Types of dahlias: 23 beautiful varieties to grow

Back from the fashion doldrums, these stunning types of dahlias are once more center stage for long-lasting displays of flower and foliage

types of dahlias - dahlia 'Cafe Au Lait'
(Image credit: imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo)

What I love most about all types of dahlias is the changing hues of their flowers. Petals unfurl with clear, glowing colors but change with maturity and exposure to sunshine. The rounded blooms of ‘Lakeland Autumn’ are bright pink on opening but mature to pale straw. Others such as ‘Blue Wish’ begin with clear markings and end suffused with color. With the contrasting discs of single flowers, the darker centers of doubles, glowing background shades and strong green, bronze or near black foliage, dahlias create fabulous color contrasts all on their own.

If you're thinking about learning how to grow dahlias, the cultivars we enjoy mostly reach a useful height of 3-4ft (1-1.2m) and fit into groups such as ‘Ball’, ‘Decorative’ and ‘Cactus’. 

Mindful of smaller gardens, breeders have produced compact varieties of dahlias such as those from the Happy Single, Dark Angel and Impression Series to suit container growing and balconies, but if you want to grow giants, look for types of dahlias described as ‘Dinner Plate’. Well-grown plants top 6ft (1.8m) and with side flower buds removed, blooms are capable of reaching 10in (25cm) across. The Decorative type ‘Bodacious’ is a good example, whose fiery orange and yellow blooms would catch the eye amongst sunflowers. 

To encourage pollinating insects, simple single flowers are the best choice and are also those most likely to have dark, handsome foliage. 

Grow stunning blooms with our favorite types of dahlias

Plant breeders have been hard at work and registered cultivars number in the tens of thousands. Catalogues glow with old favorites plus the best of the new, and whether subtle or scary, for wildlife or vase, allotment or window box, there are many types of dahlias to fit the bill.

1. ‘Bishop of Canterbury’

red flowers of dahlia Dahlia 'Bishop of Canterbury'

(Image credit: Miriam Heppell/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 4ft (1.2m)
  • Spread: 30in (75cm)

Known as a peony-flowered dahlia, this bishop (there are several in the series) was bred in Holland and delivers single blooms 2-3in (5-8cm) wide of bright magenta and plum with an open center of yellow anthers attracting many pollinating insects. 

Finely cut chocolate-purple foliage acts as a good foil for the flowers. Excellent in garden borders with Eupatorium maculatum (Atropurpureum Group) ‘Riesenschirm’. 

2. ‘Blue Wish’

Dahlia 'Blue Wish' in bloom

(Image credit: John Martin/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 4ft (1.2m) 
  • Spread: 3ft (1m)

Although lilac and wishy washy mauve seem the least popular shades for dahlias, this Water Lily type is a winner. Fresh creamy-white petals are at first tipped and then suffused with lilac, giving the neat double blooms to 6in (15cm) across a variety of shades with glimpses of green at the centre. 

Plant near purple Salvia ‘Amistad’ and the tobacco Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’ for a stunning garden color scheme

3. ‘Burlesca’

Dahlia 'Burlesca' in bloom

(Image credit: Photimageon/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: H:3ft (1m) 
  • Spread: S: 30in (75cm)

The flowers of Ball dahlias are slightly flatter than Pompons with incurved, spirally arranged ray petals creating intricate constructions. 

The coral-pink blooms of ‘Burlesca’ are held on sturdy stalks and are known for having a good vase-life and excellent weather tolerance. The rounded shape of the small flowers contrasts well with more raggedy-headed types of dahlias such as ‘Chat Noir’.  

4. ‘Café au Lait’ 

dahlia 'Cafe au Lait' in bloom

(Image credit: RM Floral/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/3a
  • Height: 4ft (1.2m) 
  • Spread: 3ft (1m)

Ideal for picture perfect cottage garden ideas, the new, unfurling petals of this variety are the color of milky coffee, with a yellow glow from the base. They then age to pink-tinged ivory. 

Sometimes referred to as a Dinner Plate dahlia, this popular Decorative type is capable of blooms 8in (20cm) across. 

