Bearing an exquisite flower, dahlias were raised, cultivated, and used as a food source by both the Toltecs and the Aztecs of Central America. The Aztecs used the dahlia medicinally to treat epilepsy and the long hollow stem of Dahlia imperalis was used as a water pipe. The Toltecs called the dahlia “Chichipatl” while the Aztec word was “Cocoxochitl”. (Source) Spaniards found the plants growing in Mexico in 1525.

The director of the Botanical Garden at Mexico City, Vicente Cervantes, sent ‘plant parts’ of the dahlia to Abbe Cavanilles in 1789. Cavanilles was Director of the Royal Gardens of Madrid. Cavanilles began working with this new plant and succeeded in growing it. In 1791, he named it ‘dahlia’ after a Swedish botanist. Cavanilles shared the dahlia with other European countries and in time, it became an established plant.

FunFacts about Dahlias (Source) (Source) (Source)

  • The dahlia originated in Central America, predominantly in the mountainous regions of Mexico.
  • Dahlias belong to the Asteraceae (Aster) family as do daisies and sunflowers.
  • The giant form of dahlia can grow as tall as 6 meters or 19 feet. (Source)
  • Some dahlia flowers reach dinner-plate size.
  • Its native range is from Mexico to Colombia.
  • Dahlias can be used for dyeing.
  • The dahlia was declared the national flower of Mexico in 1963.
  • The dahlia is edible and is still considered one of the native ingredients in Oaxacan cuisine. Oaxaca is a city and a state in southern Mexico. (Source)
  • Different dahlia cultivars are grown specifically for their large, sweet potato-like tubers.These tubers can be roasted which creates a mocha-like extract that is used to flavor drinks throughout Central America.
  • Dahlias tubers are edible and have been described as having a flavor somewhere between potatoes, carrots and celery.
  • Dahlia coccinea was one of the first species to come to Europe. It was brought from Mexico in 1789, to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Madrid.
  • The director of the Madrid Botanical Garden, Abbe Cavanilles, named the Dahlia after Anders Dahl, a Swedish botanist.

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28 thoughts on “Dahlias

  1. We have just had our annual Carnival of Flowers here in town. The dahlias in the Botanic Gardens could well have been added to this lovely array. Stunning colours.

  2. I have grown Dahlia tubers in Minnesota in the past. They can be used repeatedly as long as I lift the tubers before it gets to cold at the end of the season. I like the dinner plate sized flowers because they are so huge! A fantastic addition to my summer garden.

  3. I have not tried to grow dahlia here in Massachusetts but I do like them the best of the aster family. The light pink dahlia pictured is my favorite as it resembles a peony, one of my favorite flowers.

  4. I loved the first photo, the way the petal are shown. I have probably seen them but didn’t know what they were called. Thanks for the info!

  5. Stunning flowers! Now that I know their origin is Central America, I understand why they need to be harvested in the fall and replanted in the spring! Thanks for the info!

  6. The Dahlia was my mother’s favorite, or at least one of her favorite, flowers. She always seemed to have a plant or two growing. Considering that you say their native ground is Mexico, I am surprised they grew so well for her. But I think there must be a . . . what would you call it? A cultivar? that grows well in the cooler climates. Many people grow Dahlias here in Midwestern Michigan, though they are a much smaller bloom. They are a beautiful flower.

    Again, I learned something new today. A good day. I had no idea this plant originated south of the boarder. Thank you.

  7. Wow, they are all gorgeous but my favorite is #2-just love the colors! I’ve never grown them and didn’t realize how many uses they are good for besides being beautiful flowers! That is one awesome flower!! Thanks for all the information.

  8. Breathtaking photos! I had no idea that dahlias were edible! Or that they could grow to large. I had to look up a photo of a giant one, and just wow!

  9. I didn’t have any idea of the multitude of uses for dahlias. Epilepsy medication?

    Somewhere I read that a cure for nearly any medical condition could be found in nature, land and sea. It’s a matter of figuring it out.

    Probably why researchers spend so much time in the Amazon region before it’s completely razed.

    I use to grow the dinner plate dahlias in MA. But they don’t like the clay soil here in NC. The tubers bake if you forget to add some bagged garden soil to the hole.

    I like combining white and lavender, makes a pretty background for the shorter plants.

  10. Such a gorgeous bloom. I love your post! I get to learn new things & see great pictures of such an eclectic mix of topics. Beautiful flowers!

  11. I love Dahlias! I am growing them now. When I get a job I will buy more. I love the pale yellow and pink one. The one I am growing is a burnt orange and yellow and the last ones of the season is a pretty butter yellow. I love Dahlia’s and Zinnias. They are so beautiful with so many petals. They grow great here in central ca. Thank you

  12. Wow, I had no idea there were so many different types and colors of the Dahlia flower. I really love the orange ones in pictures four and five. That’s really cool that they started right in the Americas. Then literally spread like wild fire! I also had no idea that they were edible, so not only are they beautiful, but functional as well lol. Love it!

  13. Hi, Everyone,
    As always, I enjoyed your comments. They definitely reflected my own ‘wow’ reaction to seeing some of these photos for the first time. Nature can be just amazing. Of course, I was blown away by the potential height of the dahlia imperialis — 19 feet is just incredible. Although, I’m sure that’s the rare plant that grows so tall. Those of you who can grow dahlias, I’m very envious. I can’t imagine what kind of environment I would need to create in order to grow them here in the Sonoran desert. I know that they grew originally in the more mountainous and southern parts of Mexico.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  14. I absolutely love Dallas! I was able to grow them down in the San Bernardino valley when I lived there and am trying up here in the Victor Valley (in the high desert of Southern California). We’ll see how it goes!

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