If your plants die overnight, take solace in the fact that you're not alone

Vibrant, daisy-shaped blooms. Perennial in Coastal and Tropical South, annual elsewhere. Sun; well-drained soil

Photo: Alison Miksch

Southerners buy gerbera daisies by the thousands on a regular basis. There are two main reasons for this. First, the red, orange, coral, pink, and yellow blooms are simply stunning. Second, the gerbera daisies they bought three weeks earlier are likely already dead.

Gerbera daisies (Gerbera jamesonii) hail from South Africa, so you might conclude they’d like growing here in the South. You’d be so wrong. South Africa’s climate and ours are about as different as Billie Holiday and Billie Bob Thornton. Thus, gerberas don’t like our high heat, high humidity, and summertime frog-strangler thunderstorms. Oh, and they don’t like our heavy clay soils either.

Nonetheless, you’ll probably have to care for a gerbera sometime, because either someone who’s never tried to grow one before will present one to you as a gift or you want to be able to brag on social media that yours is still around after three months and now the whole world must curtsy. If either is true, let me give you some advice.

Remember your gerbera is coming from the Goldilocks zone of a greenhouse, where the temperature, humidity, and moisture levels are not too high and not too low, but just right. When it arrives in the imperfect conditions of your yard, it will likely experience a panic attack.

Unless your sand is sandy or gritty, don’t plant it in the ground. Gerberas need excellent drainage. If the soil stays soaked for long, the plant will develop crown rot and croak before your eyes. Instead, grow it in a container you can fill with fast-draining potting soil. If there’s a saucer under the pot, empty it as soon as it fills with water.

Full sun is a must or the plant won’t bloom. Hot sun will cause its foliage to wilt, so you’ll naturally want to water it then without first checking the soil. Don’t or your plant will soon die. Your object is to keep the soil evenly moist while the plant is blooming. If you find the plant wilting in the morning before the sun hits it, the soil is probably too dry and you’ll need to water.

Quickly clip off faded blooms and their stems or they’ll develop mold that will spread to the rest of the plant. Don’t wet the foliage when you water or leaves may develop powdery mildew that looks like white powder and usually sends the plant over the edge. Of course, plants grown outdoors will often get wet from rain, but hey, what are you gonna do? I suggest prayer.

Feed your gerbera with a liquid bloom-booster fertilizer every two weeks while it’s blooming and still alive. Cease feeding after it’s dead. Unlike human zombies, gerberas do not come back from the dead. Garden centers really appreciate this, because it means they can sell you new ones to plant. Go ahead. Try again.