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Growing Dahlias From Seed

Learn How To Grow Beautiful Dahlias From Seed

dahlia flowers grown from seed

Have you ever tried growing dahlias from seed? Traditionally dahlia flowers are grown from tubers, but did you know that you can also grow dahlias from seed? I prefer to grow most of my dahlias from tubers because I know exactly what they will look like when they bloom. However, I also find it to be fun and exciting to try growing some dahlia flowers from seed as they will produce new varieties I haven’t seen before. When you grow dahlias from seed, you are essentially growing new plants with new and unique blooms.

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What is the difference in growing dahlias from seed vs dahlia tubers?

Traditionally people have multiplied their dahlia tuber stock by dividing their dahlia tubers. This method produces new plants that are identical to the parent plant or “mother tuber.” Growing dahlias from seed is very different from growing dahlias from tubers. When you grow dahlias from seed, no two plants will ever be the same! That’s right, by growing dahlia flower seeds, you are actually creating a new variety of dahlias that’s never been grown before.

When you leave a dahlia flower on the plant, it will eventually go to seed. The flower head will create a seed pod that will produce seeds that you can then grow the following year. Each seed contains it’s own DNA and will grow a new and unique variety. These seed pods are typically harvested at the end of the growing season to allow the seed heads to fully mature and produce ripe seeds. Then after harvesting the seeds, you store them over winter and grow them the next spring.

Dahlia flower seeds get their genetic makeup from the seed parent as well as from the pollination of bees. That’s right, the bees and other garden pollinators actually play a huge role in determining what your dahlia seeds will eventually grow. The bees carry pollen from one dahlia plant to the next and actually modify the genetic make-up of the dahlia seeds. Most open pollinated dahlia seeds will grow single or semi-double blooms with an open-center. Many breeders will either eliminate open centered dahlias or hand pollinate their dahlias to increase their chances of producing a fully double dahlia.

Dahlia flower being pollinated by bee.

There are some amazing dahlia breeders like Kristine Albrech of Santa Cruz Dahlias who specialize in dahlia breeding. Kristine focuses on hybridizing new dahlia varieties from seed. If you are interested in learning more about breeding dahlias, you should check out Kristine’s book.

Instructions for growing dahlias from seed

There are several reasons you may want to consider growing dahlia flowers from seed. Growing dahlias from seed is much cheaper and more affordable than buying a pack of dahlia tubers. You can buy a packet of seeds for $5-20 dollars whereas a single dahlia tuber will run you $8-35 dollars! For the cost of one dahlia tuber, you can grow many dahlias from seed that will produce beautiful flowers their first year! If you save your own seed, you can grow your own new dahlia varieties the following spring!

Learn How To Grow Beautiful Dahlias From Seed

Another reason to grow dahlias from seed is for the sheer excitement of the unknown. It’s exciting to watch a plant grow from seed. You will find yourself waiting in anticipation, wondering what color, shape, and size dahlia you are growing. How neat is it to grow a variety that no one else has?!?

What do dahlia seeds look like?

Dahlia seeds come from the inside of a ripe seed pod. Inside each seed pod are the dahlia seeds. Most home gardeners do not collect their own dahlia seeds. If you decide to grow your own dahlias from seed, you will see that the dahlia seeds are thin, black, and under ½ inch long.

Here is what a handful of dahlia seeds looks like:

close up of dahlia seeds

Where to buy dahlia flower seeds for growing?

If you decide that you want to grow your own dahlias from seed, you can either purchase your seeds OR collect your own!

At The Flowering Farmhouse we actually sell a limited quantity of seeds collected from our farm! Some of my other favorite farmers who sell seeds includes:

The Farmhouse Flower Farm

Triple Wren Farms

Coseytown Flowers

And of course some of the larger seed companies also sell dahlia seeds. You will find that most seeds from the larger garden centers produce open centered dahlias. Click here for a list of my favorite seed suppliers.

close up of dahlia flower grown from seed
One of my 2020 dahlia flowers grown from the Floret Flowers’ Bee’s Choice Mix

Floret Flowers offers a Bee’s Choice Mix of dahlia seeds. I have grown dahlias from this seed packet and let me tell you, I’ve never seen so many happy bees! This mix of dahlias produces a wide range of varying shapes and sizes. Most of these dahlias will be open-centered and single bloom dahlias.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds offers a Giant Hybrid Mix of dahlia seeds. This mix of dahlia seeds is supposed to produce a mix of 3-5’’ double, semidouble, and single blooms.

