Standouts in the garden and stunning in a bouquet, dahlias are a favorite flower that never cease to amaze and offer lots of additional benefits. These ornamentals are one of the longest-lasting cut flowers, though that is not the only reason they’ve become a popular choice among brides, florists, and gardeners alike. They also carry interesting meaning and symbolism that make them the ultimate choice for your garden or vase. Follow this guide to find out about dahlia flower meaning, symbolism, origins, colors, planting tips, care tips, and more.
The Dahlia Flower
One feature of dahlia flowers that makes them a highly sought-after cut flower is their versatility. With over 50,000 varieties available, you’ll find these blooms in almost every possible flower color and a variety of shapes. In fact, The American Dahlia Society notes 19 different flower forms of dahlias.
The colors of dahlia flowers range from red to pink, orange, yellow, white, purple, blue, and more. Moreover, some species feature different-colored stripes, or their tips display a different hue than the rest of the flowers.
Dahlia flowers typically bloom from mid-summer through fall each year, depending on the variety. They are popular fall flowers for bouquets.
Dahlia Flower Sizes
The size of these flowers varies as well, ranging from 2 inches to as big as 10 inches in width. The New Zealand Dahlia Society lists different dahlia groupings based on flower sizes. These include giant flowered cultivars, large-flowered cultivars, medium flowered cultivars, small-flowered cultivars, miniature flowered cultivars, and pompom cultivars.
Dahlia Flower Types
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) classification identifies 14 different groups of dahlia flowers, grouped by flower type, as follows:
- Single Dahlias
- Anemone-Flowered Dahlias
- Collerette Dahlias
- Waterlily Dahlias
- Decorative Dahlias
- Ball Dahlias
- Pompon Dahlias
- Cactus Dahlias
- Semi-Cactus Dahlias
- Miscellaneous Dahlias
- Fimbriated Dahlias
- Single Orchid Dahlias
- Double Orchid Dahlias
- Peony-Flowered Dahlias
For more, see our in-depth guide to types of dahlia flowers explained.
Dahlia Flowers: History, Origins, and Cultural Significance
Dahlias, part of the Asteraceae family, are native to Mexico and South America.
Although the exact origin of the name is not clear, many believe that it was named after Swedish botanist Anders Dahl by the director of the Royal Gardens in Madrid, Antonio José Cavanilles.
There were even earlier reports that Swedish taxonomist and botanist Carl Linnaeus named the plant, but many opposed the idea as he died before the genus Dahlia was ever named.
Dahlias are also known as the Valley Flower because the word “Dahl” is similar in sound to the Swedish equivalent of “Valley.” Moreover, other gardeners refer to these flowers as the “Queen of the Autumn Garden” because they bloom longer than many other garden plants.
Dahlia flowers play an essential role in the history and culture of many countries. Garden Dahlia (Dahlia pinnata) is Mexico’s national flower. In the USA, the dahlia is the official flower of Seattle and the official flower of San Francisco.
These lovely blooms also have medicinal importance. The Aztecs, in particular, used this plant as a treatment against epilepsy. A substance called Atlantic starch, derived from the tubers of dahlias, was a renowned treatment for diabetes before the discovery of insulin.
Dahlia Flowers Meaning
Dahlia is a diverse genus of flowering plants in the same family as sunflowers and asters. Because of this diversity, dahlia’s meaning in the language of flowers is varied. Their significance to many cultures likewise gave rise to different symbolic meanings of these stunning blooms.
Generally, the significance of dahlia flowers is positive. Perhaps the most common of all is finding inner strength, which roots back to the plant’s ability to withstand harsh conditions.
More common meanings of dahlias are remaining graceful and standing out from the crowd. These flowers make the best gift for someone you admire or perceive as a strong person.
If you know anyone who’s experiencing a significant change in life, dahlias are the perfect flower to express support, good luck, or congratulations as they signify embracing positive changes.
Other known dahlia flower meanings include commitment and honesty. So, if you want to let someone special know you are committed, dahlia flowers are worth considering.
The flower invites positive energy due to its association with kindness and love for others.
Dahlia Flower Symbolism
Dahlias are the official birth flower for August, although other traditions recognize them as the November birth month flower instead.
Dahlia flowers hold different symbolism depending on their colors. Generally, these summer-blooming and vivid flowers symbolize elegance, inner strength, change, creativity, and dignity.
Though most of the symbolism is positive, dahlias still carry a few negative connotations, including betrayal, dishonesty, and instability.
During the Victorian era, dahlia flowers symbolized a lasting bond and lifelong commitment between two people. Presently, these blooms are a commemoration of something new, like joining a new religion or trying a new habit.
Moreover, this beautiful flower is often perceived as a symbol of diversity since its petals appear to fit perfectly into the whole head.
