Old fashioned trailing African daisy was becoming too common by the time it succumbed to the Big Freeze just prior to Christmas of 1990. Shrubbier and more colorful cultivars of hybrids with similar species, particularly Osteospermum ecklonis, are now more popular. Such hybrids mostly lack species designation because their lineage is very complicated.
Mature specimens do not grow much wider than two feet, so do not migrate as efficiently as old fashioned trailing African daisy. Since they are hybrids, they do not produce viable seed either. However, if pressed into damp soil, peripheral stems generate roots to grow as new plants that extend the collective width. They also replace deteriorating old plants.
Sporadic bloom may be almost continuous between a few profuse phases, with the most profuse phase between winter and spring. Only the coolest and warmest weather inhibit bloom. It can be difficult to shear overgrown plants between phases without ruining a few flowers. Floral color is pastel hues of purple, lavender, red, pink, orange, yellow or white.
Only a few decades ago, the only familiar African daisies, Osteospermum spp., were the sprawling and often sparsely branched ‘freeway daisies’ with blue-eyed white or rarely light purple flowers. They made nice blooming ground cover that could be planted in drifts for a bit of color among the deep green of Algerian ivy on expansive freeway embankments.
Modern varieties are shrubbier perennials with more profuse bloom of white, cream, pink, purple, pale yellow or pale orange flowers, mostly with blue or purple centers. Some yellow flowers have yellow or cream centers. Some of the fancy types have spooned petals like some types of cosmos or chrysanthemums. After the primary bloom phase in spring, a few sporadic flowers may continue to bloom through summer until the secondary light bloom phase late in summer. However, the old fashioned ‘freeway daisy’ types do not always display a second bloom phase. Varieties with variegated foliage are still rather rare.
Even though African daisies can survive in inferior soil with minimal watering, they perform best with good soil and regular watering. Plants in containers can not disperse their roots like they want to, so are are more dependent on regular watering. Fertilizer prolongs bloom.
The most familiar of the gazanias are the ‘trailing’ types commonly appreciated as ground cover. They are rather shallow, but dense enough to prevent most weeds from getting through. Their yellow or orange composite (daisy like) flowers bloom initially in spring, and then continue to bloom sporadically as long as the weather stays warm into autumn. Some trailing gazanias have interesting silvery foliage.
‘Clumping’ gazanias do not spread efficiently or thoroughly enough to be practical as ground cover over large areas, but bloom a bit more profusely with bigger flowers in shades of yellowish white, light yellow, bright yellow, orange, brownish orange and brownish red. The foliage gets a bit deeper to form irregular but dense low mounds. Clumping gazanias can be lined up as an informal border around blooming annuals or perennials, or incorporated individually into mixed urns or vertical gardens.
Gazanias are not too discriminating about soil quality or frequency of irrigation. They only need good sun exposure. Trailing gazanias are rather easy to propagate by cuttings made from scraps from pruning around the edges. Clumping gazanias do not get pruned as much, but are easy to propagate by division from dense clumps.
Santa Barbara was not exactly its first choice. Santa Barbara daisy, Erigeron karvinskianus, is not even native to California. It is actually from Central America. It just happens to do very well here, and can naturalize if conditions are right. It can be rather grungy through summer in the wild, but with a bit of watering, it can bloom nicely all year.
The thin stems can spread a few feet without getting more than a foot deep. If even shallower growth is preferred, older plants can be cut down or pulled up as they get replaced by their own offspring. The narrow leaves are quite tiny. The white or slightly pinkish flowers are not much bigger, less than half an inch wide, with prominent yellow centers.
Santa Barbara daisy is also known as Mexican fleabane, both because it is actually native to Mexico, and also because it is supposedly useful for repelling fleas. The problem with using it to repel fleas is that only its smoke is effective. There are probably other herbal alternatives that work just as well without being a fire hazard.
They are more than just shrubbier and more colorful versions of the formerly stigmatized trailing African daisy. Modern African daisies are actually various hybrids of several other species. Extensive breeding complicated their lineages enough for them to be known by cultivar names rather than by species names. To one degree or another, most are probably related to Osteospermum ecklonis.
These fancier modern hybrids of African daisy grow as annuals in harsher climates. If planted just after the last frost date, they bloom splendidly for early spring, and continue to bloom sporadically through summer. If they grow and bloom a bit too well, they may like to be trimmed back to bloom some more. Locally, they persist through winter as short term perennials, to bloom as winter ends.
Bloom provides pastel hues of yellow, orange, pink, ruddy pink, lavender, purple or white. Early spring bloom is most profuse, particularly for fluffy plants that were not trimmed back over winter. The biggest sprawling plants should get trimmed back after bloom. Subsequent sporadic bloom, mixed with random profuse phases, is inhibited only by warm summer weather and cool winter weather.
African daisy wants full sun and regular watering. Mature plants get about two feet deep and broad. If pressed into the soil, outer stems can develop roots to grow as new plants, as the original dies.
