How simple the idea of disbudding to improve the presentation of a bloom. Dahlias are not the only plant, of course, to benefit from such minor pruning, but let's stick to our flower here and look at some of the special needs of the Dahlia.
Some of our varieties are easy to disbud, with nice exposed buds, held well out of their leaf axils, on crisp little stems that break of easily when bent to the side. Other varieties hide their side buds in deep pockets that are very reluctant to give up the prize.
I've broken important leaves, damaged or lost the main bud, scarred the stem, left ugly stubs, and I have also just given up - planning to return in a day or two when additional growth would make the buds easier to handle. Ha Ha ! Yes, you guessed it. I've forgotten to return.
Actually, the two time approach to disbudding has some merit beyond mere convenience when double or triple disbudding for exhibition or for an exceptional bloom for your church or other reason.
It is often easier to take the lower, larger, pair(s) of side shoots out and then go back and get the smaller and more difficult wing buds a few days later. This may be an especially good plan if arthritis has affected your ability to get at a small bud.
It also turns out that leaving the full trio of buds to develop further stimulates a more robust type of stem that would be able to supply nutrient to all three bud terminals on the bloom stalk. Therefore, when you do take the wing buds at a later date, you will have encouraged a very well nurtured (= big) final bloom. Try it next year and see for yourself. Don't wait too long though - you don't want big ugly stumps!
The maximum effect is achieved by taking the side shoots out TWO leaves down,then, a few days later, ONE pair down, and finally the wing buds. Do take any spur buds out right away as allowing their growth always causes stem problems.
Some people strip all the side shoots off to get maximum size. In fact, to really push it, they grow the plant straight up, not stopped, and strip to one final bloom.
Be sure to do this kind of drastic technique far away from your display garden area as it is very ugly (to me) and only gives one bloom per plant per season - and a poor tuber as well! Timed stopping of plants from cuttings grown this way can, with experience and practice, actually hit the shows with the few blooms produced. After stopping at some determined, critical date, ONE (or maybe two or three) shoot is selected and all other growth is pruned away.
There are many other smaller varieties that can sometimes stand a bit of help also. For example It turn out that stems are often longer on one or both of the side buds. This is particularly significant in POMS where disbudding is necessary to get an exhibitable (or even a good cutting) stem, but size is not really desired. Quite the opposite - Poms are supposed to be small. They were bred to be small, and mostly for the English market where OVERSIZE EQUALS DISQUALIFIED. If we disbud normally, the size is pushed and the blooms coarsen and frequently become misshapen and then we stop growing such unattractive flowers. The popularity of Poms has fallen off a lot and I think that part of the problem is disbudding. Try growing on a side bud. Pinch out that center one and grow one or both of the side buds.
I also think that maybe we should reinstitute an oversize penalty for poms, so that people would have a constant incentive to investigate the cultural practices that would produce the tiny, round poms we used to see.
Copyright © 1996 Wayne Holland
email to firstname.lastname@example.org just delete the nospam part!
BACK to Main page