlias lack the central collar of the collarette type.


More on Dahlias

You can also get much more guidance on growing dahlias in these posts:

Love Dahlias?I've written the book on them

Check out my comprehensive step by step guide, with plain language explanations and ultra-useful images and illustrations. This is for you if you love dahlias and want to the best out of the dahlias you grow.

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