Disbudding Dahlias Page 1

by Louise and Ben Lawrence

We are unaware of any generally accepted terminology pertaining to dahlia culture, particularly when it comes to topping, disbudding, delateralizing, deleafing and other things that need to be done in the process of growing fine dahlias. In our conversations with other dahlia enthusiasts, we have found that considerable confusion can result unless we explain to those involved in the conversation, what we mean by certain words and phrases. Hoping to enable the viewer of these pages to understand what we are trying to say, we provide a few definitions of words and phrases that will be used.


Topping is the act of removing the growing tip of the main stem of a young dahlia plant. Some people refer to it as "stopping" because it is the process by which we stop the growth of the main stem and cause emerging laterals to begin vigorous growth.

The picture on the right shows the tip of the main stem of a young dahlia plant. In theses pages removing that growing tip is called "Topping."


Removing Laterals

The small growth that emerges in the angle made by the main stem or a lateral stem and a leaf stem is referred to as a "lateral.". Yes, a lateral is similar to a main stem in all respects except that it stems from the main stem. A "lateral" is often referred to as a meristem or an axil when it is small and a lateral when it is larger, having leaves and laterals of its own.

In these pages, the two words "removing lateral(s)" will mean just that. Hopefully, we will avoid the terms "delateralize" and "disbranching."

A "node" is a place on the stem from which leaves and laterals emerge.


Removing Leaves or a Leaf

The picture on the right shows several leaf stems attached to the main stem of a dahlia plant. In these pages "remove a leaf" means remove a leaf at the point where its stem (or petiole) joins the main stem (node) or a lateral stem.

We will avoid using "disleaf" or "deleafing".



Disbudding is the act of removing the two or three small side buds from the top of a lateral.

The picture on the right shows three buds. In some cases, the tip of a lateral may hold four buds. The two pointers show the small buds on both sides of the large bud.


Continued on next page.

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