Gerbera Daisy: The African Daisy
Buy gerbera daisy to tuck into the garden, and you may wind up disappointed—unless you learn a few of this African daisy’s secrets. Gerbera daisy, known botanically as Gerbera jamesonii, is a tricky plant to grow. Native to the Transvaal region of South Africa, this exquisite bloomer opens spectacular daisy-type flowers in a rainbow of hues, including shades of orange, gold, red or pink. The only colors missing from the rainbow are blue or purple tones.
Sometimes called gerber daisy, this lovely flower features velvety smooth petals surrounding a center eye that might be green, brown, black or even a deep red. Some gerbera daisy blooms have double the number of petals; others have a fuzzy ring around the center, giving the blossoms eye-pleasing texture.
Typically, gerbera daisy blossoms measure from 2 to 5 inches across and stand atop leafless stems that usually rise 6 inches above leaves. Encourage flower formation by applying liquid bloom booster fertilizer to plants in pots or planting beds. Remove spent blooms by snipping at the base of the stem.
Heavy, wet soil can quickly wipe out the healthiest gerbera daisy. If your yard features heavy soil, plan to grow gerber daisies in raised beds or containers with a lightweight soil. Work compost into clay or sandy soils to lighten them. In planting beds, give gerbera daisies 12 to 18 inches of elbow room between plants.
These pretty bloomers are susceptible to crown rot. When planting, tuck each gerbera daisy into soil so that the crown or growing point stands above the soil line. Never place mulch directly against the plant crown; keep it pulled back a few inches. It’s also best to avoid overhead irrigation. If you water by hand, aim to deliver water directly to soil surrounding the plant, instead of dousing the plant itself.
Over time, the plant crown tends to sink below soil. Plan to dig and replant gerbera daisies every other fall. Use a garden fork to gently lift plants from soil. Before replanting, remove decaying leaves and any dead roots. It’s also a good idea to remove one-half of the remaining mature leaves. Tuck plants back into soil, taking care to keep the crown slightly above the soil line. Keep newly planted gerber daisies moist.
Gerbera daisy is classified as an annual, but it actually tolerates temperatures as low as 30 degrees F, which means in the warmest parts of the country, it behaves like a perennial. African daisy is reliably winter-hardy in Zones 9 to 11, which corresponds to Central and South Florida, the Coastal South and parts of the Desert Southwest and Southern California.
Some gardeners report success with overwintering gerbera daisy in Zone 8 if they apply a top-dressing of winter mulch. This is a tricky proposition, though, because gerbera daisies are susceptible to crown rot, and a mound of mulch over the crown can lead to problems, especially if the ground doesn’t drain well.