How To Care for Gerbera Daisies
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 hail from South Africa, so you might conclude they'd like growing here in the South. You'd be so wrong. 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.
About Gerbera Daisies
Gerbera daisies are known by the scientific name of Gerbera jamesonii. They're also known as the transvaal daisy and are members of the family Asteraceae. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, these flowers are "perennial in coastal and tropical south; annual elsewhere." They also bring bright, eye-catching color wherever they're planted. That's why everyone's planting them in the first place. If you've been living under a rock and have never seen them before, let The New Southern Living Garden Book describe them to you: "The 4- to 5-inch daisies, borne one to a stem, fairly glow in colors of red, orange, coral pink, yellow, and cream." The petals are actually called "rays," and those brightly colored rays encircle the center of the flower, which is a prominent disc shape.
Gerbera Daisy Care
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. Speak to it in soothing tones and give it plenty of sun. 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 without first checking the soil. Don't do that, 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.
Gerbera Daisy Soil Requirements
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. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, "Where gerberas are perennial, they can bloom at almost any time of year, unless frost kills them to the ground. In this case, they'll sprout from underground stems in spring and begin blooming shortly afterward." That's as long as the soil is good, i.e. if it's gritty enough to drain like a colander.
Tending Gerbera Daisies
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 the leaves may develop powdery mildew that looks like white powder and usually sends the plant over the edge. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, "Crowded plantings and shade make the problem even worse. The best defense is to start with disease-free plants and to choose the newer, more disease-resistant selections." Sometimes a chemical solution is needed to control the problem. If this is the case, then reach out to your local Cooperative Extensive Office, which is a great resource for answers to your planting questions. 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.
Dividing, Transplanting, and Cutting Gerbera Daisies
If you want to double your daisies without making a visit to your local garden shop, you can divide those that you have growing in your garden. The New Southern Living Garden Book advises to "divide (in late winter) only when clump is crowded and flowering declines." It continues, "Most people start with transplants, but you can also grow gerberas from seed. Seed must be fresh to germinate well. Sow in moist potting soil; keep air temperature at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Water carefully. Seed may take several weeks to sprout. Seedlings flower in 4 to 6 months." Gerbera daisies also make great cut flowers and very nice additions to arrangements. When cutting, be sure to snip the bottom of the stem before placing it in the water to allow for optimal absorption. Thirsty, thirsty.
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What's your favorite type of daisy? Do you have daisies growing in your garden?