They're the flowers we know and love—with so many sizes, shapes, and colors, they're super versatile in the garden. But there is more to dahlias than meets the eye.

By Jenny Krane

One of the most beloved summer flowers, dahlias are often seen at farmer’s markets, flower competitions, and weddings—especially dinner plate varieties that can grow to be as large as your head. They're even the National Garden Bureau's flower of the year for 2019! Although they're a common sight in gardens and nurseries, there’s a rich history behind these gorgeous blooms that you most likely aren’t aware of. Here are five things you need to know about dahlias that you (probably) didn’t know before.

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1. There are thousands of types of dahlias

There are 30 species and over 20,000 cultivars of dahlias. Those cultivars are categorized based on size, flower pattern, and how they resemble other flowers (like waterlilies, anemones, and cactus blooms). The large decorative types and cactus types are among the most popular, and many varieties are used in cut flower gardens.

2. Dahlias were originally classified as a vegetable

Dahlias are named after 18th-century Swedish botanist Anders Dahl. He actually categorized dahlias as a vegetable because of their edible tubers. The tubers are said to taste like a mix between potatoes and radishes (although, we haven’t tried it to confirm!).

3. People use dahlias at weddings for their symbolism

They are common wedding flowers, not only for their looks but also for their symbolic meaning. During the Victorian era, dahlias were a symbol of commitment and an everlasting union. They are also used to represent inner strength, creativity, and elegance.

4. Dahlias originated in Central America

Dahlia pinnata is the national flower of Mexico because the plant was first recorded in the country in 1615. The first tubers were sent over to Europe by Spanish settlers in Mexico. Before insulin, the tubers of dahlias were used to balance blood sugar due to their high fructose content. The petals were used to treat dry skin, infections, rashes, and insect bites.

5. There are no blue dahlias

Dahlia flowers come in every color but blue. In the nineteenth century, a London newspaper offered £1 to the first breeder to create a blue dahlia—the reward has never been claimed, but there have been many attempts that are near-blue, but not a true blue flower. Like many flower varieties, there is also no pure black variety—only dark red and dark purple.

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