Popular Dahlia Flower Color Meanings
Red Dahlia Flower Meaning & Symbolism
Red dahlia flowers are a known symbol of both strength and power. Because of that, you can give them to a sick or recovering friend as a get well soon gift. Red dahlias are also ideal gifting flowers for someone who’s about to embark on a new professional career or a new milestone in life.
White Dahlia Meaning & Symbolism
Like other white flower meanings, white dahlias are associated with purity and innocence. They also symbolize staying focused.
This color of dahlia is the best gift for grandparents on their birthdays. You can also give white dahlias for celebrations of baptism or new birth.
Because of their color, white dahlias are frequently part of weddings and other ceremonies.
Pink Dahlia and Purple Dahlia Meaning & Symbolism
Pink and purple dahlia flowers are associated with kindness, service, feminine beauty, and grace. They make an excellent gift for mothers, sisters, friends, or co-workers, whether it’s Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, or birthday. They can also be a flower gift for your special someone, girlfriend, or wife for your anniversary.
Purple dahlias also symbolize royalty and dignity, which makes them the perfect gift for someone you appreciate and admire.
Blue Dahlia and Green Dahlia Meaning & Symbolism
Blue and green dahlia flowers are go-to blooms for those making changes in their lives. They are a symbol of a fresh start and positive changes.
Give a bunch of blue and green dahlias to a friend who’s moving out, starting a new career, buying a house, or having a new baby to express your support and congratulations.
Black Dahlia Meaning & Symbolism
Black dahlias, which are actually dark burgundy, convey negative meanings compared to the other shades. Since they have the strongest hue of all dahlias, they often symbolize betrayal, sadness, and other negative emotions.
For more, see our in-depth guide to black flower types and their symbolism here.
5 Essential Tips for Planting Dahlias in Your Garden
Growing dahlia plants is easier than some may assume. You can plant them in your backyard or even in containers when using small or dwarf dahlia varieties.
To help you get started, here’s a rundown of key information about growing these lovely flowers:
- Dahlias require at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Plant them in a spot where they can get direct sun from morning to midday.
- Dahlias thrive best when planted in soil with good drainage.
- Taller dahlia varieties may require staking to support the large blooms and keep the plant upright in windy conditions.
- Established dahlia plants require deep watering at least two to three times per week.
- During growth, dahlia plants benefit from fertilizers with an N-P-K ratio of 10-20-20 or 5-10-10. Expect dahlia flowers to blossom approximately two months after planting.
Dahlia Cut Flower Care Tips
Dahlias make great cut flowers, but you may not be able to enjoy their fascinating blooms if you don’t give them the proper care and maintenance. Follow these basic tips to make your dahlia flowers last longer.
- If you are picking the flowers yourself, cut them early in the morning when the blooms are less stressed by the heat. Select those that have just started blooming – not tight in bud or full-bloomed flowers. The buds will not open once flowers are cut.
- Condition the stems using hot water treatment. Make a fresh slant cut at the bottom and place them in about 2-3 inches of warm water for at least 1 hour. This will allow the cut flowers to last for four to six days.
- As with any other cut flower, remove any leaves that will fall below the water level in the vase.
- Keep the water in the vase clean by regularly changing it every two to three days. You may also add flower preservatives.
For more, see our in-depth guide to cutting dahlia flowers for a vase or bouquet arrangement.
Dahlia Flower FAQ:
What does a dahlia tattoo mean?
Dahlia tattoos carry the symbolic meaning of inner strength, grace, and openness to change and evolution. Each different color used within the dahlia tattoo may also convey additional sentiments and meanings.
What is the dahlia flower used for?
Dahlia flowers have long been used in ancient medicinal practices. The Aztecs, in particular, used this plant as a treatment against epilepsy. A substance called Atlantic starch, derived from the tubers of dahlias, was a renowned treatment for diabetes before the discovery of insulin.
Are dahlias poisonous?
The foliage and tubers of dahlia flowers contain traces of toxic compounds which can cause negative side effects if consumed.
What do black dahlias mean?
The black dahlia, which is actually dark burgundy, conveys negative meanings of betrayal and sadness. Despite these connotations, they are still sought after for their stunning color.
What does Dahlia smell like?
Dahlias don’t possess any real noticeable fragrance, except for very light floral notes.
Petal Republic’s flower and plant guides:
Looking for a particular stem or in need of some inspiration on the best blooms for a certain occasion? Check out Petal Republic’s expert flower guides to Roses, Asphodel, Valerian, Astrantia, Viburnum, Acanthus, Ranunculus, Lilies, Irises, Borage, Clovers, Freesia, Marjoram, Anemone, Begonia, Orchids, Allium, Carnations, Coreopsis, Gerbera Daisies, Gladiolus, and Peonies.
Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.
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