How to Prepare Dahlias for Show


Dahlias (Dahlia x hybrida) are single stem disbuds, meaning exhibition requires only a single flower at the tip of a stem. Judges rate dahlias in categories such as color, condition, cultural perfection and form. Issues such as Insect or disease damage, immaturity, over maturity, dull color, no foliage, weak stems and short stems may affect ratings. Select dahlias that have full blooms with a depth at least one-half the diameter of the flower and at least two leaves. To prepare dahlias for show, cut them a few days ahead. For example, cut dahlias on Wednesday for a Friday show.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife
  • Syringe
  • Select a developed flower with outer petals folding out and center petals tighter than the outer petals. Cut the stem several inches longer than necessary with a clean, sharp knife in the evening or early morning.

  • Pinch off any leaves from the lower part of the stem that would be in the water, leaving at least one pair of leaves on the stem.

  • Put the stem in water that is warm, about 100 to 110 degrees F. Keep the cut flowers in a cool location for 15 to 20 minutes, and store them a refrigerator at about 35 to 40 degrees F until the show.

  • Cut the stems under water about an hour before the show. Remove all soil and residue from the foliage, stems and flowers with a gentle spray of water from a syringe or faucet, carefully avoiding damaging the bloom.

  • Pinch off fading petals and damaged leaves.

  • Put the flower in a soft drink or narrow-necked bottle filled halfway with water to safely transport it. Set the bottle in a soft drink carton or surround it with newspapers or packing peanuts in a box. Wrap the bloom gently in tissue paper.

  • Label the flower with the plant name and variety after putting it in its display vase for the show. A simple container like a narrow-necked, clear vase works well for cut flowers.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remove young side shoots early in the season, as soon as they are visible; removing the side shoots helps the dahlia produce a single bloom.
  • Do not store flowers near fruits or vegetables because the ethylene gas released by the food will reduce vase life.
  • If the outer petals shrivel or fade, then the flower is over-mature and should not be used for show.


  • Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
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