Dahlias go viral as social media makes these classic blooms cool again

Pamela Armstrong’s love affair with the dahlia started when she moved into a new home in Toowoomba.

“I bought my house in winter. And in spring, all these beautiful things popped up in the garden all by themselves,” she said.

“I didn’t know what they were. So they found me. And I’ve been in love with them ever since.”

Growers say pastel colours are very popular in 2023.(Supplied: Christina Lowry)

The flower, a relative of the sunflower and daisy, is enjoying a revival Ms Armstrong puts down to its perfect form.

“I think a big part of the popularity is driven by social media because people can see how good they are,” she said.

“They were big in the 1950s – I remember my grandparents had them — and right now we’re coming into a peak of dahlia popularity.”

Dahlias have become very popular in the wedding industry and florists have approached backyard growers to help fill demand.

“There is so much demand,” Ms Armstrong said.

“It’s absolutely amazing. And the younger generation love these blooms to bits.”

Flower breeder Peter Mason said social media’s pursuit of perfection suits the dahlia.

a man and a woman sit on a garden seat holding flowers and smiling
Peter Mason and Pamela Armstrong say there is a lot of camaraderie in the dahlia growing community.(ABC Southern Qld: Peter Gunders)

“The big draw drawcard is their geometric perfection,” he said.

“They are very luminous. There’s a sparkle to dahlias that really shows up in photos. I think you’d have a hard time finding a flower more suited to social media.

“They don’t have a scent, but you can’t get scent through a photo so that’s where dahlias beat the roses.”

a woman wearing a large straw hat picks a dahlia flower
Dahlias have become a regular sight on social media.(Supplied: Christina Lowry)

And it’s through photos a new generation has discovered the flower.

The recent Toowoomba Dahlia Show had a record number of entries from junior growers.

“There is so much variety,” Mr Mason said.

“You’ve got them as small as a golf ball and then as big as a dinner plate.

“It’s a generous plant, not only for giving us lots of flowers but it also gives us lots of plants to share with people because that they grow from tubers.”

He said sharing plants with other growers was part of the attraction.

“If you ever come to the Christmas party at the dahlia society you’re going to have a hard time not going home with a box full of tubers,” he said.

“That’s a really fun aspect of growing them — sharing knowledge with other growers and literally sharing the plants because you end up with such a surplus at the end of the season.”

a group of people stand in front of a garden bed near a shed
Dahlia growers often meet to share advice and swap tubers.(Supplied: Christina Lowry)

Hollywood inspiration

In the Gold Coast hinterland, Fiona Gunn knew her favourite flower was about to become part of the floral zeitgeist when she saw it on the big screen.

“I remember going to the pictures to see the Bond film No Time To Die and there were Cafe au Lait dahlias featured in the hotel room Bond was staying in,” she said.

“I thought, ‘whoa, this is big!'”

A woman sits behind several large flowers
Fiona Gunn has dedicated much of her farm to growing dahlias for both cut flowers and wedding shoots.(Supplied: Christina Lowry)

She has now dedicated an entire bed on her 1.6-hectare farm to the same dahlia variety, which has proven to be a hit with brides.

“There are so many different colours and forms, and the breeding possibilities are endless with new varieties being bred every season,” she said.

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