Daisies, and in particular Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum), add cheerful, long-lasting blooms to any mixed perennial bed. Shasta daisies thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 9 and come back year after year. They stand 12 to 24 inches tall, depending on the variety, and bloom from early summer to fall. The white blooms make excellent cut flowers.
Shasta daisy flowers are probably the most commonly grown daisy, but they’re not the only ones to choose from. Marguerite daisies (Argyranthemum frutescens) come in a variety of shades, from white to blue, and some have fringed petals. They’re only hardy to USDA zone 9, but northerners can grow them as annuals. Painted daisies (Tanacetum coccineum) grow best in USDA zones 3 through 7 and tend to pout in hot weather. Plant them in partial shade if you have hot summers and water them frequently.
Daisy flowers can be planted from seed or from nursery transplants. If planting from seed, start the plants indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost. Sow the seeds in a seed starting tray, planting them ¼ inch deep. Seeds can also be sown outdoors after the last frost. Plants grown from seed won’t bloom until the next season.
Plant seedlings and nursery transplants in spring. Choose a bright, sunny location with well-draining, but not overly rich soil. Dig holes as deep as the root balls and twice as wide. Plant daisies 12 inches apart and make sure they’re situated so the root ball is even with the surrounding soil.
Water newly planted daisies at least once per week, or more in dry weather. Once established, they’re somewhat drought tolerant, although they’ll bloom better with regular moisture. In hot, dry climates, plant daisies in partial shade.
Daisies are generally low-maintenance plants, but they might not live as long as most perennials. A few strategies can help prolong their life. First, they must be planted in well-draining soil. Avoid low-lying places where water tends to linger, especially in the winter, which can cause root rot diseases. Deadhead spent flowers immediately, cutting the stems back to the basal leaves. This tactic conserves the plant’s energy, not only encouraging more blooms, but keeping a healthier plant.
Fertilize daisies lightly in the spring with ¼ cup 10-10-10 fertilizer per plant. Cut the plants back to 2 inches above the ground in the fall, after the first frost. Daisies grow in spreading clumps and can quickly take over an area. Plan to divide them every three or four years. To divide daisies, dig any new holes and pour ½ gallon of water in each hole. Dig up the plants and set them on the ground. Use a shovel or knife to divide the plants, cleanly severing the roots. Replant the divisions in the prepared holes. Press the soil firmly around the plants and water them well.
Diseases and Pests of Daisies
Daisies occasionally suffer from leaf spots and root rot diseases. Leaf spots are usually caused by fungal spores and rarely cause serious damage. To minimize leaf spot diseases, plant daisies so air can circulate freely between them. Use drip systems and soaker hoses instead of overhead sprinklers and pick up leaf debris promptly. The best way to prevent root rot is by planting daisies in well-drained soil. Once infected, the disease is usually fatal.
Aphids and leaf miners may occasionally infest daisies, but they can usually be ignored.
Varieties of Daisy Flowers
Many daisy varieties are hybrids. Although the plants self-seed freely, the resulting plants may not look the same as their parents. Remove the spent flowers to avoid this problem.
If you’d like to grow daisies from seed, try ‘Snow Lady,’ one variety that does bloom from seed the first season. ‘Snow Lady’ has an erect, bushy form and snowy white flowers.
‘Cobham Gold’ stands 2 feet tall and produces white double flowers with yellow centers.
For more information on growing daisies, visit the following links:
TipsNet talks about the basics of growing daisy flowers on YouTube.
Julie Christensen learned about gardening on her grandfather’s farm and mother’s vegetable garden in southern Idaho. Today, she lives and gardens on the high plains of Colorado. When she’s not digging in the dirt, Julie writes about food, education, parenting and gardening.