Osteospermum, or African daisies, have flowers that look very familiar, yet totally foreign. You may even think they've been dyed or painted. 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 when African daisies were first introduced to the market, they had vivid coloring we weren't used to seeing. Many of the center disks looked as though they were colored with metallic paint. African daisies are definitely unique.
- Leaves: The leaves will vary by variety. They can be lance-like or broadly ovate and smooth, toothed or lobed.
- Flowers: Petals can be smooth and flat, like a daisy, or radiate out in a tubular, spoon-shape. There are many color combinations ( lavender, pink, white, yellow, and bi-color) and more introduced each year.
Osteospermum x hybrida (oss-tee-oh-SPUR-mum)
African Daisy, Blue-eyed Daisy, Cape Daisy, Osteo
USDA Hardiness Zones 9 and higher. African daisies are often labeled as tender perennials or half-hardy perennials. While they are perennial plants in their native climate, few plants survive in USDA Hardiness Zones below 9. African daisies are generally grown as annuals.
Most African Daisy plants reach a size of 12 - 36 inches (30.5 - 91.4 cm) h x 12 - 24 inches (30.5 - 36cm) w. The actual size will depend on the variety you are growing and the growing conditions that year.
African daisies repeat bloom from May through fall, although flowering diminishes and can come to a complete standstill during hot, dry weather. Keep the plants well watered and deadheaded and they will resume blooming when the weather cools.
African Daisy Growing Tips
Soil: Most African daisies prefer an acidic soil with a soil pH of 5.0 - 5.5.
Planting: The majority of African daisy varieties are hybrids and will not grow true from saved seed. Many plants are even sterile. However 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, so just sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil and press lightly, to make firm contact. Keep the seeds moist until they germinate.
African daisies can easily be reproduced by cuttings.
Caring for African Daisy Plants
Although drought tolerant once established, African daisies still need at least an inch of water per week, to grow their best. During periods of drought or intense heat, the plants will slow down and go dormant.
When grown as an annual, African daisies needs some supplemental fertilizer every 2 - 3 weeks, especially when grown in a container.
Deadheading the spent flowers isn't crucial since many plants are sterile and don't produce any seed. However, it will keep the plants looking tidy.
African daisy cultivars prefer cooler weather and they really don't like the combination of hot and dry. During periods of drought, be prepared for the plants to gradually cease blooming and go dormant. Cut them back and keep them watered. They should resume blooming in the fall.
Osteospermum "Passion Mix", a 1999 All America Selection, was bred to be more heat tolerant and it can handle heat better than most other varieties. It is also 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, and it can be grown from seed.
The Best African Daisy Varieties for Your Garden
There are always new varieties being introduced, but here are some proven favorites.
- "3D"™ - Fluffy, tufted centers and flowers that remain open all day, even in hot weather. 14 inches (h).
- "Flower Power Spider White" - odd, spoon-shaped white and lavender petals with a gold center. 14 inches (h).14" H.
- "Lemon Symphony" - Butter-yellow petals with a purple center and orange eye. 14 inches (h).14 inches (h).14" H.
- "Sideshow Copper Apricot" - Pale apricot flowers with a purple center disk. 12 inches (h).
Using African Daisies in Your Garden Design
African daisies work equally well in the garden or in containers. Because they can stop blooming during hot spells, they are best planted in combination with other plants that will pick up the slack during hot spells.
The funky colors can be hard to combine with other flowers. Pairing them with complementary foliage is a great way to incorporate them into a planting 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. Heuchera like "Key Lime Pie", Golden Japanese Forest Grass, and Coleus "The Line" all provide a vivid backdrop as well as a textural difference.
For varieties with blue centers, like "Soprano White", pairing them with blue flowers like salvia and Veronica, will highlight their striking centers.
Pests & Problems of African Daisies
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:
- Disease: 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.
- Insects: Whitefly and aphids can become a problem, but can be controlled if caught early.
- Animals: By far the biggest problem is groundhogs. They will devour the entire plant.