Add This Secret Ingredient To Your Soil For Flourishing Dahlias

Add This Secret Ingredient To Your Soil For Flourishing Dahlias

If you’re a gardener who enjoys growing fresh flowers in your backyard, you may have experienced occasional disappointment due to poor flower blooms. Dahlias, in particular, may produce dull blooms or few flowers due to various factors, some of which can be controlled. Insufficient sunlight is a common cause of poor growth and flowering, as dahlias require full sun exposure to thrive. Poor soil conditions with a lack of essential nutrients, especially phosphorus and potassium, can also hinder bloom development. Inadequate watering, whether too much or too little, can stress the plants and affect their ability to produce vibrant blooms. Additionally, overcrowding and insufficient spacing can lead to competition for resources among plants, resulting in reduced flower production. Fortunately, many of these issues can be remedied with thoughtful care of your dahlias. If your watering and sunlight are adequate, your dahlias may be lacking some nutrients in the soil, which can be fixed with the addition of Epsom salt.

Epsom salt is an affordable and naturally-occurring mineral salt that has several benefits in your garden, including enriching the nutrients of your soil with minimal effort. However, before you add it to your cart, it’s a good idea to invest in a soil test to determine if your soil truly needs amendments to make your dahlias thrive and to find out what they’re lacking.

How to incorporate Epsom salt into your soil

Watering pink dahlias

David Prahl/Shutterstock

To give your dahlias a jumpstart, you can incorporate Epsom salt into your gardening routine once you’ve determined your soil is in need of a magnesium boost. To feed your dahlias with Epsom salt, it’s best to first do this upon planting your flower bulbs. Repeat the Epsom salt watering again in early spring when your plants are developing their first sets of leaves and a final time when the blooms are developing. To do so, the American Dahlia Society recommends mixing one tablespoon of Epsom salt with a gallon of water and applying the solution around the base of your plants, avoiding the leaves as it can lead to fungal or bacterial infections. They also recommend frequency over potency to protect the plants from over-fertilization.

Another way you can help your dahlias with Epsom salt is by mixing it directly into your soil. To do so, the Epsom Salt Council suggests sprinkling 1 cup of the salt per 100 square feet before planting. Though there seems to be more support for incorporating Epsom salt into the garden by diluting it in water, on her blog, Martha Stewart also endorses sprinkling a little Epsom salt for her annual dahlia planting. She believes, “Epsom salt will feed and nourish the growing dahlia bulbs and help increase the vibrancy of the flowers.”

Why Epsom salt works well

Gardener holds fist of Epsom salt

Martina Unbehauen/Shutterstock

Epsom salt, chemically known as magnesium sulfate, is a popular and effective remedy for enhancing the health of dahlias and other plants like roses in gardens. Dahlias, like many plants, require magnesium for various growth processes, and Epsom salt serves as a readily available source of this essential nutrient. According to the National Institute of Health, magnesium is a key component of chlorophyll, the pigment responsible for photosynthesis, and aids in the activation of enzymes crucial for nutrient absorption and energy transfer within the plant.

Applying Epsom salt to dahlia plants benefits them in several ways. First, magnesium plays a vital role in the formation of robust, green leaves and stems. It promotes chlorophyll synthesis, leading to increased photosynthesis and improved energy production. This results in lush foliage and vibrant, healthy growth. Secondly, magnesium facilitates the uptake of essential nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, enhancing overall nutrient absorption and utilization by the dahlias. Lastly, Epsom salt can contribute to the prevention of certain common issues like yellowing leaves, a sign of magnesium deficiency.

While Epsom salt can have tremendous benefits, adding too much to soil can be dangerous for plants as it leads to over-fertilization. Excessive levels of magnesium from Epsom salt can disrupt the balance of nutrients, hindering the absorption of other essential elements. This imbalance may cause deficiencies or toxicity, manifesting as yellowing leaves or stunted growth. Careful and measured application is crucial to prevent adverse effects on soil and plant well-being.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.