The dahlia is a tuber (tuberous root) that originated in Mexico.  The dahlia arrived in Holland in 1872, when cross-fertilisation and professional growing started.  Because of many decades of large-scale professional growing, countless types, colours and sizes exist today.

Unfortunately, dahlias are still sometimes seen by some people as having a bit of an old-fashioned image.  In our view, this is not right and doesn’t do this wonderful garden plant justice, because today there are so combinations possible.  There are many variations in height, colour and flower shape, which makes this stunning plant a joy to work with for garden designers.

The dahlia flowers from June (depending on planting time) until as late as October/November (depending on temperature).  So these stunning long-lasting plants are also superb value for money!

Dahlias in pots

For some extra colour on your patio, dahlias also work great as pot / container plants. For a more harmonious look, choose one colour in a pot (this could still include several different varieties of dahlia). Or, if you like more variation, spice it up by mixing some exuberant colours to make a bolder statement.

In combination with ornamental grasses

Dahlias also combine well with modern grasses. The grasses are at their best in late summer and autumn, and this is also the time that dahlias are still displaying their beautiful and vibrant colours. Depending on the types of grasses you can choose the dahlias that combine best. Variegated and yellow/green grasses combine well with pink, orange or bright red dahlias, such as Berger 's Record, Glory of Noordwijk or Jan van Schaffelaar.

Do you have grasses that are darker or red, then it looks very nice if you use yellow, orange or purple dahlia such as for example Deepest Yellow, Vuurvogel or Lavender Perfection.

Autumn border

You can design part of your border as autumn border to extend the summer colours in your garden.  In this part of the garden you can then choose plants in shades of yellow, orange, red, white and purple that bloom in the autumn or whose leaves display beautiful autumn colours.

The basis for each border you create with trees, hedges, shrubs and perennials.

For beautiful autumn colours in your late summer/autumn border, you could for example choose Japanese maple, viburnum (several species) or Hamamelis.  For red leaves you could go for Cotinus, Japanese maple, Berberis and Prunus. You could combine these with planting grasses such as Miscanthus, Pennisetum, Stipa and Imperata.

You can then fill the remaining space with flowering perennials, bulbs and tubers.  Nice autumn blooming perennials include Lobelia, Sedum and Aster. Dahlias that would go well combined with these perennials and shrubs are Arabian Night, Ludwig Helfert, Vancouver and New Baby. You can of course also always use the bright red Crocosmia Lucifer in this border.

If you would like more information or ideas on using dahlia tubers when planning your (late) summer /autumn garden, then please send us and email at or visit our website at

This is the third article of a monthly series written bij Cor-Niels van Duijn.  Cor-Niels has been a successful garden designer in Holland for over 15 years.