Dahlias offer flamboyant flowers on lush plants from summer through fall, right up to the first frost. Fully hardy to zone 8, these hybrids of species native to Mexico and Colombia may overwinter in Zone 7 with a thick blanket of mulch. Gardeners in colder zones can get a head start by planting tubers in pots 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost date. Plant tubers several inches deep in a light, soilless potting mix and water sparingly until new growth appears, then more freely. Place pots in a sunny window or under grow lights, and then plant outside after danger of frost has passed. Taller varieties will need staking, with stakes placed carefully so as not to injure the tuber or roots. If planting is delayed (either indoors or in the ground), store the tubers in their bags in a cool, dry, dark location.
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