African daisies (Arctotis) are happy flowering annuals. They add perk and smile to any sunny garden location. The flowers produce and drop seeds that allow for new growth the following year in some warmer regions. And, it is grown as a tender perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 8 through 11. This easy-going plant is drought tolerant, and it can even take a bit of frost.
African daisies originated in South Africa where they grow wild and abundant. Original African daisies only opened their blooms in the full sun. They would close when it was shady or dark. Growers in Europe and in the United States decided they wanted to see more of this pretty flower’s face.
They developed cultivars that stay open for longer periods in the daytime. The foliage is silvery and soft, like Lamb’s ear. The flowers range in color from cool whites and violets to the warmer shades of pink, red, orange, and yellow.
How to Grow and Care for African Daisies
African daisies are easy to grow. They like lots of sun and good air circulation. They don’t care for wet feet. So, choose a sunny location with well draining soil, and your African daisies will be happy. They have a reputation for “thriving on neglect.” So, don’t worry too much about these guys once they are established in your garden.
To plant, begin indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost of the season. Once the frost has passed, plant your transplants outdoors, or sow your African daisy seeds directly in the garden. Water well until the young plant is well established. Then, water regularly, but don’t overwater.
Expect your African daisy to grow to between 1 and 2 feet tall. Allow this plant plenty of breathing room. Space your plants 6 inches to 1 foot apart. To encourage your plant to bloom from late spring well into the fall, cut the flowers and use them in a vase. Deadhead those that you don’t snip off to enjoy indoors.
Allow the seeds to dry on the plants, and at the end of the growing season, harvest your seeds directly from the flower heads. Clean your African daisy seeds by sifting them through mesh to separate the chaff from the seed before you store the seeds. This step will help to prevent fungus from ruining the seeds for the next planting.
Pests and Problems for African Daisies
African daisies are hearty plants. They can tolerate a wide variety of growing conditions. However, they are prone to fungal diseases. Lots of sun and good air circulation are important for this plant’s health, especially in humid climates.
African daisies are also vulnerable to aphids. Since African daisies tend be annual flowers, the best way to protect against aphids is to plant a few marigolds alongside your daisies. The marigolds are annuals too, and they will act as a repellent to the aphids. The marigolds will stand guard and protect your African daisies throughout the growing season.
African Daisy Varieties to Try
‘African Blue Eyed Daisy’ is a lovely cultivar that grows on a strong stem. It is a great choice for cut flowers. This is an average sized African daisy plant that grows about 20 inches tall and 24 inches wide.
‘Harlequin Mix’ is a bright mix of yellows and whites with broad 3 to 4 inch blooms and wide centers. In spite of the larger blooms, this is a dainty variety. At 15 inches tall and 18 inches wide, this is a suggested choice for a container plant.