Daisies are a gardener’s best friend as they’re cheerful and very easy to grow
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Rivalled only by orchids, the daisy family is the largest group of flowering plants on the planet with 23 000 currently accepted species, spread across 1 620 genera. These toughies are found in areas ranging from the Polar Regions to the tropics, carving out a niche for themselves in practically every habitat. Although most daisies warrant a place in the garden, these are our five favourites.
SHASTA DAISIES (LEUCANTHEMUM × SUPERBUM)
No matter what your level of gardening proficiency is, Shasta daisies bring waves of cool white blooms to the garden from late spring right into autumn.
Plant them in any sunny spot in well-drained, compost-enriched soil. They’ll tolerate a little shade, but tend to become ‘leggy’ with not enough direct sun.
Growing tips: Keep on deadheading spent blooms to encourage a season-long show. The whole plant can be cut right down in late winter. After the third year or so you can divide up the clumps to keep your plants vigorous and flowering at their best. To do this, dig the plant up in late autumn and using a sharp spade, divide it two or more pieces, which can then be replanted or shared with friends.
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MICHAELMAS DAISIES (ASTER NOVI-BELGII)
Just when your summer garden begins to fade these asters will bloom with an abundance of sumptuous flower heads. Single and double varieties are available in shades of purple, violet, blue, pink, reddish-pink and pure white.
Plant them in full sun or semi-shade; the hybrids vary in height from about 30cm to just over 1m high. They prefer sandy soils enriched with compost, but will perform in clay soils as long as the beds are prepared well beforehand. Asters are excellent in borders, mass plantings and pots; don’t forget to pick some for the vase.
Growing tips: Divide the clumps every few years, refreshing the soil to keep your plants healthy.
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GOLDEN DAISY BUSH (EURYOPS PECTINATUS)
This shrub grows up to 1,5m high and sports attractive grey-green foliage; its golden yellow blooms are borne nearly all year round with the main display in spring.
Plant it in full sun and in well-drained soil, where it will be both fast growing and free flowering. It makes an excellent shrub for the border and looks lovely as part of a mixed perennial backdrop.
Growing tips: It needs a moderate amount of water, but in summer rainfall areas requires a weekly watering throughout the winter months. Your bushes will respond well to pruning and should be cut back hard every few years.
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FELICIA DAISIES (FELICIA AMELLOIDES)
Felicia or Kingfisher daisies are endemic to the coastal areas of the Eastern and Western Cape; you’ll spot their blue blooms just about all year round on bushes growing on sand dunes or stony outcrops. Some varieties have variegated leaves.
Plant them in well-drained soil in a bed that gets loads of sun. Once established, felicias are quick growing and will look good for many years.
Growing tips: After planting, pinch back the main shoots to encourage bushing. Deadheading will extend the flowering season. After a few years they may start to look a little straggly, but this is soon remedied by a severe haircut. Felicias will survive light frost by simply re-sprouting and possibly flowering a little later than usual. While most pests don’t bother felicias, the same can’t be said for butterflies who adore their blooms.
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MARGUERITE DAISIES (ARGYRANTHEMUM FRUTESCENS)
Marguerite daisies come in a variety of colours and bloom for most of the year in mild climates. They thrive in autumn and early spring when they look their best.
Plant them in a sunny spot; they do particularly well in coastal regions. Prepare the soil with plenty of rich compost, making sure it’s loose and drains well. These plants can grow up to 1m high with a similar spread so space them accordingly.
Growing tips: Once new plants are actively growing, pinch them back to the fifth or sixth set of leaves to promote a good shape. Keep them well watered as drought will cause dieback. Conversely, overwatering can cause the plant to collapse.
Marguerite daisies are considered hardy to -1°C. In warm areas, they’ll stop blooming if night-time temperatures stay above 20°C. If this happens, trim them back with a sharp pair of scissors to force them to branch out and develop new growth. When the night-time temperatures fall, the plant will bloom again.