Team with a dark red dahlia such as ‘Arabian Night’, or set against the glowing burgundy leaves of the smoke bush Cotinus ‘Grace’. 

5. ‘Caribbean Fantasy’ 

Dahlia 'Caribbean Fantasy'

(Image credit: Botanic World/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 3ft (1m)
  • Spread: 18in (45cm)

Bring carnival to your flower bed ideas with this showy but classy Decorative dahlia whose generous double blooms to 6in (15cm) wide are pale coral with yellow at the center, fading to white and streaked with red. 

Held on dark, sturdy stems against green foliage, the blooms are perfect for cutting gardens. Plant in containers or with warm, mango-coloured Echinacea ‘Rainbow Marcella’ and the cool globes of Echinops ritro

6. ‘Floorinoor’

close up of dahlia 'Floorinoor'

(Image credit: Gardeningpix/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 3ft (1m)
  • Spread: 30in (75cm)

Anemone style dahlias are a composition of ray petals arranged around a center of dense, textural upward facing florets. 

Here, 4in (10cm) wide blooms show a complex firework of colors with lilac pink and cream ray petals surrounding a centre of tangerine and red. 

Brilliant for cutting and shining from borders partnered by Penstemon ‘Pensham Plum’ and blue-flowered Geranium ‘Rozanne’. 

7. ‘Happy Single Princess’ AGM 

Dahlia ‘Happy Single Princess’ AGM from Sarah Raven

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 24in (60cm)
  • Spread: 30in (75cm)

From the Happy Single Series bred for container gardening ideas, clear single blooms measure 2in (5cm) across. These open palest pink and are held aloft on strong, dark stems against foliage of deepest purple, veering almost to black. 

A brilliant plant for pollinators thanks to the tiny golden disc florets at the center, which attract plenty of pollinating insects. In pots, they team well with plum-colored verbena and gold-leaved bacopa. 

8. ‘Honka’ AGM

Dahlia 'Honka'

(Image credit: John Richmond/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 30in (75cm)
  • Spread: 18in (45cm)

Known as Orchid dahlias, single Honka types produce sculptural blooms whose long narrow inward-curled petals have a starry effect. 

Here, the lightly fragrant pale lemon blooms measure 4in (10cm) across and are studded by rich golden orange disc florets, all held aloft on pale stems above dark green foliage. 

A favourite for pollinating insects, this structural dahlia looks great with purple-flowered asters

9. ‘Karma Fuchsiana’

Dahlia ‘Karma Fuchsiana’

(Image credit: John Richmond/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 3ft (1m)
  • Spread: 30in (75cm)

The Karma strain of dahlias have been bred for cutting but their long, strong dark stems also guarantee bold border presence, raising the decorative mainly double Waterlily type flowers well above the foliage. 

This one is fuchsia pink with fruity peach flushes at the centre and can produce double or single blooms. Combine with fragrant Phlox paniculata ‘Blue Paradise’ and Penstemon ‘Raven’. 

10. ‘Lindsay Michelle’ 

Dahlia Lindsay Michelle

(Image credit: Farmergracy.co.uk)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 3ft (1m)
  • Spread: 20in (50cm)

Resembling an exotic sea urchin perched on a coral reef, this Fimbriata type dahlia makes an orb of pink-tipped yellow petals with prettily split tips. Held on strong stems, these double blooms can reach 8in (20cm) wide. 

Use in garden planters or borders along with dark-leaved Canna ‘Durban’, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) and a dramatic dahlia like ‘Chat Noir’ for a hot late show. 

11. ‘Pooh – Swan Island’ AGM

Dahlia ‘Pooh – Swan Island’ AGM

(Image credit: Marshallsgarden.com)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 24in (60cm)
  • Spread: 24in (60cm)

Collerette dahlias display an outer ring of single ray petals surrounding an inner ring of short, outward-facing florets in turn encircling a central disk attractive to pollinating insects. 

With a golden disk, canary yellow florets and red ray petals tipped yellow, the 3.5in (9cm) wide blooms would make perfect collars for clowns and suit a hot border, or container. Team with Geum ‘Scarlet tempest’. 

