Tree Dahlia

Everybody loves dahlias, right? There are so many different colors in so many gardens out there, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Dinner plate dahlias for the bold, pom pons for those that like the manicured look. I like dahlias too. I just like them for their leaves!

My favorite dahlia is the uncommon Tree Dahlia (Dahlia imperialis). I’ve been growing them for a few years now, and have yet to really get much in the way of flowers out of them before frost has browned the buds. I really don’t mind though. I most likely wouldn’t see them well, since the buds start appearing around 7 feet off the ground and continue on to the top of the plants… about 14 feet up in my garden. In 2014 the tree dahlias were loaded with buds that never fully opened. Here’s to another year of no blooms!

The foliage is best part, anyway. It is unmistakably a dahlia, but at the same time is undeniably different. The leaves stretch many feet wide and long, with each leaflet resembling a normal sized leaf. When I look up through the leaves, I’m reminded of how small I am. Leg sized stems and pools of water in the leaf axils bring back fond memories of Costa Rica.

This photo from 2014 shows the incredible growth that tree dahlias are capable of. These two went from overwintered underground tubers to 8 foot tall giants in 5 months. In another 3 months they were nearly double the size, and 2 weeks after that they looked like the standing skeletons of a dead forest.


What kind of monster would I be if I grew dahlias and NEVER cared if I got flowers? I have a couple of dahlias that are short enough to appreciate the flowers. The lighter colored one is AC Rainier and the dinner plate variety is a no-name variety given to me with a simple label of “huge”. Aptly put, if you ask me.

2 thoughts on “Tree Dahlia

  1. I love the tree dahlias and I am envious of the growth you get – I have seen them flower here, and even at 7′ up, the flowers nod and look down at you. It’s amazing, but as you say, even without flowers, their growth and foliage is exquisite!


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