Gerber Daisy Plant Profile

Gerbera daisy
whistlepig / Twenty20

Gerber daisies are so vividly colored that it sometimes makes you wonder if they are real. The Gerbera flower is in the aster family, alongside sunflowers (Asteraceae), and is native to South Africa. The Gerber daisies we see today, however, result from hybridization techniques that produce the large daisy-like flowers commonly seen as cut flowers in bouquets. Gerber daisies can be grown from seed outdoors in both containers and garden beds, but they are not frost-hardy.

The large flower heads of these daisies have ray-like petals around a center disk of tiny green or black flowers. There are four different classes of Gerbers: a single flower, semi-double flower, double flowers, and spider flowers. Each class delineates the number, position, and type of petals. The leaves of the plant are lobed, or pinnate, and often toothed.

Botanical Name

Gerbera jamesonii

Common Name

Gerber, Gerbera, Transvaal daisy, African daisy, and Barberton daisy

Plant Type

Herbaceous perennial

Mature Size

10 to 18 inches tall with a spread of 1 to 2 feet

Sun Exposure

Full sun to partial shad

Soil Type

Rich and moist

Soil pH

5.5 to 6.5

Bloom Time

Summer through fall

Flower Color

Pale pastels of yellow and pink to bold orange and red

Hardiness Zones

8 through 11

Native Area

South Africa

Gerbera daisies
Kenny Williamson / Getty Images

How to Grow Gerber Daisies

Gerber daisies are sold as starts that can be placed right into a garden bed, but most varieties can be easily grown from seed, as well. However, they are slow to develop from seed, making this economical option feasible only in warmer climates.

  1. Start seeds indoors, approximately 12 to 18 weeks before your last frost date. Sow seed in peat or paper pots since Gerberas do not like having their roots disturbed by transplanting.
  2. Press the seeds on top of the soil mix rather than burying them beneath it, as they need light to germinate.
  3. Cover the container with plastic to help to keep the soil and the exposed seed moist.
  4. Place your planted seeds in a warm, sunny spot (70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and wait approximately two to four weeks for germination.
  5. Transplant your seedlings outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Choose a well-draining site with good light exposure.
  6. Plant the seedlings in the ground so that the crown is 1/2 inch above the soil line. Or, if you are planning on bringing the daisies inside to overwinter, simply sink a pot into the ground and then lift it out, come fall. This will be less disruptive to the roots.
  7. Deadhead spent blooms to keep the plant in show. And if your plants get bushy, remove some of the clustered center leaves to allow in more light.

Light

Gerber daisies require full sun to partial shade, but they do not like intense heat. That said, allow for morning sun in warmer zones and full sun in cooler climates. Try not to plant Gerberas near a foundation or stone wall that will reflect heat back onto the plant.

Soil

Start your Gerber daisy bed with rich soil, high in organic matter. Gerbers fare best in slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Levels higher than this can cause chlorosis, which manifests with yellow stripes on the leaves. If the pH is too low, black spots or patches will appear on the leaves.

Water

Gerber daisies need regular watering at about one inch per week. Water only when the soil is dry an inch or two below the surface. Theses daisies may need more frequent watering when first establishing them from seed and during hot, dry spells.

Temperature and Humidity

Gerber daisies grow best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8 through 11 (although, they will need winter protection in Zone 8 where most gardeners grow them as annuals or potted plants). The flowers prefer a cooler winter temperature of about 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and full, bright sun. Do not overwater this plant during the winter, as overwintered plants grow dormant and need only a light watering once and month during this phase.

Fertilizer

The amount of fertilizer your Gerber needs depends on the quality of your soil. To keep it blooming all summer, a monthly feeding with a water-soluble, chemical fertilizer or adding an organic compost around the roots is advised.

Varieties of Gerber Daisies

Gerbera jamesonii is the most common species grown in North America. You can purchase seed of individual colors, or in different combinations, in the Jaguar variety. Gerber minis are also increasingly popular. They come in a good selection of colors, as well, and can be grown from seed. Purchasing plants as seedlings allows for more selection, as Gerbera breeding is done through tissue culture. Look for Gerbera Spider daisies with bright green leaves and pale yellow flowers or choose a Red or Yellow Variegated Lalbagh for a hybrid with a showy bloom.

Common Pests and Diseases

Aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and thrips all feast on Gerber leaves. They are attracted to stressed plants, so make sure to keep your plants in good health and monitor them regularly for signs of trouble. Small populations can be blasted off with a strong spray of water and large populations can be controlled with insecticidal soap or natural essential oils like neem.

Leafminers can also infest the leaves. Remove victims that show the telltale sign of tunneling. Powdery mildew, crown, and root rot can affect the plants when their soil is continuously wet. Allow the soil to dry between waterings, but do not leave them unwatered for so long that they wilt and become stressed.

Landscape Uses

The bold colors of Gerber daisies need to be carefully integrated into flowers bed with subtle colors. They work best contrasted against simple plants with delicate white or pale blooms and airy foliage. Complementary colored Calibrachoa and Diascia make a nice contrast. To play up the bold colors, pair Gerber daisies with plants that have yellow foliage, like the short grasses of Hakonechloa macra. Small or spiky blue flowers, such as those found on sage and lobelia, also bring out the boldness of Gerber daisies. And of course, you can always grow Gerber daisies by themselves. They easily fill up a pot for a colorful statement.

Cut Gerber daisies when the flowers are fully opened, but the center remains tight. The stems will take as much water as you give them, but too much water will shorten the display time. Place them in 1 inch of water and add more as necessary. If the base of the stem begins to discolor, make a fresh cut on an angle.