How to Prune Dahlias [3 Simple Tips]

There are three main ways of pruning dahlia plants: pinching, disbudding, and deadheading. Pinching (also known as topping) is the process of removing excess dahlia foliage growth. Disbudding is when you remove all but the biggest bulb in a cluster of dahlia bulbs.  Deadheading is the process of removing bloomed flower heads to encourage new blooms. With these three tips, you’ll ensure a great blooming season for all dahlia varieties.

How to prune dahlias

3 Tips for Pruning Dahlias

By pruning your dahlias using one or more of these techniques you can encourage your plant to bloom for longer and produce more impressive flowers. Below, we’ll discuss each Dalia pruning technique in more detail and why the technique works. We’ll also talk about the best time to use these techniques for maximum effectiveness.

Pinch or Top Your Dahlias

Pinching or topping is best done during early spring before buds develop. Use sharp shears to trim off the topmost dahlia branches. Take care not to damage the central stem or the leaves. Damaged leaves can result in dead flowers or even kill the plant. 

  • Pinching is the process of cutting off the topmost stems of plants.
  • It’s best to begin pinching before your Dahlia develops buds.
  • The process of pinching results in more stem growth, leading to a fuller looking plant.

As long as the central stem is undamaged, new shoots will grow at the top of your dahlia plant. This will result in a fuller, bushier dahlia plant. By performing this step first, you set your dahlia up for success throughout the flowering season.

Disbud Dahlias Before They Blossom

Disbudding is best done after buds have developed but before they flower. Simply use your hands or sharp pruning shears to remove excess dahlia bulbs. Only keep the largest bud on any single stem. 

  • Disbudding removes all but one flower bud from each stem.
  • Use pruning shears to remove all but the biggest bud on each dahlia stem.
  • By disbudding, you’ll redirect energy into growing one great flower instead of 5 mediocre flowers

Dahlias grow more buds than a single plant can sustain as flowers. This results in lackluster and underdeveloped blooms. Removing the extra buds helps dahlias to focus their energy into buds that have the best chance of becoming beautiful blooms. 

Deadhead Old Blooms

Deadheading dahlias is best done during blooming season. Use sharp shears to remove blooms that have already flowered to encourage new blooms to grow. If you don’t do this, you’ll have dead flowers on your central stem and you won’t have quite as dazzling dahlias during bloom time.

  • Deadheading involves cutting already bloomed flowers off the dahlia plant.
  • Once a dahlia flower begins to wilt, cut the entire flower head off the stem.
  • By deadheading, you’ll encourage new buds and flowers to grow in the place of old ones.

Be sure to remove the entire flower head when deadheading. Regular deadheading helps to keep your plant looking beautiful for the entire blooming season. Deadheads can be safely discarded in a green waste bin.

If you begin by pinching, follow up by disbudding, and then deadhead your dahlias you will encourage a full dahlia plant with showy flowers that continue to bloom late into the growing season.

When Should Dahlias Be Pruned?

Each type of pruning happens at a different time of the year. Pinching is best accomplished in early spring before dahlia bud development. Disbudding is best done in early summer or late spring after buds arrive but before they flower. Deadheading can only be accomplished after dahlia flowers bloom, which will be around early July

  • Pinch in early spring before flower buds form.
  • Disbud in early summer before flower production results in beautiful blooms.
  • Deadhead during the entire blooming season, beginning in July.

When pruning dahlias, be sure to clean the shears with rubbing alcohol when going from plant to plant. Pruning different plant species—or different plants of the same species—with the same shears can transmit disease between plants.

Should You Pinch Out the Tops of Dahlias?

Pinching is a great way to get fuller plants. Dahlia stems regrow in thicker clumps when the outermost stems are removed. Thus, you can encourage fuller growth by using this to your advantage. It helps redirect a great deal of energy into outward foliage growth. 

  • Pinching or topping redirects stem growth for a fuller look.
  • This is a simple way to make dazzling dahlias even more beautiful.

The best way to pinch is by using sharp pruning shears. Use these pruning shears to make pinching dahlias as simple as possible. Despite the name being “pinching,” using hands alone will not work as well as using shears.

How to Prune Dahlias Flowers

Dahlias can be pruned using 3 types of techniques. Chronologically, these techniques are topping or pinching, disbudding, and deadheading. Each one will contribute in different ways to result in a more beautiful dahlia plant. Let’s recap what we’ve learned about pruning these perennial flowers:

  • Pinching or “topping” dahlias in spring creates fuller looking foliage.
  • Disbudding all but the largest bud from each dahlia stem results in larger, healthier flowers.
  • Deadhead by removing old blooms. This will cause new buds and flowers to grow in their place.

When pruned and cared for, dahlias produce some of the most striking flowers on earth. Make sure your dahlias live up to their reputation for beauty by using these techniques in your garden.

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