Best time for planting out dahlia tubers
“When should I plant out dahlia tubers?” That is the eternal dilemma of the dahlia grower in Spring.
The answer to this question will ultimately be determined by the climate and conditions where you are. The critical point to remember is that dahlias cannot really take any frost.
So, if you plant out dahlias too early – i.e. before the last frost of Spring – then any growth the plant has put on will be damaged and the plant’s development will be checked significantly.
Depending on the severity of the frost, the plant itself may not recover at all.
When to plant unsprouted dahlia tubers
You can get away with planting un-sprouted tubers a little bit before the last frost if you set them 12 to 15 cm (5 to 6 inches) below the surface.
This planting depth will usually mean that the frost won’t reach them at that level and the new growth won’t emerge until after the frosts are over. You should also add a good layer of mulch when planting dahlia tubers in this way.
When to plant dahlia tubers in a greenhouse
If you have a greenhouse and you want to be ultra-safe, you can wake up your dahlia tubers by potting them up and then growing them on under cover until the weather warms up. This is what I generally do, as you can see in the picture below.
The advantage of this approach is that your dahlias can get a head start and can therefore flower earlier than if they had been started in the cold soil outside.
You can do this several weeks before the last frost if your greenhouse is going to provide sufficient protection against any hard frost that may come in that period.
But, when you have grown on the plants under cover, you need to make sure that you plant them out after any risk of a hard frost. Otherwise, if they are hit by frost after you plant them out, the lovely foliage that you have carefully nurtured will be blackened and destroyed.
When is it safe to plant our dahlia tubers?
In summary, if you are planting out unsprouted dahlia tubers, and you place them 5 to 6 inches deep, you can plant out dahlia tubers a few weeks (say 3 to 4) before the last expected frost date. If you are planting out sprouted dahlia tubers, wait until the danger of frost has passed.
As to when the right time actually is, you’ll need to judge according to where you live. I’ve planted dahlias in London and near the east coast in Scotland and I’ve not had any significant trouble planting out dahlias tubers in mid to late May.
But, as indicated above, the critical factor is to know the last frost date where you are. And we have the information to help you below, whether you are in the USA or the UK.
USDA Hardiness Zone last frost dates for dahlias
Below are indications of the first and last expected frost dates, based on US Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones.
You need to understand that the dates in the table below are averages, calculated over a period of years. That means that in some years the last and first frost dates were earlier and in some years they were later.
Therefore, to be extra careful, it makes sense to assume the that the last frost date will be a couple weeks after the date shown below and the first frost will be a couple of weeks earlier.
|Zone||Last Frost Date||First Frost Date|
|1||22 May to 4 June||25 to 31 August|
|2||15 to 22 May||1 to 8 September|
|3||1 to 16 May||8 to 15 September|
|4||24 April to 12 May||21 September to 7 October|
|5||7 to 30 April||13 to 21 October|
|6||1 to 21 April||17 to 31 October|
|7||22 March to 3 April||29 October to 15 November|
|8||13 to 28 March||7 to 28 November|
|9||6 to 28 February||25 November to 13 December|
|10-13||No frost||No frost|
When to plant out dahlia tubers in the UK
Although the UK is significantly smaller than the US, the best time to plant out dahlia tubers still varies quite significantly across the country.
Dahlia planting times range from early March to late May. Dahlias can be planted out much earlier in the south, particularly the south-west, than they can in the North of England and Scotland.
Below I’ve list some of the major UK cities and towns, spread across all regions of the country. You can use this a guide to when you should plant out your dahlia tubers in the UK – allowing a week or two after the last frost date below, to be on the safe side.
|City||Region||Last frost date|
|Aberdeen||North East Scotland||1-10 May|
|Barnsley||Northern England||11-20 April|
|Basingstoke||South East England||1-10 May|
|Bath||South West England||1-21 March|
|Belfast||Northern Ireland (North)||1-10 April|
|Bournemouth||South of England||11-20 April|
|Bristol||South West England||11-20 March|
|Cambridge||South East England||11-20 April|
|Cardiff||South Wales||11-20 March|
|Carlisle||North West England||11-20 May|
|Derry||Northern Ireland (South)||21-31 March|
|Dumfries||South West Scotland||21-30 April|
|Dundee||Eastern Scotland||1-10 April|
|Durham||North East England||1-10 April|
|Edinburgh||Central Eastern Scotland||1-10 May|
|Exeter||South West England||1-10 May|
|Falmouth||South Eastern Scotland||21-31 March|
|Glasgow||Central Western Scotland||1-10 April|
|Gloucester||South West England||11-20 March|
|Harrogate||Northern England||21-30 April|
|Hereford||South West England||21-30 April|
|Holyhead||North Wales||21-31 March|
|Inverness||Northern Scotland||21-30 April|
|Leeds||Northern England||21-30 April|
|Liverpool||North West England||21-30 April|
|London||South East England||11-21 March|
|Manchester||North West England||1-10 April|
|Margate||South East England||21-30 April|
|Newquay||South West England||21-31 March|
|Norwich||East Anglia||1-10 April|
|Oxford||South East England||21-30 April|
|Penzance||South West England||21-31 March|
|Peterborough||South East England||21-30 April|
|Plymouth||South West England||21-31 March|
|Preston||North West England||21-30 April|
|Sheffield||Northern England||21-30 April|
|Southampton||Southern England||11-21 April|
|St Ives||South West England||11-21 March|
|Stirling||Central Scotland||21-30 April|
|Telford||West of England||11-21 May|
|Torquay||South West England||21-30 April|
|Truro||South West England||21-31 March|
|Tyneside||North East England||21-30 April|
|Weymouth||South West England||11-21 March|
|Yeovil||South West England||11-21 March|
FAQs on dahlia planting times
Is May too late to plant dahlia tubers?
