Gerber daisies can be so vividly colored, that you might wonder if they are real. Gerbera is a large genus in the aster family as are sunflowers (Asteraceae). They are native to South Africa, but a lot of breeding has gone into developing the large daisy-like flowers we see today. They were initially bred to be cut flowers and remain the fifth most common cut flower in the world. They can be grown from seed and are popular as houseplants and outdoors in containers and beds, however, they are not frost-hardy.
The large flower heads have ray-like petals around a center disk of green or black. The disk is composed of tiny flowers. There are four classes of Gerbers depending on the number, position, and type of petals: a single flower, semi-double flower, double flowers, and spider flowers. The leaves 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 perennials
- Mature Size: 10 to 18 inches tall with a spread of 1 to 2 feet
- Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
- Soil Type: Rich and moist
- Soil pH: Slightly acidic
- Bloom Time: Summer through fall
- Flower Color: Pale pastels and cream to bold oranges, yellows, reds, and bi-colors
- Hardiness Zones: 8 through 11
- Native Area: South Africa
How to Grow Gerber Daisies
To keep the plants in flower, deadhead spent blooms. Make sure that sunlight can reach the center of the plants. If the plants get too bushy, you can remove some of the leaves clustered in the center to allow more light in.
These plants require full sun to partial shade. Gerber daisies do not like intense heat. Give them morning sun in warmer zones, and full sun in cooler climates. Try not to plant them near a foundation or stone wall that would reflect heat back all day.
Start with rich soil, high in organic matter. Gerbers fare best in slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Higher pH levels can cause chlorosis, which manifests as yellow stripes on the leaves. If the pH is too low, black spots or patches will appear on the leaves.
These plants need regular watering about 1 inch per week. Water only when the soil is dry 1 inch or two below the surface. They will need more when you are first getting them established and during hot, dry spells.
Temperature and Humidity
Gerber daisies grow best in USDA Zones 8 – 11. They will need some winter protection in zone 8. Most gardeners grow them as annuals or potted plants. You can bring your Gerber daisies indoors and they will continue growing and blooming. They prefer a cool winter temperature of about 45 to 50 F and full, bright sun. Do not overwater during the winter. Plants can also be overwintered dormant if the pots are kept cool and not allowed to freeze. Water lightly every month and allow to dry.
The amount of fertilizer your Gerber needs depends on the quality of your soil. Since they will be blooming all summer, monthly feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer is advised.
Propagating Gerber Daisies
Gerber daisies are not often sold as small seedlings in cell packs and the individual plants can be expensive. Some varieties can be easily grown from seed, but be warned, even the seed is pricey.
Gerber daisies are slow to develop, which is one of the reasons they are so expensive. Start seeds indoors, about 12 to 18 weeks before your last frost date. Sow the seed in peat or paper pots, because they do not like to have their roots disturbed by transplanting.
The seed needs light to germinate, so press the seeds on top of the soil mix. Do not cover with more soil. Covering the container with plastic will help to keep the soil and seed moist. Place in a warm spot, 70 to 75 F and expect to wait for two to four weeks for germination.
Seeds of double varieties do not always grow true to type. You will probably get a good many that turn out to be singles.
Transplant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Choose a well-draining site with good light exposure. Plant so that the crown is 1/2 inch above the soil line. If you are planning on bringing the plants indoors for winter, you can simply sink the pot and lift it in the fall. It will be less disruptive to the roots.
The bold colors of Gerber daisies can be hard to integrate into a flower bed with more subtle colors. These work best when contrasted with just a few other plants with more delicate blooms or airy foliage. Complementary colored Calibrachoa and Diascia make a nice contrast. To really play up the bold colors, pair them with yellow foliage plants, especially short grasses like Hakonechloa macra "Aureola" or "All Gold." Small or spiky blue flowers, such as sages and lobelia, also bring out the boldness of Gerber daisies.
Of course, you can always grow Gerber daisies all on their own. They can easily fill a pot and make a statement.
Cut Gerber daisies when the flowers are fully opened, but the center remains tight. The stems will take-up as much water as you give them, but too much water will shorten their display time. Place them in 1/2-to-1-inch of water and add more as necessary. If the base of the stem begins to discolor, make a fresh cut.
Aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and thrips will all feast on Gerber leaves. They are attracted to stressed plants, but will also be drawn to large swathes of plants. Monitor regularly and treat at the first sign of trouble. Small populations can be blasted off with a strong spray of water. Larger populations can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem.
Leafminers can also infest the leaves. Remove any that show the telltale tunneling. Powdery mildew can become a problem if the plants remain wet for long periods and in high humidity. Crown and root rot can affect the plants when they are continuously in wet soil. Allow the soil to dry between waterings, but do not leave them unwatered so long that they wilt and look dry.
Varieties of Gerber Daisies
Gerbera jamesonii is the most commonly grown species and there is a great deal of variety within it. Jaguar is one of the most popular series. You can purchase seed of individual colors or in different combinations.
A smaller flowered Gerbera, Gerber minis, is becoming increasingly popular. They also come in a good selection of colors and can be grown from seed.
There is more selection when you purchase them as plants because a lot of Gerbera breeding is done through tissue culture.