Of the various late summer and fall flowers, dahlias occupy a place near many gardeners´ hearts. The range of types, sizes, and colors are spectacular. They range from small pompom blooms to amazing, oversized "dinner plate" flowers in vivid colors. Many aficionados consider the dahlia to be the "flower of flowers."
Dahlias originated in Central America and are native from Mexico to Costa Rica. The flowers were known to the Toltecs. An Aztec herbal written in Latin in about 1550 was rediscovered in 1929 and in it, evidence of the dahlia´s use as a treatment for epilepsy.
Plants were taken back to Europe by Spanish adventurers more than 200 years ago. At the Botanical Gardens in Madrid, the Abbe Cavanille named the genus "Dahlia" for Andreas Dahl, a noted Swedish botanist and student of Carl Linnaeus. There are currently 35 recognized species. The first species were Dahlia pinnata, D. rosea, and D. coccinea. Because the dahlia is a natural hybrid, developing new varieties from the original simple blooms to a vast range of single and double-flowered blossoms in saturated bright colors and a multitude of shapes has been relatively easy.
During the 1800s the popularity of dahlias surged; thousands of varieties emerged and were documented. After a brief flirtation with using dahlia tubers as a food crop to supplement potatoes, it was decided that it was better suited to decoration than food. The rounded pompom was developed in Germany around 1850 and cactus-type emerged from a bit of tuber cultivated in Holland during the 1870s.
The popularity of dahlias continues to grow. They are easy to cultivate, beautiful, and readily available.
HISTORY OF DAHLIAS