May is definitely not too late to plant out dahlia tubers. The best planting out time depends on when the last frost is likely to occur. In fact May is probably, the optimum time to plant out dahlias in most areas.
Consult the tables above and you will be able to see whether you should be planting dahlias out before during and after May, according to where you live.
Can I plant dahlia tubers in July?
You can plant dahlia tubers in July. But whether it will be worthwhile depends on a few factors.
Firstly, you need to have enough growing season left for the plants to mature and flower. If you live in an area where frosts come in September or even earlier, then there is a pretty good chance that any dahlias you plant in July won’t have sufficient time to flower before being hit by the first frosts.
You can judge this for yourself by looking at the table of first and last frost dates for the USA above. But what this means is that planting dahlias in July in Zones 1 to 4 is probably going to be a bit pointless if you want a decent show of flowers.
In the UK, this means planting dahlia tubers in July is likely to be unsuccessful in northern or highland areas.
The second point to consider when planting dahlia tubers late in the season, is the viability of tubers that have been in storage for that long into the summer. If your tubers are soft, light or shrivelled, they will be unlikely to grow successfully. If they are plump, solid, and ideally showing signs of shoots, then they will probably be good.
Finally if you are trying to grow dahlias in a tropical climate or somewhere very hot in the summer, like Florida, you should make sure you choose heat tolerant dahlia cultivars. You should probably also wait and plant the dahlia tubers out in September as they will be less heat stressed and will provide a good display, if deadheaded, all through Fall.
When to plant dahlia tubers Zone 5
You may still get frosts in April in Zone 5. The average last frost date is 30 April. You should therefore wait until a week or so into May to plant your dahlia tubers in Zone 5. You could plant unsprouted tubers a little bit earlier, but you would need to make sure they were planted around 6 inches deep and mulched well.
When to plant dahlia tubers Zone 6
The average last frost date in Zone 6 is 1 to 21 April. But, frosts can still occur up to the end of April. So it is better to wait until the beginning of May before you plant dahlia tubers in Zone 6.
When to plant dahlias Zone 7
If you are in USDA plant hardiness Zone 7, you are in a good place for growing dahlias, with a nice long dahlia growing season. The average last frost date in Zone 7 is between 22 March and 3 April. So you should be able to plant your dahlias in early to mid-April in Zone 7.
When to plant dahlias in Mississippi
The northern parts of Mississippi, e.g. Oxford and Tupelo are in Zone 7, so you can plant out your dahlias in mid-April in those areas. Central Mississippi, e.g. Jackson is in Zone 8. Dahlia enthusiasts in central Mississippi can therefore plant out their dahlias in early April. Dahlia growers in the far south of Mississippi can take advantage of the fact that they are in Zone 9. So they can plant out their dahlias in early to mid March.
When to plant dahlias Seattle
Despite its northerly position, Seattle benefits from its maritime climate. This means it falls into plant hardiness Zone 8. You can therefore safely plant out dahlias in April is Seattle.
When do you plant dahlia bulbs?
Dahlia bulbs are properly called dahlia tubers – you can find out the differences between bulbs and tubers in relation to dahlias here. Therefore, follow the advice on this about when you should plant dahlia tubers in your area.
More on Growing Dahlias
You can also get much more guidance on growing dahlias in these posts:
- Taking care of dahlias: the trick with deadheading
- Dahlia pinnata: a dahlia original
- How to grow dahlias: the complete guide to dahlia care
- How to overwinter dahlia plants and tubers
- All you need to know about dahlia tubers and dahlia bulbs
- Dahlia varieties: your complete guide to all types of dahlias
- Dahlias in my garden: Six on Saturday
- Dahlia Wizard of Oz – Beautiful pink pompon dahlia
- Can you grow dahlias in raised beds?
- Do dahlias grow in Florida?
- Dahlia Wine Eyed Jill
- Can you grow dahlias in a tropical climate?
- Dahlia Ivanetti: magnificent magent dahlia
- Dahlia Night Silence – dusky pink dahlia beauty
- Visit a dahlia farm near you
- Best mulch for dahlias: a comprehensive guide
- Dahlia Islander: large, pink, loud, showy. What’s not to like?
- Heat tolerant dahlias: beat the heat with these 120 choice varieties
- Dahlia gall: identify and prevent leafy gall and crown gall in dahlias
- Dahlia spacing: how far apart to plant our dahlia tubers
Martin Cole has been an avid gardener for more than 20 years and loves to talk and write about gardening. In 2006 he was a finalist in the BBC Gardener of the Year competition. He is a member of the National dahlia Society.
He previously lived in London and Sydney, Australia, where he took a diploma course in Horticultural studies and is now based in North Berwick in Scotland. He founded GardeningStepbyStep.com in 2012. The website is aimed at everybody who has been bitten by the gardening bug and wants to know more.
Gardening Step by Step has been cited by Thompson and Morgan, the UK’s largest mail order plant retailer, as a website that publishes expert gardening content.
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.