Can you forgive the foliage of this unassuming wildflower for resembling a dandelion? You can after you smell the unbelievable cocoa fragrance of the chocolate daisy. And, although it would be too much to ask that the flowers taste as good as they smell, the chocolate daisy is classified as an herb, and can garnish your salads as well as your bouquets.
Get to Know the Chocolate Daisy
Also known as the chocolate flower, the green-eyed lyre leaf, or lyreleaf greeneyes, the chocolate daisy belongs to the genus Berlandiera lyrata and the family Asteraceae. Plants are reliably hardy in USDA growing zones 4-10, where they will average one to two feet in height.
The foliage of the chocolate daisy is elongated and slightly lobed, with the grayish tint characteristic of many drought tolerant plants. The small 2-inch yellow flowers resemble those of the coreopsis. They are a clear yellow, with eight petals in a simple ray shape. The eye of the daisies are green, and upon close inspection you may notice the little burgundy pollen filaments bearing yellow anthers.
In the morning, the distinct aroma of the chocolate flower is the strongest. In the heat of the afternoon, the flowers may look a bit listless, but they will revive the following day.
In addition to its unique fragrance, an attribute of the chocolate daisy that appeals to many flower gardeners is its exceptional blooming period. Flowers planted in full sun may bloom from spring until frost, with the heaviest blooming time occurring right around the summer solstice.
Planting the Chocolate Daisy
Although wildflower peepers can find these plants growing extensively across the plains and mesas of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma, you don’t need to disturb their native habitat by collecting plants. You can collect seeds of the chocolate daisy in the spring and summer, and they germinate easily in lean soils. Plant the seeds anytime during the frost-free growing season. You can also start with young plants from specialty nurseries, including Mountain Valley Growers and High Country Gardens.
Whether you start with seeds or with transplants from the nursery or mail-order catalog, be sure to plant the chocolate daisy in well-drained soil. You will have the best success in duplicating the plant’s natural habitat of rocky, sandy soil types. Some clay is fine, as long as the plants never get wet feet, in which case they will rot.
Chocolate Daisy Garden Design Tips
The chocolate daisy is an obvious choice for the fragrant flower garden. Don’t hesitate to pick the flowers for a nosegay bouquet, as picking releases more of the heady perfume.
Plant the chocolate daisy in the rock garden or alpine garden, as it appreciates the sharp drainage of rocky soils. Place it close to paths where you can observe the small blooms and catch a whiff of chocolate.
Include the chocolate daisy in the xeriscape garden. It rarely needs supplemental watering. In fact, your plants will let you know when they receive too much water by flopping over.
Add the chocolate daisy to your wildflower meadow. In its native habitat, the plants grow in places that feature dry soil on the alkaline side due to the presence of limestone. If this describes your landscape and you've struggled to find a plant that adapts to this sometimes barren environment, try the chocolate daisy. Replace a small area of your lawn with chocolate daisy plants. You can even mow the plants, and they will grow back vigorously, but never invasively.
The chocolate daisy is an important source of nectar. Attract both butterflies and beneficial wasps to your flower garden with this plant.
Foil deer with the chocolate daisy. Perhaps the fragrance most intoxicating to many humans is repellant to deer. What a happy coincidence!
Chocolate Daisy Maintenance and Care
The adage “less is more” applies to the care of the chocolate daisy. Less fertilizer, less water, and less (or no) pesticide sprays are the key to this easy flowering perennial. Use your grass clipping shears to deadhead the many leafless stems all at once, to encourage reblooming. Mulch isn't necessary, but a layer of gravel beneath plants looks attractive and helps to hold fallen seeds in place for new volunteer plants.
Do not attempt to divide or transplant chocolate daisy plants. Part of their drought resistant nature stems from the deep tap root that plunges beneath the soil's surface, and digging mature plants can disturb this root and damage the plant.