12. ‘Preference’

Dahlia 'Preference'

(Image credit: Belikart/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 3ft (1m)
  • Spread: 30in (75cm)

Young and freshly opened, the 5in (13cm) wide peachy blooms of this Cactus dahlia glow with color. Yet the confections of narrow, quill-like petals age gracefully too, fading to a soft creamy orange with yellow towards the centre. 

A good performer, flowers are abundant throughout a long season and held on sturdy stems, making them ideal for vases too. 

13. ‘Rip City’

Dahlia 'Rip City'

(Image credit: David Bagnall/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 4ft (1.2m)
  • Spread: 3ft (1m)

To balance dahlias of paler shades, a strong deep red looks great in beds and vases. Full of drama, this semi-cactus bears 4-5in (10-13cm) wide blooms composed of pointed petals near black at the centre but a rich, glowing red towards the tips. 

Plant alongside white-flowered types of cosmos such as Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’, or try the warm, pale apricot of Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Apricot Lemonade’. 

14. ‘Senior's Hope’ 

Dahlia 'Senior's Hope'

(Image credit: P Tomlins/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 3ft (1m)
  • Spread: 24in (60cm)

A stunning Decorative dahlia whose neat flowers are full of bright and subtle shades, contrasting with elegant foliage. The smart 4in (10cm) wide blooms are packed with neatly pleated petals of dusky rose marked with deeper wine red and purple reverses, surrounding dark maroon centres. 

Combine with the small green flowers of Nicotiana langsdorfii

15. ‘Snowflake’ 

'Snowflake' Pompon dahlia

(Image credit: AY Images/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 30in (75cm)
  • Spread: 31in (80cm)

Pompon dahlias are fun to grow for their tight balls of fabulously sculpted petals. A fresh green and white, this cultivar bears lime buds atop pale green stems opening to white flowers with a glimmer of lime at the center. 

They are excellent for vases but pick young as they have a tendency to go brown with age. 

Grow with Calamintha nepeta var.nepeta and Campanula lactiflora ‘Pritchard’s Variety. 

16. ‘Waltzing Mathilda’

Dahlia 'Waltzing Matilda'

(Image credit: Ceri Jones/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness zone: USDA 9b/10a
  • Height: 30in (75cm)
  • Spread: 30in (75cm)

The peach and coral blooms of this single dahlia are quirkily lop-sided and contrast beautifully with their own dark, crimson-black foliage. To enjoy the effect, plant in borders, cutting garden or containers, perhaps next to clumps of mid-blue African lilies such as Agapanthus ‘Loch Hope’. 

The peach blooms and dark leaves also blend well with Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album’.

17. 'Black Narcissus'

Dahlia 'Black Narcissus'

(Image credit: RM Floral/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 9-11
  • Height: 4ft (1.2m)
  • Spread: 2ft (60cm)

The 'Black Narcissus' dahlia is a double-bloomed, Cactus kind. The deep wine plumes of spiky-looking petals create instant drama in a planting scheme – ideal for modern garden ideas

These will flower from mid summer to early fall and they're a good choice for slightly smaller spaces.

Love the dramatic look of dark-colored flowers? You'll find more suggestions in our guide to the best black plants

18. 'Crème de Cassis'

Dahlia 'Creme de Cassis'

(Image credit: Joan Gravell/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 9-11
  • Height: 36in (91cm)
  • Spread: 18in (45cm)

A prolific bloomer, 'Crème de Cassis' offers waterlily-type blooms with two-toned petals – pretty pale pink on the top and deep plum on the bottom. 

Each flower head will span to around four to six inches, making them an impressive addition to your garden design ideas.

19. 'Small World'

Dahlia 'Small World'

(Image credit: Dorling Kindserley Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 9-11
  • Height: 39in (1m)
  • Spread: 24in (60cm)

The demure yet prolific blooms of 'Small World' offer an elegant, creamy white tone to the garden. These flower heads may be smaller than many other types of dahlias, but they are certainly exquisitely formed. 

