Vigorous, fast growing, available in numerous flower types. Outstanding addition to the flower border or container garden. An old fashioned favorite and superb cut flower. Brightly colored in gold with red edges. These formal decorative flowers range 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Blooms spring and fall. Leaves are rich green. Bulbs must be lifted from the ground in zones 7 and lower. Plant dahlia tubers once soil has warmed and there is little chance of frost.Important Info : As with any perennial, good bed preparation pays off.
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CharacteristicsCultivar: Mr. Ralph
Size: Height: 2 ft. to 6 ft.
Width: 0 ft. to 0 ft.
Plant Category: bulbous plants, perennials,
Flower Characteristics: long lasting, showy,
Flower Color: oranges, reds,
Tolerances: deer, heat & humidity, rabbits,
Bloomtime Range: Early Summer to Early Fall
USDA Hardiness Zone: 8 to 11
AHS Heat Zone: 3 to 10
Light Range: Sun to Full Sun
pH Range: 4.5 to 8
Soil Range: Sandy Loam to Some Clay
Water Range: Normal to Moist
FertilizingHow-to : Fertilization for Annuals and Perennials
Annuals and perennials may be fertilized using: 1.water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; or 3. organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are generally used every two weeks during the growing season or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are worked into the soil ususally only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, follow label directions as they may vary per product.
LightConditions : Full Sun
Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.
WateringConditions : Moist and Well Drained
Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.
PlantingHow-to : Preparing Garden Beds
Use a soil testing kit to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the soil before beginning any garden bed preparation. This will help you determine which plants are best suited for your site. Check soil drainage and correct drainage where standing water remains. Clear weeds and debris from planting areas and continue to remove weeds as soon as they come up.
A week to 10 days before planting, add 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost and work into the planting site to improve fertility and increase water retention and drainage. If soil composition is weak, a layer of topsoil should be considered as well. No matter if your soil is sand or clay, it can be improved by adding the same thing: organic matter. The more, the better; work deep into the soil. Prepare beds to an 18 inch deep for perennials. This will seem like a tremendous amount of work now, but will greatly pay off later. Besides, this is not something that is easily done later, once plants have been established.
How-to : Planting Bulbs
Plant bulbs at a depth that is three times their height, and at least 1-1/2 bulb-widths apart. Work a little bone meal fertilizer into the bottom of your hole, and then place the bulb upright in the hole. The more pointed end is almost always the top. If you have trouble telling which is the top, look for evidence of where a stem or roots were last year. If in doubt, plant them sideways. Fill in with soil gently, making sure there are no rocks or clods that would impede the bulb's stem. When planting a great number of bulbs, dig out an area to the specified depth, place bulbs and replace soil. This ensures that ground has been properly prepared and bulbs are evenly spaced.
Plant bulbs in natural drifts rather that formal rows: bulbs can fail or be eaten, leaving holes in a formal arrangement, or will shift with freezing and thawing. If you have trouble with gophers or squirrels eating your bulbs, try sprinkling red pepper in the holes, covering the bulbs with chicken-wire, surround bulbs with sharp shards of gravel or other substance, or planting rodent-repelling bulbs like Fritillaria nearby.
How-to : Pinching and Thinning Perennials
Once you plant a perennial, it does not mean that you will enjoy years of maintenance-free gardening. Perennials need to be cared for just like any other plant. One thing that distinguishes perennials is that they tend to be active growers that have to be thinned out occasionally or they will loose vigor.
As perennials establish, it is important to prune them back and thin them out occasionally. This will prevent them from completely taking over an area to the exclusion of other plants, and also will increase air circulation thereby reducing the incidence of diseases like botrytis and powdery mildew.
Many species also flower abundantly and produce ample seed. As blooms fade it is advisable to deadhead your plant; that is, to remove spent flowers before they form seed. This will prevent your plants from seeding all over the garden and will conserve the considerable energy it takes the plant to produce seed.
As perennials mature, they may form a dense root mass that eventually leads to a less vigorous plant. It is advisable to occasionally thin out a stand of such perennials. By dividing the root system, you can make new plants to plant in another area of the garden or give away. Also root pruning will stimulate new growth and rejuvenate the plant. Most perennials may be successfully divided in either spring or fall. Do a little homework; some perennials do have a preference.
