Why the Daisy is a Girl's Best Friend
Good old daisies.
AT A GLANCE:
- Size: 10 to 24 inches high
- Light: full sun
- Soil: moderately fertile, well drained
- Range: All South
- Comments: great cut flowers
There's nothing pretentious about daisies. You've loved these cheerful, common flowers ever since you learned to draw them in kindergarten. Perhaps it's because daisies grow in crayon colors: yellow centers ringed with white petals on plain green stems.
Shasta daisies (Chrysanthemum maximum) are the ones you probably remember from childhood. It's easy to add them to your own garden. Start with seeds or transplants in spring or fall. Autumn planting has the advantage of establishing root systems before flowering. Each 4-inch transplant you set out in fall will produce, at a fraction of the cost, roughly the same amount of blooms as a 1-gallon plant purchased in the spring. But don't fret if you waited until spring to go daisy crazy; plants started now will continue to grow all year. If you leave spent flowers on their stems instead of trimming brown seedheads, your daisies will reseed.
Daisies are perennial, so consider your patch an ongoing addition to the garden. Dig up large clumps of them every other year around October, and cut roots apart to divide them. This will keep crowded roots from smothering each other and will offset the natural decline that occurs after two to three years. Set divisions 10 to 12 inches apart in full sun, or share them with friends. You can also dig seedlings from beneath parent plants in fall and replant them. Seeds purchased in packets may be sown in fall or spring.
Bed down Shastas for winter by tucking mulch around each plant, taking care not to cover leaves. The rosettes of foliage stay green year-round in much of the South. Alaska is a selection named for its tolerance for icy weather; this 2-foot beauty produces 2-inch flowers nonstop for at least a month in the spring and sporadically until cold weather returns. For a shorter Shasta, try Snow Lady, a hybrid measuring 10 to 12 inches high. Give plants a good drink of water during summer's dog days.
Shasta daisies will reward you with bright bouquets filled with heart-warming blooms.