African daisies (Osteospermum spp.) look a lot like common daisies, with petals radiating around a center disk. They are even members of the Asteraceae family, along with Shasta daisies and zinnias. But their vivid coloring is not at all like the classic daisy. In fact, when African daisies were first introduced to the market, some people thought they must have been dyed. The center disks of the flowers even can look like they're colored with metallic paint. Petals may be smooth and flat like a typical daisy, or radiate out in a tubular spoon shape. The leaves vary by variety; they can be lance-like or broadly ovate and smooth, toothed, or lobed.
These flowers are best planted in the spring after the threat of frost has passed, and they have a fairly quick growth rate, blooming about two months after sprouting from seeds. Reliably hardy in zones 10 to 11, these tender perennials are planted as annuals in other climate zones. While there are more than 70 species in the genus, most African daisies sold in the trade are cultivars and hybrids derived from O. ecklonis, O. jucundum, and a few other species.
|Common Name||African daisy, cape daisy, osteospermum|
|Botanical Name||Osteospermum spp.|
|Plant Type||Perennial, annual|
|Mature Size||1–3 ft. tall, 1–2 ft. wide|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer, fall|
|Flower Color||Purple, pink, yellow, orange, white|
|Hardiness Zones||10–11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Africa, Asia|
African Daisy Care
African daisies work equally well in the ground or in containers. Blooms peak in late spring to early summer and again in late summer to early fall. Because African daisies stop blooming during hot spells, they are best grown in combination with other plants that will have visual interest in the peak of summer. Since they are perennials, African daisies will come back every year within their hardiness zones. In colder areas, before the first frost, take cuttings to propagate new plants indoors through the winter.
These flowers are fairly low-maintenance when grown in an environment they like. Make sure they have lots of sun and soil with good drainage. Plan to water and fertilize regularly throughout the growing season (spring to fall). Also, deadhead the plants (remove the spent blooms) to encourage reblooming.
African daisies bloom best in full sun. They can tolerate partial shade, but this will likely cause them to produce fewer flowers. The blooms generally open in response to light and close at night and during overcast weather. However, some newer cultivars, including '4D Pink', '4D Silver', and '4D Berry', remain open at night.
Planting and Soil
African daisies prefer organically rich soil with sharp drainage and a slightly acidic soil pH. Add compost or other organic matter to the soil at the time of planting to improve drainage and add nutrients. Plant them at least 12 inches apart to give them room to spread, as some varieties can stretch out to about 12 inches wide.
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. Aim to keep the soil evenly moist. But don't overwater, as soggy soil can encourage diseases such as root rot.
Temperature and Humidity
African daisies prefer mild weather, which is when they bloom most profusely. They can handle nighttime temperatures down to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, though frost will damage or kill them. Humidity typically isn't an issue for them, as long as they have good air circulation and proper watering and soil drainage.
These flowers like a lot of food to grow and bloom at their best. Besides mixing compost into the soil, apply a balanced fertilizer for flowering plants monthly throughout the growing season. Potted plants may require even more frequent feeding.
Types of African Daisy
There are dozens of African daisy species and varieties, including:
- Osteospermum 'Passion Mix': This compact plant reaches around a foot tall and comes in a variety of colors (pink, purple, rose, and white), all with blue centers. This is an easy variety to grow from seed and is known for its heat tolerance.
- Osteospermum '4D': Known for their fluffy, tufted centers, these flowers remain open all day even in hot weather. The plants grow up to 14 inches tall.
- Osteospermum 'FlowerPower Spider White': These blooms have odd, spoon-shaped, white and lavender petals with a gold center. The plants grow roughly 14 inches tall.
- Osteospermum 'Lemon Symphony': This plant's butter-yellow petals have a purple center and orange eye. This variety grows about 14 inches tall.
- Osteospermum 'Pink Sugar': Pink and orange petals that go into a gold center. This variety grows about 10 inches tall.
- Osteospermum 'Ravers Hearts and Tarts': This variety has orange and pink flowers, It grows roughly about 12 inches tall.
- Osteospermum 'Sideshow Copper Apricot': This variety has striking pale apricot flowers with a purple center disk. It grows up to 12 inches tall.
- Osteospermum 'Soprano White': The blooms on this plant are white with a blue center that is bordered by purple and yellow. It grows up to 14 inches tall.