How-to : Preparing Containers
Containers are excellent when used as an ornamental feature, a planting option when there is little or no soil to plant in, or for plants that require a soil type not found in the garden or when soil drainage in the garden is inferior. If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow root development and growth as well as proportional balance between the fully developed plant and the container. Plant large containers in the place you intend them to stay. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen, broken clay pot pieces(crock) or a paper coffee filter placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out. The potting soil you select should be an appropriate mix for the plants you have chosen. Quality soils (or soil-less medias) absorb moisture readily and evenly when wet. If water runs off soil upon initial wetting, this is an indicator that your soil may not be as good as you think.
Prior to filling a container with soil, wet potting soil in the bag or place in a tub or wheelbarrow so that it is evenly moist. Fill container about halfway full or to a level that will allow plants, when planted, to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well.
How-to : Planting Perennials
Determine appropriate perennials for your garden by considering sun and shade through the day, exposure, water requirements, climate, soil makeup, seasonal color desired, and position of other garden plants and trees.
The best times to plant are spring and fall, when soil is workable and out of danger of frost. Fall plantings have the advantage that roots can develop and not have to compete with developing top growth as in the spring. Spring is more desirable for perennials that dislike wet conditions or for colder areas, allowing full establishment before first winter. Planting in summer or winter is not advisable for most plants, unless planting a more established sized plant.
To plant container-grown plants: Prepare planting holes with appropriate depth and space between. Water the plant thoroughly and let the excess water drain before carefully removing from the container. Carefully loosen the root ball and place the plant in the hole, working soil around the roots as you fill. If the plant is extremely root bound, separate roots with fingers. A few slits made with a pocket knife are okay, but should be kept to a minimum. Continue filling in soil and water thoroughly, protecting from direct sun until stable.
To plant bare-root plants: Plant as soon as possible after purchase. Prepare suitable planting holes, spread roots and work soil among roots as you fill in. Water well and protect from direct sun until stable.
To plant seedlings: A number of perennials produce self-sown seedlings that can be transplanted. You may also start your own seedling bed for transplanting. Prepare suitable planting holes, spacing appropriately for plant development. Gently lift the seedling and as much surrounding soil as possible with your garden trowel, and replant it immediately, firming soil with fingertips and water well. Shade from direct sun and water regularly until stable.
ProblemsPest : Cucumber Beetle
Cucumber Beetles have a greenish-yellow cast to their hard wing covers, which have a dozen black spots. The western spotted cucumber beetle is orangish with 3 rows of black spots. The most destructive of the cucumber beetles is the western striped cucumber beetle - it has greenish yellow stripes. The larvae of these beetles have legs, are white and slender and about 1/4 - 1/2 of an inch long and have brown heads with brown patches on the first and last segments.
Adult beetles chew holes in leaves and flowers and are notorious disease spreaders of such things as mosaic virus and bacterial wilt. This is transmitted through their mouth parts.
Prevention and Control: If you can find resistant varieties, plant them. Floating row covers help to keep out adults, but should be removed at the onset of flowers. Birds, tachinid flies, and handpicking are the safest control. Insecticides can be used; make sure the product you are using is labelled for cucumber beetle control. Follow all label procedures to a tee.
Pest : Thrips
Thrips are small, winged insects that attack many types of plants and thrive in hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). They can multiply quickly as a female can lay up to 300 eggs in a life span of 45 days without mating. Most of the damage to plants is caused by the young larvae which feed on tender leaf and flower tissue. This leads to distorted growth, injured flower petals and premature flower drop. Thrips also can transmit many harmful plant viruses.
Prevention and Control: keep weeds down and use screening on windows to keep them out. Remove or discard infested plants, keep them away from non-infested plants. Trap with yellow sticky cards or take advantage of natural enemies such as predatory mites. Sometimes a good steady shower of water will wash them off the plant. Consult your local garden center professional or county Cooperative extension office for legal chemical recommendations.
