Dahlias may have single or multiple rows of petals.

The blossoms range from small, ball types to large rays resembling daisies or peonies. Dahlias are available in dwarf sizes reaching only about a foot in height to taller varieties sometimes standing almost six feet, with blossoms about 16 inches across.

Buy fresh dahlias when they are three-fourths to fully open, with petals showing good color and no wilting outer petals. Dahlias wilt easily, so pulling off any foliage and buds helps the flower last longer.

Dahlias have attractive dark-green foliage and interesting offshoots of similar blossoms and buds. However, they last longer if foliage and buds are removed.

NAMES: Dahlia.

VARIETIES: There are 28 species of dahlias and hundreds of varieties. These varieties are separated in to 12 divisions, based on blossom type and shape.

COLORS: All shades and colors available, except no true blue. Many dahlias are striped or variegated. Some of the colors and combinations appear fluorescent, almost unreal.

SCENT: None.

FRESHNESS: Purchase or cut when the flower are three-fourths to fully open. the outer petals should not be discolored or wilted.

VASE LIFE: Approximately 5 days, sometimes longer.

AVAILABILITY: Summer to early fall.

COST: Moderately expensive.