Propagating African Daisies
The majority of African daisy varieties are hybrids and won't grow true from seeds saved from the plants. But you can easily propagate your plants by cuttings. This is also the best way to overwinter the plant outside of its hardiness zones. To do so:
- First, fill a shallow tray with a sterile seed-starting mixture. Dampen the mix slightly.
- Then, take plant cuttings 2 to 3 inches long that have at least two sets of leaf nodes, using sharp bypass pruners. Pinch off any flower buds that are present, and remove the lower leaves.
- Dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and then plant the cut end in the seed-starting mix.
- Cover the tray with a plastic dome, and place it in a location with 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 individual containers filled with potting mix or to an outdoor garden location.
How to Grow African Daisy From Seeds
The hybrids sold in garden centers are usually not readily available as seeds, but you may be able to find seeds for some of the pure species varieties of African daisy, such as Osteospermum ecklonis. Here's how to start the plants from seeds:
About eight to 10 weeks before the last winter/spring frost, sow the seeds directly on the surface of a pot filled with ordinary potting mix. Very lightly cover the seeds (light is necessary for the seeds to germinate). Keep the seeds moist until they germinate. Grow the seedlings in bright indirect light until outdoor planting time. Plants started indoors should be hardened off for two full weeks before outdoor planting. Pinch back the seedlings immediately after planting to encourage bushier growth.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
There aren't many pests or diseases that attack African daisies if the plants are kept stress-free in the proper environment. However, in damp or humid conditions be on the lookout for fungal problems. Such problems will present with damaged or discolored foliage. Try to improve the air circulation around your plant, which can combat fungal diseases, and use a fungicide if necessary.
Some common plant pests, including whiteflies and aphids, can become a problem, especially for stressed plants. But they can be controlled with an insecticidal soap or chemical spray if caught early.
How to Get African Daisies to Bloom
African daisies generally don't need a lot of encouragement to bloom, but like many flowering plants, regular deadheading of spent flowers will prompt additional blooming. Several conditions can cause reduced blooming:
- Poor nutrition: If your plants don't bloom well, try increasing their feeding to every two to three weeks. Potted plants in particular require more fertilizer.
- Extreme heat and extreme dryness: Try shading your plants and giving them extra water if they don't bloom adequately.
- Insufficient light: African daisies generally tolerate partial shade, but too little sun will result in leggy plants that don't bloom very much.
Common Problems With African Daisies
African daisies are largely trouble-free plants, but in addition to typical insect and disease issues, a couple of other common problems may occur:
Groundhogs are especially fond of annuals, and flowers in particular. The only truly effective protection against feeding animals is sturdy fencing.
Diminished Blooms in Midsummer
In cooler climates, African daisies usually bloom consistently from spring to fall, but in very hot, humid climates you may see your plants go semi-dormant during the hottest weeks of midsummer. This is normal, and the plants will normally rebound as the weather cools. In these regions, it's best to plant African daisies in partial shade.
What is the difference between African daisy and gerbera daisy?
All daisy genera belong to the Asteraceae family, but the one most often confused for African daisy is the gerbera daisy (Gerbera spp.) Gerbera daisies generally are shorter plants with larger flowers, usually in intense solid shades of red, orange, and yellow, rather than the slightly less intense colors found in taller African daisies.
What are the best ways to use African daisy in the landscape?
African daisies make good flowers for borders and mixed beds, but unlike many daisies, they aren't well suited for wildflower meadows or other naturalized gardens. They also work well in containers on patios and decks. Some designers recommend planting African daisies alongside plants with yellow or chartreuse foliage, which highlights the colors of the flowers.
Are there other flower species also called African daisies?
Several other species are sometimes sold under the name African daisy. In particular, annual plants from the Dimorphotheca genus may carry this name. Originally, Osteospermum species were included in the Dimorphotheca genus, but these perennial species were then split out into their own genus. In addition, gerbera daisies (Gerbera spp.) are sometimes known as African daisies.
Can potted African daisies be moved indoors for the winter?
Unlike some tender perennials, daisies do not work very well as indoor plants. Potted outdoor African daisies often die when brought indoors, unless you happen to have an ideal location, such as a sunroom. Gardeners who want to overwinter African daisies usually have better luck by taking cuttings and rooting them indoors.
Growing Annuals. Clemson Cooperative Extension.
Osteospermum. Missouri Botanical Garden.
Production Guidelines for Four Crops - Osteospermum, Angelonia, Calibrachoa & Ornamenta Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas). UMass Extension Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture Program.
African Daisy. Mississippi State University Extension.
Groundhog Resistant Plants. Cornell Cooperative Extension.