Pest : Spider Mites
Spider mites are small, 8 legged, spider-like creatures which thrive in hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). Spider mites feed with piercing mouth parts, which cause plants to appear yellow and stippled. Leaf drop and plant death can occur with heavy infestations. Spider mites can multiply quickly, as a female can lay up to 200 eggs in a life span of 30 days. They also produce a web which can cover infested leaves and flowers.
Prevention and Control: Keep weeds down and remove infested plants. Dry air seems to worsen the problem, so make sure plants are regularly watered, especially those preferring high humidity such as tropicals, citrus, or tomatoes. Always check new plants prior to bringing them home from the garden center or nursery. Take advantage of natural enemies such as ladybug larvae. If a miticide is recommended by your local garden center professional or county Cooperative Extension office, read and follow all label directions. Concentrate your efforts on the undersides of the leaves as that is where spider mites generally live.
Pest : Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails favor moist climates and are mollusks, not insects. They can be voracious feeders, eating just about anything that is not woody or highly scented. They may eat holes in leaves, strip entire stems, or completely devour seedlings and tender transplants, leaving behind tell-tale silvery, slimy trails.
Prevention and control: Keep your garden as clean as possible, eliminating hiding places such as leaf debris, over-turned pots, and tarps. Groundcover in shady places and heavy mulches provide protection from the elements and can be favorite hiding places. In the spring, patrol for and destroy eggs (clusters of small translucent spheres) and adults during dusk and dawn. Set out beer traps from late spring through fall.
Many chemical controls are available on the market, but can be poisonous and deadly for children and pets; take care when using them - always read the label first!
Pest : Aphids
Aphids are small, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. Aphids come in many colors, ranging from green to brown to black, and they may have wings. They attack a wide range of plant species causing stunting, deformed leaves and buds. They can transmit harmful plant viruses with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Aphids, generally, are merely a nuisance, since it takes many of them to cause serious plant damage. However aphids do produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface growth called sooty mold.
Aphids can increase quickly in numbers and each female can produce up to 250 live nymphs in the course of a month without mating. Aphids often appear when the environment changes - spring & fall. They're often massed at the tips of branches feeding on succulent tissue. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and will often hitchhike on yellow clothing.
Prevention and Control: Keep weeds to an absolute minimum, especially around desirable plants. On edibles, wash off infected area of plant. Lady bugs and lacewings will feed on aphids in the garden. There are various products - organic and inorganic - that can be used to control aphids. Seek the recommendation of a professional and follow all label procedures to a tee.
Pest : Earwigs
Earwigs, which hide during the day and emerge at night to eat, usually target young leaves and flower petals in late spring. Normally, they do not pose a huge problem, but their pinch can hurt.
Prevention and control: Keep the garden tidy, eliminating hiding places. Control by reducing population. One way is to create a trap. Invert pots filled with dried grass on stakes. The earwigs will hide here during the day. Earwigs will also hide in moist balls of paper that have been placed on the ground, close to plants. Every few days, discard the paper balls. Heavy infestations may require the use of an insecticide. Select one that is labelled for earwig control and follow all label procedures to a tee.
Pest : Caterpillars
Caterpillars are the immature form of moths and butterflies. They are voracious feeders attacking a wide variety of plants. They can be highly destructive and are characterized as leaf feeders, stem borers, leaf rollers, cutworms and tent-formers.
Prevention and Control: keep weeds down, scout individual plants and remove caterpillars, apply labeled insecticides such as soaps and oils, take advantage of natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden and use Bacillus thuringiensis (biological warfare) for some caterpillar species.
MiscellaneousGlossary : Viruses
Viruses, which are smaller than bacteria, are not living and do not replicate on their own. They must rely on the cellular mechanisms of their hosts to replicate. Because this greatly disrupts the cell's functionality, outward signs of a viral infection result in a plant disease with symptoms such as abnormal or stunted growth, damaged fruit, discolorations or spots.
Prevention and Control: Keep virus carriers such as aphids, leafhoppers, and thrips under control. These plant feeding insects spread viruses. Viruses can also be introduced by infected pollen or through plant openings (as when pruning). Begin by keeping the pathogen out of your garden. New plants should be checked, as well as tools and existing plants. Use only certified seed that is deemed disease-free. Plant only resistant varieties and create a discouraging environment by rotating crops, not planting closely related plants in the same area every year.