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Disbudding Dahlias for Bigger Blooms

Want bigger dahlia blooms on longer, stronger stems? Discover the ins and outs of disbudding dahlias with this guide!

How to Disbud Dahlias

Disbudding might sound like a complex gardening term, but it's a straightforward technique that can make a world of difference for your dahlias. At its core, disbudding is all about removing certain buds from a plant to redirect its energy.

For dahlias, this process can be a game-changer. It not only ensures that the flowers bloom larger but also promotes the overall health of the plant. With less weight to bear, the stems stay straight and won't break in the wind.

If you're looking to get the most out of your dahlias, understanding and mastering the art of disbudding is essential. Here's what you need to know!

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The Science Behind Disbudding

Every plant has a certain amount of energy and resources it can allocate to growth, reproduction, and maintenance. When you disbud a dahlia, you're essentially guiding where the plant directs its energy.

By removing some of the smaller, side buds, the dahlia can focus its resources on the main, central bud. This concentration of energy results in a larger, more robust bloom.

Mikayla Miranda dahlia flower in full bloom

Moreover, disbudding can influence the plant's hormonal balance. Plants produce a hormone called auxin at the tip of their main stem and buds. When the side buds are removed, the concentration of auxin in the main bud increases, further promoting its growth and development.

So, while disbudding might seem like a simple snip here and there, it's deeply rooted in the science of plant growth and health.

Should you disbud your dahlias?

To be clear, you don't need to disbud your dahlias! You'll have way more flowers if you don't!

However, the flowers won't be as large as they could be, and the stems won't be as long. While this may not seem like an issue, let me show you an example with this Mystery Day dahlia that I didn't disbud...

two Mystery Day dahlia flowers blooming too close together on the same stem because it wasn't disbudded

While I have two flowers here instead of just one, the result is kind of a mess! The top flower bloomed on a really short stem, with two buds immediately below it. It only lasted a couple days before the lower bud started opening.

This caused the petals of the first flower to die off prematurely because the plant didn't have enough energy to support both. And because the two flowers are so close together, neither of them have enough space to grow to their full size.

If I had removed the lower bud earlier, the main flower would have been bigger and bloomed longer. The stem would also have been longer, making it easier to cut or deadhead.

When to Disbud Dahlias

Timing is everything, especially when it comes to disbudding dahlias. Doing it at the wrong time can affect the plant's health and the quality of the blooms. So, how do you know when the time is right?

Look for the main bud at the center of each stem. Surrounding this main bud, you'll often find smaller, side buds. These are the ones you'll be removing.

They should be large enough to pinch off easily but not so developed that they're nearing bloom. Sometimes they'll have longer stems like this, while other times they're right next to the main stem.

dahlia with one main flower and two side buds to be disbudded

How to Disbud Dahlias

Before you start, ensure your dahlia is well-watered. A hydrated plant is less stressed and the stems will break off easily without peeling.

This Star Elite dahlia is a prolific bloomer. It puts out dozens of flowers over the growing season, but the stems are really weak. By disbudding them regularly, they won't flop over and snap!

Using your fingers or the pruning shears, gently pinch or cut off the side buds. I just snap them off by bending them backwards. Be careful not to damage the main bud or the stem.

disbudding a dahlia

There's typically two side shoots on each stem, so I'll take both of them off. Now the main flower can bloom to its full potential on a stronger stem!

Star Elite dahlia after disbudding

Benefits of Disbudding Dahlias

While it can be a little painful to pull off those potential flowers, here are a few reasons why you should consider disbudding your dahlias.

Enhanced Flower Size and Beauty: The most immediate and noticeable benefit is the size of the blooms. By channeling the plant's energy into the main bud, you're rewarded with larger, more striking flowers that can become the centerpiece of your garden.

Improved Plant Health and Vigor: By reducing the number of buds the plant has to support, you're allowing it to focus its resources. This can lead to a stronger, more resilient plant that's better equipped to fend off pests and diseases.

Extended Blooming Period: Disbudding can prolong the blooming period of dahlias. With fewer buds to support, the plant can sustain its blooming phase for a more extended period, giving you more time to enjoy its beauty.

Better Air Circulation: Removing side buds can improve air circulation around the plant, reducing the risk of fungal diseases that thrive in damp, stagnant conditions.

Increased Flower Stalk Strength: With the plant's energy concentrated on fewer buds, the stalks holding the main blooms tend to be sturdier and can better support the weight of the larger flowers.

More Predictable Growth: By controlling which buds grow and which don't, you can have a better idea of how your dahlia will develop, allowing for more precise garden planning.