These, cheery, colorful daisy-like flowers are in the Asteraceae (aster) family, which means they're also related to sunflowers, daisies, strawflowers and ageratum. They were first discovered by horticulturists with the British Royal Gardens in 1777, growing in the Azores on cool ocean cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. Their current form is a hybrid of two of those discovered pericallis species.
They're a tender perennial and often treated as an annual, valued for their wide range of colors and long-lasting blooms. They come in vibrant shades of pink, red, purple and blue, many of them with bi-colored petals making for striking contrasts of white and blue, red and white, etc. The only color they're not available in is yellow. The cobalt blue shades are especially popular in summer to create red, white and blue arrangements for Independence Day. They come in a range of sizes; the taller the plant, the larger the blooms, with some flowers measuring up to five inches.
|Scientific Name||Pericallis cruenta, Senecio cruentus|
|Common Name||Cineraria, Bug plant, purple-leaved groundsel|
|Plant Type||Tender perennial|
|Mature Size||4 to 5 feet|
|Sun Exposure||Partial to full shade|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-draining, slightly acidic, rich|
|Soil pH||5.5 to 6.0|
|Flower Color||Various (no yellow)|
|Hardiness Zones||9 to 11|
|Native Areas||Azores, Canary Islands|
How to Grow Cineraria
The flamboyant colors of cineraria, as well their versatile daisy shape, have made them increasingly popular in the United States in recent years as a decorative annual. But if you happen to live in a very warm zone (USDA 9 to 11) with ample humidity you can try growing them as perennials. As an annual, they hold their color for a decent period of time, so make sure they stay evenly moist, and deadhead them continually to encourage new buds, and you'll have weeks of glorious colorful blooms from spring through summer.
As these are tender perennials used to a very warm growing zone, it should come as no surprise that they do best in a shady location, or perhaps in containers under a patio umbrella or arbor that lets in dappled sunlight.
Cineraria like a rich, slightly acidic soil that has both good moisture retention and good drainage. Amendments like peat moss and coffee grounds can help create good coil conditions for this somewhat fussy plant.
As noted above, cineraria have a need for constant moisture. Water well and frequently at the base of the plant, checking soil to make sure it feels moist but not soggy. Steady watering in hot weather is a must.
Temperature and Humidity
Cineraria are somewhat fussy about temperature, as is true for many plants who thrive in a narrow range of hardiness zones. Their preferred temperature is between 50 and 65 degrees. If temps dip below 35 at night, they'll die, and if they go above 80 degrees, they'll stop blooming. In the heat of summer, make sure they stay in shade and it may be necessary to bring them indoors during very hot days.
These flowers thrive in a humid yet not "tropical" environment, Even if your location is not consistently humid during the growing season, you can approximate the climate needs of this plant by keeping the soil around it consistently moist. However, avoid making the ground too "soggy" as this can cause root rot. The best way to provide this humidity for both indoor and outdoor plantings is to create a pebble tray. Spread a layer of pebbles or pea gravel on a low dish or tray and place it beneath the container. Keep filled with water to up to a half inch in depth (that may mean refreshing it daily if your house has dry air). As that water evaporates it will create an evenly humid atmosphere around the plant. Misting is not recommended as it may overwhelm the flower petals.
In a suitable growing zone, cineraria can be propagated from seed fairly easily. In fact, they will readily reseed themselves, so to prevent that you should deadhead the flowers before seeds emerge. If you live in a colder zone, where cineraria are more like an annual for you, you can propagate from cuttings in the summer, and try to keep the plants going indoors. But the plant's sensitivity and need for constant humidity make it challenging to grow indoors.