Daisy-shaped flowers are the cheerful workhorse of the flower garden. Daisies remind of the sun and have an energizing effect on us. Since the daisy family, Asteraceae, is one of the largest plant families, there are more daisy-shaped flowers to choose from than any other shape! Let's explore the different kinds of daisies from the classic to the colorful!
The name daisy comes from the Old English "day's eye" referring to the tendency of English daisies (Bellis perennis) to close up at night. The common ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) stays open at night so some refer to it as the moon daisy, its white petals glistening in the moonlight.
Daisies and all daisy-like flowers are from the Asteraceae family—aster meaning "star" in Greek, after their flower's shape. Daisies come in many shapes including spires, trumpets, bells, globes, flattops, umbrellas, fountains or weepers. Daisies are usually easy to spot with their classic petals radiating out from a center eye. That eye is actually made up of a cluster of hundreds of tiny florets, making it a composite flower, hence the alternate family name Compositae.
There are daisies native to most temperate areas of the globe and many have found their way into our gardens. Some are annuals while others are perennial. Some are early spring bloomers while others are among the last flowers to blossom in the fall. Some prefer poor dry soil and full sun while other do best in moist shady locations. There is a daisy for situation! Here are a few of my favorites you may want to try:
Also known as Leopard's Bane, Doronium daisies are the first daisy to bloom in my garden. Their bright yellow flowers appearing in early May atop plants that are only about 18 inches tall. Like an ephemeral, it blooms before the trees leaf out taking advantage of spring sunlight. Later the leaves create the moist shade the plants need. Even with that shade they may disappear in summer but not to fret, they'll be back again first thing in the spring!
An early summer blooming perennial, Painted Daisies are hardy to zone 4. The plant grows 1-3 feet tall, has ferny leaves, and its flowers are about 2 inches across. Growing well in sun to part shade, they like well-drained soil. If you cut back the blossoms after they fade it may re-bloom again again in late summer. The flowers come in red, pink, lilac, or white around a yellow center and there are even some double flowering cultivars. In the Pyrethrum genus, these plants are used to make organic insecticides so they have a natural repellent effect on many bugs.
Gloriosa daisy 'Cherry Brandy' is a favorite!
A fancy rudbeckia, Gloriosa Daisies are a short-lived perennial so we grow them as annuals. If the plant comes back, that is a nice surprise but if not we'll just start more from seed. If the seeds are started indoors they will bloom the first year. The plants are 3 feet tall and loaded with huge blossoms, some up to 9 inches across, from June through a hard frost. There are lots of cultivars to choose from but our favorites are 'Cherry Brandy', 'Prairie Sun', and double-flowering 'Cherokee Sunset'. They like rich moist soil and full sun and stand up to summer's heat. They all make excellent cut flowers.
African Daisy (Osteospermum)
As African Daisies are a perennial only to zone 9, we grow them as an annual. The dark centers of each blossom have an almost metallic sheen and the petals are also shiny. Growing 1-3 feet tall, they come in a wide range of colors including pink, lavender, yellow, red, orange, and white. They enjoy a spot with rich soil in full sun. Even though they hail from Africa they do not like hot humid summers.
Also from Africa, Gerbera daisies are sometimes called Transvaal daisies. I have not tried growing these from seeds but find them irresistible and always buy a few at the garden center. They are perennial only to zone 8 but I have wintered over a few in containers and had them bloom indoors. Their 4 inch flowers are so perfect they almost look fake! Keep the plants deadheaded and fertilized and even if they take a breather during the hottest summer days, they will perk up again and put out more blossoms later. The colors range from reds and pinks to yellow, peach, and orange. Grow them in well-drained soil where they will get lots of sunshine.
Often called the blanket flower, Gaillardias are native to the Southwestern US and thrive in poor dry soil and full sun. Birds love the seeds and if you let the seedheads stand the plants will self sow, giving you more plants for free. The bright two-tone red and yellow flowers reach 3-4 inches across and the plants, depending on the cultivar you choose, can be as short as 12 inch tall 'Arizona Sun' up to 3 foot tall 'Tokajer'. They are hardy to zone 4.
Also called false sunflower, Heliopsis is a North American native. Ours blossom all summer long, June through September. They are not fussy about where they are growing as long as the soil is not soggy. Drought tolerant, their 2-3 inch wide yellow-orange blossoms brighten up dry spots and sunny hot locations. Hardy to zone 4, the plants are not quite as tall as sunflowers, growing 3-6 feet tall. Look for 'Summer Sun' if you want a double flowering cultivar.
Photo courtesy of Bluestone Perennials.
Blooming profusely in late summer, these 3 to 5 foot tall bushy plants are covered with 1 inch flowers usually white but there are some purple varieties. Native to wet meadows and marshes of North America, it likes moist fertile soil and is hardy to zone 4.
There are many more daisies to consider such as coreopsis, marguerites, feverfew, tithonia, helenium, and fleabane to name a few.
For more information, the Almanac has growing pages for many common plants in the daisy family including Shastas, zinnias, rudbeckias, coneflowers, asters, dahlias, sunflowers, calendula, and cosmos.