When you should plant dahlia seeds

When growing dahlias from seed, you want to plant dahlia seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks prior to your last frost date. If you do not know your growing zone’s last frost date, you can find it here. This will give your dahlia seeds time to start growing and to be ready to plant outside. You do not want to transplant your dahlia starts outside until all danger of frost has passed.

How To Plant & Grow Dahlias From Seed

Once you decide to grow dahlias from seed, you will want to start your dahlia seeds indoors. Start your seeds indoors 6-8 weeks prior to your last frost date. This will give your dahlia flower seeds enough time to get growing so that they can flower in the summer months. Dahlias will bloom until your first frost. It takes about 100-120 days for the seeds to produce flowers.

There are several ways you can get your dahlias seeds to germinate. Dahlia seeds have pretty poor germination rates with 20-80% germinating. The most reliable way for getting your dahlia seeds to germinate is with paper towels. The other method involves direct seeding into cell plugs. For best results, I recommend germinating your seeds with paper towels.

growing dahlia seeds on paper towel. growing dahlias from seed
Dahlia seeds have been germinated on wet paper towels and are ready for transplanting.

You Can Use Paper Towels To Germinate Dahlia Seeds When Growing Dahlias From Seed

growing dahlia seeds on paper towels. growing dahlias from seed
My 6-year old garden helper arranging dahlia seeds on a wet paper towel.

For the first method, start by taking two wet paper towels and placing the dahlia seeds flat on one. Cover the dahlia seeds with the other paper towel. Place the paper towels and seeds inside a zip lock bag. Lay the zip lock bag flat on the top of your refrigerator. Leave the seeds for 3-5 days. After that time, start checking the bag daily for signs of germination. Once the seeds have germinated, carefully plant the seedlings in a seed tray. Place the tray of seedlings under grow lights. I check the seeds starting at day 3 and plant the ones that have germinated. I then continue to check daily for about 2 weeks for germination. After that point, I toss the ones that have not germinated.

dahlia seeds started on 1-22. growing dahlias from seed
These dahlia seeds were placed on wet paper towels and sealed up in a zip lock bag on 1-22. The bag was placed on top of the fridge to speed up germination.

Planting Dahlia Seeds In Seed Trays Under Grow Lights

The other method is to plant your seedlings directly onto your seed trays. Fill your seed starting trays with seed starting mix. Poke a small hole in each of the seed cells. Take dahlia seeds and sow seeds, with one in each seed cell. Bottom water the seed tray and cover with a clear acrylic dome. I like to place my seed tray on a heat mat and underneath a grow light. This ensures that the soil is warm enough for germination. Dahlia seeds need a warm location to germinate and grow. Seedlings should emerge within 3-5 days.

sowing dahlia seeds to grow dahlias. growing dahlias from seed
My 6-year old daughter helping to prepare holes to plant the dahlia seeds on a 72 cell plug flat.

I did an experiment this winter and tried starting dahlia seeds using both of the methods above. I actually found that the dahlia seeds sprouted in about the same amount of time using both methods. However, the seeds that were germinated underneath grow lights in the cell plug flats actually grew better initially. Within a week of both being planted in cell plugs, it was hard to tell the difference in either method. The only downside to direct sowing is that you may end up with empty seed cells because of low germination rates with dahlia seeds.

growing dahlia seeds in cell flats

When To Transplant Your Dahlia Seedlings

Dahlia plants started from seed. growing dahlias from seed

Once your young seedlings have true leaves growing, you will want to transplant them into larger containers. This is important so that your dahlia plants do not become root bound. Continue growing your dahlia plants indoors (or inside a heated greenhouse) until all dangers of frost have passed. Once the risk of frost has passed, you can safely plant your dahlias outdoors in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Be sure to space your plants 12-18” apart to allow for enough space for the tubers to form. For more detailed planting instructions, be sure to visit my post on How To Plant Dahlia Tubers.

