African daisies look a lot like common daisies, with petals radiating around a center disk. They are even in the Asteraceae family, along with Shasta daisies and zinnia. But the vivid coloring is not at all like the classic daisy, and when African daisies were first introduced to the market, some people thought that they must have been dyed. The center disks of the flowers often look as though they are colored with metallic paint. The leaves will vary by variety—they can be lance-like or broadly ovate and smooth, toothed, or lobed. Petals can be smooth and flat, like a daisy, or radiate out in a tubular, spoon-shape.
African daisies (Osteospermum group), include cultivars and hybrids derived from O. ecklonis, O. jucundum, and several other Osteospermum species. They are tender perennials hardy in zones 9 to 11 that are usually grown as annuals.
|Botanical Name||Osteospermum x hybrida|
|Common Name||African daisy, blue-eyed daisy, cape caisy, osteo|
|Plant Type||Tender perennials or half-hardy perennials; generally grown as annuals|
|Mature Size||12 to 36 inches high and 12 to 24 inches wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun (may appreciate some shade in very hot climates)|
|Soil Type||Evenly moist, well-drained soil|
|Soil pH||5 to 5.5; acidic|
|Bloom Time||May through fall|
|Flower Color||Many, including lavender, pink, white, yellow, and bi-color|
|Hardiness Zones||9 to 10|
|Native Area||Africa and the Southwestern Arabian peninsula|
How to Grow African Daisies
African daisies work equally well in the garden or in containers. Blooms peak in late spring/early summer and again in late summer/early fall. Because African daisies stop blooming during hot spells, they are best grown in combination with other plants that will pick up the slack during extreme summer heat.
The funky colors can be hard to combine with other flowers. Pairing African daisies with complementary foliage is a great way to incorporate them and guarantee there will be color, even when the plants are not in bloom. Yellow and chartreuse foliage allows most of African daisy color combinations to shine. Try combining plants like 'Sweet Caroline Kiwi' sweet potato vine, 'Rockin'® Golden Delicious' salvia, or 'ColorBlaze® Golden Dream™' coleus with African daisies. For varieties with blue centers, such as 'Soprano White', pairing them with blue flowers like salvia and veronica will highlight their striking centers.
Wait until all chance of frost has passed before planting in the spring. Dig a hole a bit larger than the plant's root ball. If the plant is root bound, gently loosen the roots before placing in the hole. African daisies prefer rich, organic soil with a pH around 5-5.5. Add compost or other organic matter to the hole to ensure proper drainage and nutrients. Place the plant in the hole, with the top of the root ball level with the soil line, and fill in the hole with soil. Water well to settle the roots. Space plants 12 inches apart for good air circulation.
African daisies bloom best in full sun, although they tolerate part shade, producing fewer flower. The blooms close up at night and don't open during cloudy or overcast weather. However, some newer cultivars remain open at night. If you are planning on planting them and want to enjoy the blooms at night, you might want to consider '4D Pink', '4D Silver', or '4D Berry'.
Although somewhat drought tolerant once established, African daisies still need at least 1 inch of water per week to grow their best. During periods of drought or intense heat, the plants will slow down and go dormant. Keep the plants well-watered and deadheaded and they will resume blooming when the weather cools. However, do not overwater, as soggy soil can encourage disease like root rot.
Temperature and Humidity
African daisy cultivars prefer cooler weather, blooming best in late spring/early summer, then putting on another show in late summer/fall. During periods of drought, be prepared for the plants to gradually cease blooming and go dormant. Cut them back by 1/3 and keep them watered. They should resume blooming in the fall.
When grown as an annual, African daisies need some supplemental fertilizer every two to three weeks, especially when grown in a container. Choose a water-soluble fertilizer and follow the directions on the label. Deadheading helps encourage reblooming in the fall.
The majority of African daisy varieties are hybrids and will not grow true from saved seed. Many plants are even sterile. You can find seed for sale and if you are not concerned about what colors your plants turn out to be, you can try sowing the seeds you save. African daisy seeds need light to germinate and benefit from scarification for best germination, so just place the seeds on top of the soil and press lightly to make firm contact with the soil. Keep the seeds moist until they germinate. Seeds germinate best at 70 degrees F and should sprout within 10-21 days.
Your existing African daisies can easily be reproduced by cuttings:
- Fill a shallow tray with a sterile seed-starting mixture. Dampen the mix slightly.
- Take plant cuttings 2 to 3 inches long that have at least two sets of leaf nodes. Pinch off any flower buds that are present. Strip off the lower leaves.
- Dip the severed end of the cutting in rooting hormone, then plant the cut end into the seed-starting mix.
- Cover the tray with a plastic dome, then place it in a location with bright bright indirect light and temperatures between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In four to six weeks, the plants should be sufficiently rooted to transplant to pots or to an outdoor garden location.
Varieties of African Daisies
There are always new varieties being introduced, but here are some proven favorites:
- Osteospermum 'Passion Mix': This is a 1999 All America Selection, bred to be more heat tolerant. It is a compact plant topping out at about 12 inches high. The flowers come in a wide variety of colors (pink, purple, rose, and white), all with blue centers. This is an easy variety to grow from seed.
- O. '4D': Known for fluffy, tufted centers, these flowers remain open all day, even in hot weather. Plants grow up to 14 inches high.
- O. 'Flower Power Spider White': These have odd, spoon-shaped white and lavender petals with a gold center. The plants grow up to 14 inches high.
- O. 'Lemon Symphony': The butter-yellow petals have a purple center and orange eye and can grow up to 14 inches high.
- O. 'Sideshow Copper Apricot': This variety has striking pale apricot flowers with a purple center disk; they grow up to 12 inches high.
Common Pests/ Diseases
There are not many diseases or insects that attack African daisies if the plants are kept healthy and stress-free. During rough weather, be on the lookout for:
- Gray mold can develop in damp or humid conditions. Good air circulation will help and a general-purpose fungicide can be used, if necessary. Plants are also susceptible to root rot in wet soil.
- Whitefly and aphids can become a problem but can be controlled with an insecticidal soap or chemical spray if caught early.