20. 'Alfred Grille'

Dahlia 'Alfred Grille'

(Image credit: Botanic World/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 9-11
  • Height: 39in (1m)
  • Spread: 20in (50cm)

The pretty pink flowers of 'Alfred Grille' burst from a striking yellow center, making these a real vision of delight. Try filling jam jars or vases with them to make your summer garden party ideas feel extra special.

In the right conditions, these plants are a strong and prolific grower, and will offer blooms right up into mid fall in many cases.

21. 'David Howard'

Dahlia 'John Howard'

(Image credit: John Richmond/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 9-11
  • Height: 30in (75cm)
  • Spread: 24in (60cm)

This variety is a prime example of why growing dahlias is totally worthwhile. The double orange flowers are nothing short of spectacular, and make a striking contrast against purple-bronze foliage.

It's compact in size, meaning that it will work well in containers or even at the front of borders. 'David Howard' flowers from mid summer to mid fall and makes a stunning centerpiece for outdoor dining ideas when arranged in a vase.

22. 'Karma Choc'

Dahlia 'Karma Choc'

'Karma Choc' will last for days when cut

(Image credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus)
  • Hardiness: USDA 9-11
  • Height: 35in (90cm)
  • Spread: 24in (60cm)

Originally bred for cut flowers, the long-lasting blooms of 'Karma Choc' have a vase life of up to 12 days. In a deep plum red, the blooms are a romantic and dramatic addition to any garden. 

23. 'Otto's Thrill'

Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill'

(Image credit: Jacky Parker Photography/Getty Images)
  • Hardiness: USDA 9-11
  • Height: 47in (120cm)
  • Spread: 24in (60cm)

This is a beautiful dahlia with giant and decorative blooms. The elaborate rose-pink flowers span up to 10in (25cm) across, so it's definitely one to include if you want your borders to make a statement. The pretty petals also have a slight wave to them, evoking a romantic feel. 

What are the different types of dahlias available?

Dahlias are one of the best cottage garden plants and the choice available is huge. To help narrow it down they are grouped into categories depending on flower type:

  • Pompons These are easily recognizable as the name suggests. Their flower heads are perfect spheres that are made up of layers of petals that curl inwards.
  • Cactus This type, as you can imagine, are spiky – like a cactus. Their petals are narrow and curve slightly outward.
  • Single Single varieties are less dramatic but still beautiful. They have only one layer of petals that can be either slightly rounded or pointed. 
  • Anemone These resemble underwater creatures. The inner petals are smaller and more clustered and get larger and flatter at the outer edges. They are sometimes called 'powder puff' dahlias.
  • Collarettes This variety is named because it has two rings of petals, one larger on the outside and the smaller one which sits on the inside and resembles a collar.
  • Waterlily They have shallow flower heads and look stunning in a cottage-style border. The petals can be curved, slightly curved or completely flat.
  • Decorative These dahlias have the largest blooms of all the varieties. Their double flower heads sport broad and slightly flat petals, often with a blunt end, with no central disc. The classic 'Cafe Au Lait' is a good example.
    If you're looking for dahlias to use for cut flower arrangements, go for longer stemmed varieties. The more you cut, the more the plants produce!

What are the best types of dahlias for cut flowers? 

If you're looking for the best cutting garden flowers, dahlias with double blooms tend to last longer in water. Look out for the tailored cut flower collections offered by some suppliers, delivering complementary shades, sizes and styles. 

My favourites types of dahlias for vase or garden are warm peachy and mango colors, set against dark reds such as ‘Nuit d’Ete’ and ‘Arabian Night’. 

Where to buy dahlias

The easiest way to grow dahlias is by planting tubers, which are readily available from garden centers and online. Follow our quick links to head straight to leading suppliers. 

Where to buy dahlias in the US: 

Where to buy dahlias in the UK:

Anne Swithinbank
Freelance writer

Having trained at Kew Gardens in London, worked in parks department nurseries and as Glasshouse Supervisor at RHS Wisley, Anne has been a freelance horticulturist since 1986. Anne writes for Amateur Gardening and has been a regular panelist on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time for 27 years. A large plot full of wildlife habitats, edible and ornamental plants is Anne’s workshop and inspiration.