Identifying a Bag of Mystery Dahlias

Are you inexorably drawn to the gardening department of a big box store when you go in to buy light bulbs? I am. Admit it, you are too. Especially after the winter we’ve had. Back in early March, I needed to get an injection of growing things. And, while Home Depot’s garden section doesn’t always represent fine gardening and well-tended plants, sometimes there is a bargain or or a lucky find.

Spotted in someone’s garden, I would love to know the name of this deep pink dahlia.

This time my eye lit on a mixed bag of mystery dahlias. The so-called ‘Sunset Mix’ was a gorgeous array of colours from wine to pink, and my head immediately swam with images of cut-flower bunches in late summer.  Only $12.95 a bag for five different dahlia tubers? How could I resist?

Of course, I did pause and think, hmmmm, they are mystery dahlias. As I’m becoming a bit of a dahlia nut, I do want to know which dahlia variety I’m growing. Buying a bag of unnamed tubers doesn’t allow that.

But I thought hey, I can google wine-coloured dahlias etc, and identify each one of them. I tried doing that. Do you know how many different kinds of dahlias there are in the world? Zillions. Plus, there are so many dahlia pictures that have no ID AT ALL. Damn you, Pinterest. (Shakes fist)

Then I thought,  hey, a real company actually produces these dahlias. Surely they would know what varieties they’re selling. OK it’s a generic mixed bag of dahlias from a big box store, who knows whether the company is going to give me the information? Or even knows the information? Maybe the mixed bag is just a way of throwing any old tubers in there willy nilly.

But I went to my plant ID cardboard, found the manufacturer, Googled contact info, and I sent off an email, not really expecting a result. But, lo and behold, the dahlia seller, who is based in New Jersey, got back to me pretty promptly. Thanks, Frank, from

I had identified the colours and sent the picture that was on the bag, and they identified by variety every single one. I was impressed.

1. Dark purple –> Le Baron Dahlia
2. Light pinkish yellow –>Noordwijks Glorie Dahlia
3. Two tone red with whitish edge  –>Akita Dahlia
4. A salmony one with longer petals –> Bodacious Dahlia
5. A deep pink  –> Corazon Dahlia

But it also made me wonder, how many gardeners are happy planting five unnamed dahlias called ‘Sunset Mix’? wanted to know what was in the mix, don’t most people?  Message to growers: Please add the names of the varieties on the package, if you know what they are. It doesn’t cost any extra on the packaging.

Anyhow, I got the tubers out of the bag ASAP, and put them in shallow recycled plastic food trays using a bit of Pro Mix. I didn’t have enough to plant them deeply, but I find just getting the tubers partially submerged and watered is enough to give them a good start. I got this tip from cut-flower grower Sarah Nixon, of My Luscious Backyard. (I’m excited, by the way, to be registered for a Dahlia Workshop with Sarah next week! Will tell you all about that later.)

Tip: Never leave your dahlia bulbs to languish in the bags you bought them in!!


A couple weeks later, my dahlia tubers are starting to sprout. I won’t know which is which till I see my first blooms. But hopefully I will find one or two or even 5 new favourite dahlias this summer, all named with tags.


  1. Good to see that Sarah Nixon’s advice has been helpful. I much enjoyed her pictures of the tubers in trays in her starting area….Clement

    1. Yes, I loved seeing her trays of tubers, and that she writes the names on the tubers with a Sharpie! Good idea I use now.

  2. Wow, I am surprised you got the idents from the grower so quickly! I just bought a $2.50 dahlia (burgundy, if the pic is accurate) from the Dollarama store! And I couldn’t resist a bag of of ‘buttercups’ (ranunculous) also for $2.50. The package actually says packed for 2019, and is from Holland, so that gives me hope that I’m not just throwing my dollars away! I will try to get potted up tomorrow. Happy Easter wkd to you.

    1. I was pretty surprised the grower got back to me too. Yay, Frank!

      Good luck with your Dollarama dahlias! Let us know how they turn out.

  3. In my haste last fall I pulled up all my dahlias and neglected to label them. I have created my own mystery dahlia adventure and I have almost 100! Oh how I wish I was a more organized forward thinking gardener!

    1. That’s A LOT of mysteries!!

      I tried to throw in some label
      Sticks with mine last fall but they all got jumbled. Next time, I’ll rinse, dry and label the tubers with a sharpie.
      I’m planning on just planting my dahlias as a cutting garden and in pots this year so placement of colours won’t be an issue.

  4. Ha – I know how you feel about the plants/bulbs at big box stores! I did the same thing last fall with crocuses. I had told myself that I already had too much going on to even think about planting any bulbs, but I couldn’t resist the end of year deal on mixed crocuses so ended up buying a few bags – and I just noticed today that some are coming up…so excited to see what I got 🙂

    1. Hazel, it’s hard to suggest a solution without knowing which bugs are the problem. For some, it can be as simple as hand-picking them off and dropping them into soapy water. But, in Ontario, we’re prohibited from using many traditional insecticides due to the Ontario Pesticides Ban.

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