If you live in a growing zone with a longer growing period, you can also direct seed your dahlia seeds into the garden. For this option, your soil needs to be at least 65-70 degrees F. You also want to make sure that all dangers of frost have passed.

When will my dahlia seeds bloom?

It can sometimes feel like an eternity waiting for your dahlia seeds to bloom with flowers. Dahlia seeds usually take 100-120 days to bloom. Depending upon when you sow your seeds, you will likely see your first dahlia flowers in mid-July to early August.

Will dahlia seeds turn into tubers?

At the end of the growing seasons your dahlia seeds will have produced viable dahlia tubers that you can dig up and save for the following season. These dahlia tubers will produce identical plants to what was grown this year. Because dahlias are tender perennials (or annuals in some zones), you should dig up and store your tubers over winter. Be sure to check out my blog post for tutorials on removing and storing your dahlias over winter.

clump of dahlia tubers
Clump of dahlia tubers removed from the ground at the end of the season.

Do You Save Your Dahlias Grown From Seed?

Each summer I always go through my dahlias that were started from seed and decide which ones to keep and which ones to toss. In the past I have grown between 50-75 dahlia plants from seed each year. Most of these have produced open centered, single flowers that the bees love, but they are not excellent cut flowers. Typically I find that I keep about 1-5 varieties each year that I’ve grown from seed. If these plants produce quality dahlia blooms again in their second season, then I can name them and grow them a 3rd season to multiply and add to my tuber collection.

Ready to start growing dahlias from seed?

Did this inspire you to try growing your own dahlias from seed? There’s something so rewarding about growing plants from seeds you start! You can also save lots of money by growing your own dahlias from seeds. Plus, how neat is it that you can have dahlia varieties growing in your own cut flower garden that are different from any others in the entire world!

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To learn more about dahlias, be sure to visit my detailed post, A Beginner’s Guide To Growing Dahlias!

dahlia flowers growing in the garden that were started from dahlia seeds

I hope this blog post has inspired you to try growing your own dahlias from seed. If you try growing dahlias from seed, I’d love to hear how it goes! Who knows, maybe your dahlias seeds will become your new favorite flowers! And don’t forget to PIN this blog post to Pinterest so you can easily come back to it later.

Happy Gardening!

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  1. This is such a great blog post Jen! I have learned so much. I bought Floret’s Bee Choice Mix for the second year in a row, and always think of them as a very special gift. I’m definitely going to try the paper towel method! I would love to share this on my weekly blog post this coming Saturday. Thank you for sharing with Charming Homes and Gardens.

    1. Thank you Kim! I’m glad that you were able to learn something new from this post. I’d be honored to have this included in your weekly blog roundup this weekend. I love the Bee’s Choice Mix from Floret!

  2. Hi there Jennifer! Thank you so much for sharing with us at Embracing Home and Family! I enjoyed this informative and beautiful post and am featuring you tomorrow at this week’s party!

    1. Thank you so much Jennifer! I am honored to be included in your Embracing Home & Family Round-up this week!

    1. Yes, thank you! I just checked out the round-up. I am so honored. I also subscribed to your blog!

  3. Thank you so much for the very informative post on growing dahlias from seed. I had no idea. I’ve been growing dahlias to share for the last 2 yrs and I’m thrilled to learn of a possible more cost effective way of doing this. They have quickly become one of my favorites.

    1. Thank you Brooke! Growing dahlias from seed is very economical. You will get a new variety with each seed. Just keep in mind that most seeds will only produce single flower dahlias (you can see the different types on my complete guide to dahlias post).

  4. This is extremely informative. I’ve only ever grown dahlias from a tuner and never seed. I’m expecting a seed packet with the release of Floret Flowers new book so i can wait to apply what I’ve learned from your post. Can’t wait to see what the seeds grow!