A flower that is so prominent in American culture should have a more appealing name than black-eyed Susan. Even the Latin name, Rudbeckia hirta, sounds bad. Is Becky really so rude? Did she hirt Susan? Well, black-eyed Susan is good enough to be the state flower of Maryland, and is one of the most popular of flowers for prairie style gardens of the Midwest. After all, it naturally grows wild in every state east of Colorado. Here in the West, it is a light-duty perennial that is more often grown as an annual. As a cut flower, it can last more than a week.
In the wild, the three inch wide flowers of black-eyed Susan are rich yellow with dark brown centers, and can stand as high as three feet. The typically smaller but more abundant flowers of modern varieties can be orange, red or brownish orange, on more compact stems. Gloriosa daisies are fancier cultivars, with larger flowers that are often fluffier (double) or patterned with a second color. Individual plants do not get much wider than a foot, with most of their rather raspy foliage close to the ground. All black-eyed Susans bloom late in summer or early in autumn.
If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. In the 1960s and 1970s, such accessorizing with Paris daisy, Argyranthemum frutescens (which was at the time, Chrysanthemum frutescens), was a fad. The white flowers with yellow centers were about two or three inches wide. Modern cultivars have smaller flowers that might be light pink or pastel yellow.
Bloom continues in phases from spring through autumn. Light shearing as each bloom phase fades promotes fuller bloom of the subsequent phase. However, if conditions are right, bloom may be nearly continuous, without much pause between phases. Unlike the tougher yellow euryops daisy, Paris daisy wants rich soil, regular watering and maybe a bit of fertilizer for best performance.
Individual plants can get three feet tall and twice as broad, but live only a few years. Lower stems that develop roots where they touch the ground can be left to grow as new plants when an original plant dies. If they do not get roots on their own, lower stems can be pressed into the soil and held down with rocks (with their leafy tips exposed) to grow roots before the parent plant deteriorates.
No, this is not a Paris daisy. It is a common euryops daisy, Euryops pectinatus. It is obviously related, but the flowers are bright yellow rather than clear white with yellow centers, and the foliage is darker green. It is more resilient, so became more common in landscapes as quickly as mow, blow and go ‘gardeners’ replaced real gardeners who actually know something of horticulture. There is certainly nothing wrong with it. It is just cliché.
The few remaining Paris daisies are fancier cultivars of the old fashioned traditional sort anyway. Some bloom pale pink. Some bloom pale yellow. Flowers might have fluffy centers of the same color. Foliage might be pale grayish green. Plants are more compact. The cultivar that most closely resembles the old Paris daisy has more profuse, but smaller flowers. The cultivars are all quite nice, but are not quite the same as what we remember.
The original Paris daisy, Chrysanthemum frutescens, which is now known as Argyranthemum frutescens, was the sort of flower you wore in your hair if you were going to San Francisco in the late 1960s, or according to my memory, in the very early 1970s. It looked just like the three plastic daisies in the upper right (or lower left) corner of those cool AstroTurf door mats that were so popular. Perhaps they were cliché for their time too.
Cuttings rooted in half pint mason jars on kitchen windowsills to replace older plants. Our mothers grew them in the garden, supposedly to repel the bad insects, and attract the good insects to eat the bad ones who did not take the hint. In that regard, Paris daisies were how young horticulturists learned about vegetative propagation and ‘integrated pest management’ (IPM). They were so familiar back then; but then disappeared by the 1990s.
Only recently, Brent, my colleague in the Los Angeles region who I so frequently mention (typically in a disparaging manner) found just two specimens at a nursery in Southern California, and promptly procured both. One if for his garden, and one is for mine!
It seems like not so long ago when the only African daisy that was commonly available was the trailing African daisy that makes such a nice relaxed ground cover for small spaces. The simple white flowers have navy blue centers, and are occasionally joined by mutant light purple flowers. The cultivar that blooms only in light purple was not as popular. Things have certainly changed!
African daisies, Osteospermum, have been bred and hybridized so extensively that most of the modern cultivars are not categorized by specie, so are known by their cultivar names. Most are likely related to Osteospermum ecklonis, which was the first of the shrubby specie to become popular. Although often grown as cool season annuals, African daisies are short term perennials.
Flowers can be various pastel hues of purple, pink, orange, yellow or white. Bloom can be profuse in random phases, and sporadic bloom is almost continuous between early spring and late autumn. It is only postponed by the coolest winter weather and the warmest summer weather. Mature plants can get a bit more than two feet high and wide. They want full sun and regular watering.
Most blue flowers are blushed with purple to some degree. Except for lily of the Nile, true blue flowers are quite uncommon. Even with their yellow centers, the tiny daisy flowers of blue marguerite, Felicia amelloides, seem to be too blue to be real. They are almost expected to fade to lavender. Bloom may not be as full as it was a month ago, but continues as long as the weather is warm.
Mature plants are usually less than a foot and a half tall, and not much wider, with a symmetrically rounded form. The branches are rather fragile, and can be broken by something as trivial as a clumsy cat. They really are not strong enough for bouncy dogs or children. Yet, their tiny oval leaves are just raspy enough to deter deer. Unfortunately, blue marguerite plants live only a few years.