Dahlia’s: More Than Just a Flower

Magenta Dahlia flower grown on STEMS Wayland Massachusetts farm

Dahlias, dahling: these beautiful, multicolored, multifaceted blooms have been in existence for hundreds of years.

Dahlias are native to Mexico and Central America: Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon, helped their spread throughout Europe. Noted and revered for their variety and beauty, dahlias capture arrays of meanings in their multitudes. 

Unique and showy, dahlias often symbolize standing out from the crowd and following one’s own path. Dahlias can also represent inner strength and resilience. In the Victorian Era, dahlias were given as symbols of devotion, love, beauty, and dignity. The flower can also symbolize grace and kindness, even in high-pressure or challenging situations. 

Whatever color, whatever style, STEMS is planting dahlias. A LOT of dahlias.

“It’s such a time-consuming process,” said Cassie McGonagle, STEMS founder. She should know: through spring and early summer 2023, Cassie has prepared new dirt beds for her dahlias, irrigated their fields, and put down stakes to yield her dahlia crop. And it looks plentiful: there are 20 rows of dahlias, all told, and 20 dahlias per row at the STEMS farm; co-founder Lisa Nickerson’s backyard contains 6 rows of 60. If you do the math you come up with 760, but that’s limiting this lovely flower. Dahlia tubers often expand into multiple flowers, and growers can harvest “so many flowers from just one stem,” said Cassie. In total, STEMS anticipates around 1,000 dahlia blooms.

These time-consuming projects yield great beauty.

And Cassie is passionate about that beauty, and the possibilities of her dahlias. “They are just so beautiful,” she said, explaining how the multiple flowers take on a life of their own. “They wrap themselves around the stakes as they grow into such beautiful dimensions. I watch and think ‘I helped them grow.’”

Cassie has various plans for this first dahlia season. She’ll sell them throughout the metro west area of Boston, and show her dahlias throughout New England. She’ll donate a bunch throughout the Wayland community and beyond. And finally, she’ll take note of her dahlias’ sizing, shape, and color patterns, and enter her dahlias into competition. At one show, prior, Cassie won 3rd place for one of her dahlias; the category was shapes and colors (categories determined by the wide variety of dahlias).

Fun facts about dahlias:

They are the national flower of Mexico, deemed as such in 1963. They are the traditional floral gift for a 14th wedding anniversary. They come in every color except blue and true black – despite what “The Black Dahlia” murder mystery from 1947 in Los Angeles might tell you (black dahlias aren’t truly black; they’re a very deep shade of crimson, and the case of Elizabeth Short has never been solved). And, another quick note: the murder had nothing to do with the flower; the dubbing probably came from the 1946 film noir The Blue Dahlia, Raymond Chandler’s first original screenplay. Clearly, the flower’s colorful fluctuations have inspired curiosity, intrigue, and imagination for hundreds of years in all situations.

When to send dahlias:

To those looking for that inner strength, dahlias are perfect to send to those going through a tough time who need a little support. To showcase uniqueness, send dahlias to new graduates or those embarking on a new career journey. 

Just like other flowers, dahlia colors have different meanings.

Red dahlias are symbols of strength, power, love, and passion, and serve as a nice alternative to the representative rose in this realm. Pink and purple dahlias represent grace, kindness, and beauty – send these on Mother’s Day. Yellow and orange? Joy and excitement, and perfect for birthdays, engagements, or new babies. White dahlias, true to the color, showcase purity, innocence, and rebirth, and are used in wedding bouquets, sympathy bouquets, and new baby bouquets. Green dahlias are associated with new beginnings and change; give them to those moving or starting a new job.