US (WA): Dahlia popularity driven by climate, variety, and easy care

When Whatcom County Dahlia Society hosts its annual tuber sale, eager customers behave as if they’re attending a Black Friday sale, and the locally grown tubers are big-screen TVs being sold for half price.

“It gets picked over pretty quickly, so you need to show up as early as possible,” acknowledged WCDS President Sandy Boley, a longtime member of the gardening club dedicated to the popular perennial.

Boley, who has collaborated with dahlia growers and Master Gardeners from around the region and as far away as Mexico, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, said the plant is a “worldwide ambassador,” in part because of its long blooming season. It grows particularly well in the Pacific Northwest, she said, because of our sunny summers, cool nights, and lack of storms like those in the Midwest that damage blooms.

Luckily, the WCDS Dahlia Show taking place September 9–10 at Bloedel Donovan won’t have the same frenzied energy as the April sale. Instead, members will be bringing their best blooms of the season to the show to be judged. The public can subsequently peruse the cut flowers and make notes about their favorites, which they can attempt to scoop up when the next tuber sale comes around.

One of the things Boley said she loves about dahlias is they have so many different sizes, from 2 inches up to “giants” that are as wide as 10 inches in diameter. Her current favorite is waterlily-style dahlias. At the upcoming show, you’ll see them all.


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