    1. I am so excited for the release of Discovery Dahlias from Floret. Her dahlia seeds are the best! The bees love them! Let me know how it goes!

      1. I’m so excited I have dahlia seedlings growing from seeds I collected! I’m ready to transplant them. Do you have a recommendation for soil type to use for transplants?

        1. When you plant them in the ground, it’s best to have a soil test done to know what type of amendments are needed for your soil. If you are planting in a pot, then a good potting soil will do.

  5. Thank you for all the helpful tips. I didn’t realize you could actually grow dahlias from seed only until recently. I will definitely be trying your paper towel/ziplock tip to help germinate the seeds. Now I’m just impatiently awaiting for my dahlia seeds to arrive.

    1. I’m so glad these tips were helpful Sarah! I actually use the paper towel method for sweet peas too! Keep me posted on how growing from seeds goes for you!

  6. I have Dahlia seeds from both Floret & Johnny’s SS ready to seed in a few weeks. I am hopeful that I can grow a few successful plants! Bring on Spring!!

    1. How exciting! I love Floret’s Bee’s Choice Dahlia Seeds. I am growing both Floret and Johnny’s dahlia seeds this year too! Happy Gardening!

  7. I’m still new at growing dahlias, but I had no idea you could grow them by seed. Thank you so much for sharing all this helpful information! That’s so fascinating that each dahlia grown from seed is the first of it’s variation. I think I’ve found my next garden project! Thank you!

    1. Yes, it’s super fun to try growing dahlias from seed! Let me know how it goes. Happy Gardening!

  8. My kids are so excited to name their new Dahlias from the seeds we got from floret! Thanks for all the information!

  9. This is so Amazing, I have never grown Dahlias from seeds, but always wanted too. I was a little intimidated by it. You have made it look so easy and have made me feel like I can possibly do it 🙌🏻 Thank you for these blog posts they help me so much learn as I go and know I’m not alone. 🌿💛 @Lilysmith1558

    1. It is fairly easy to grow them from seeds. It’s so fun getting to be surprised and not knowing what the dahlias will look like. I’m so glad you found this helpful!

  10. Ty so much for this resource! First time Dahlia grower here and I picked up some seeds from Triple Wren! Never been one afraid to mess something up in a long time. So excited!

    1. I’m so glad you found this helpful! Keep us in mind for next year when you need more dahlia tubers 😉

  11. Thank you for this post! This is my first year trying dahlias from seed and I am so excited! I am growing from Florets bee’s choice mix and I even found a pack of seeds for 50cents at Walmart(lower germination rate but still ended up with 12 more seedlings!). I’m excited to see what comes of each of my 48 seedlings this year!

    1. Growing dahlias from seed is so fun! And the bees LOVE them! Great way to get pollinators in your garden.

  12. Thanks for this really helpful info. I had HUGE success germinating my Floret dahlia seeds with the paper towel method (Australia). I’ve just moved the seeds to their seed raising soil beds – hopefully their transition is as successful!

  13. This post has been so helpful! Do you have any information on how to transplant them from the seeders? I am curious to know if they can be potted, or need to go in the ground and how far apart they need to be. I planted from seed and have about 10 germinating so I am trying to figure out what to do from here! 🙂

    1. I pot my seeds up into 4” pots until it’s time to go in the ground. Then I space them about 12” apart when I plant outside.

  14. Thank you for the detailed process to grow dahlia from seeds. Do these plants grown from seeds produce the exact same flower varieties as the parent plant? Or can it not be guaranteed like some other plants?

    1. Hi Saras, if you go back through and read the post, seeds do not grow the same variety as the parent. That’s what makes them unique from tubers.

  15. I grew some seeds this season and was disappointed to find them replicas of each other in size and colour.I’d been hoping for a variety.Question: They we’re smaller blossoms
    Than I had hoped for(under 3 inches).If I save the tubers do you think when grown from tuber they will get larger blossoms?

    1. Usually you won’t see any improvement in the seeds the following year. I probably keep one plant for every 100 seeds I trial. Good luck!

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