Every flower garden needs a foliage foil to contrast its blooms, and dusty miller (Jacobaea maritima) stands out as a neutral go-to plant for any color scheme. Its silvery leaves look stunning when paired with cool purple and blue flowers, and it also pairs well with hot red and orange flowers. Even white flowers benefit from the glow of dusty miller's wooly textured leaves in moon gardens.
Dusty miller's temperature tolerance spans zones 8 to 11, but this tender perennial sometimes survives the winter in slightly colder climates. Otherwise, it is grown as an annual. This sun lover prefers full sun exposure and might get leggy if placed in a shady spot. Dusty miller's tiny bright yellow flowers contrast its silvery leaves, but to keep this plant compact, you might want to remove its flowering stalks before the buds open.
Sow seeds in the ground after the last spring frost and expect seedlings in two to three weeks. Seedlings turn into rounded mounds of foliage that grow to about 1 foot tall the first year. Pruning is optional, but remove yellowing leaves or floral sprigs to keep this plant looking full and healthy. Dusty miller grows well in the ground or many types of containers. Its appearance varies based on the variety; 'Silverado' or 'Silver Lace' have fine, delicate feathery leaves, while 'Cirrus' has broader leaves.
Dusty miller is toxic to humans, dogs, and cats.
|Common Name||Dusty miller, silver dust, silver ragwort|
|Botanical Name||Jacobaea maritima|
|Plant Type||Perennial, annual|
|Mature Size||1-2 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide|
|Hardiness Zones||8–11 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans, toxic to pets|
Dusty Miller Care
Although dusty miller is an old-fashioned plant that has been around garden centers for decades, this plant's drought tolerance and pest-free nature make it worth revisiting for busy gardeners who want to add dazzle without fuss to their landscapes.
Dusty miller is one of those plants that is full of surprises. It sometimes survives the winter in zones colder than its usual hardiness zones. Gardeners report plants coming back in zone 5 or even zone 4 landscapes. Another surprise is that dusty miller's yellow flowers may appear in its second growing season. It is not marketed as a blooming plant, and while not all plants will produce yellow fuzzy flowers, they increase the beauty of mature plants.
Dusty miller needs full sun to stay compact and keep their fabulous foliage color. Plants growing in the shade are leggy and produce fewer hairs, which give them their silvery color.
Dusty miller plants adapt to various soils, but good drainage is key for healthy plants. Whether your soil is on the rocky side or is characterized by clay, you can improve your pH (it prefers a range of 5.5 to 6.0) and drainage by amending it with compost.
The fuzzy growth that gives dusty miller its sheen also helps plants stand tall in periods of drought. Like other plants that hail from Mediterranean climates, dusty miller can get by with occasional watering once it is established. A layer of organic mulch will make plants even less dependent on supplemental irrigation. One inch of water per week keeps dusty miller growing strong. It does not like soggy conditions.
Temperature and Humidity
As a Mediterranean plant, dusty miller thrives in hot, sunny climates. Excessive humidity isn't a problem if plants have adequate spacing and a position in full sun.
Dusty miller plants are light feeders and only need supplemental fertilizers in areas with poor soil. In this case, it's better to feed and improve the soil at the same time by adding organic matter like well-rotted manure or leaf mold.
Where and When to Plant
Fill your garden beds with dusty miller by starting a flat of seeds six weeks before your average last frost date. Cover seeds lightly with sterile potting mix, and grow at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You will start to see germination in about 10 days. After last frost date, take the seedlings outside to begin hardening off process.
If planting nursery starts, wait until after danger of frost has passed in your area before putting dusty miller in a sunny spot in the garden. Plant outdoors 8 inches apart in pots or 10 inches apart in the ground.
Types of Dusty Miller
The difference between dusty miller cultivars can be seen in how dissected the foliage is. Some varieties are lacy and delicate, while others are slightly lobed.
- 'Cirrus': Broad leaves with scalloping on the edges adorn this variety.
- 'Silverado': The fern-like foliage is famous in many gardens.
- 'Silver Lace': This variety has very fine foliage, as the name implies.
Companion Plants for Dusty Miller
Dusty miller's felted, silvery leaves are a perfect combo with colorful, long-blooming trailing stems of petunias or million bells. Also, purple and silver is another color mix that pleases the eye, so think about snapdragons, lavender, or pansies as another suitable companion for dusty miller. It also makes a handsome companion plant for other sun lovers like zinnias, pentas, or salvia.
Ornamental grasses look attractive with dusty miller, providing a different texture to the garden. In contrast, basil mixed with dusty miller brings pollinators, might keep other bugs away, and gives your garden a pleasant scent.
Dusty miller plants require no pruning to maintain their pleasing bushy shape. If the yellow blooms detract from your plant's appearance, shear them off as they appear.
Propagating Dusty Miller
You can propagate dusty miller by cuttings in the spring when plants are putting out the most rapid new growth.
- Cut off a 6-inch stem with clean, sharp shears.
- Strip the leaves from the base.
- Dip the stem in rooting hormone.
- Fill a small pot with soilless potting soil and moisten until the water drains.
- Insert the stem into moist potting soil.
- Keep moist and warm until new leaves grow, then transplant as desired.
Potting and Repotting Dusty Miller
Dusty miller looks fantastic in all kinds of containers, including hanging baskets and window boxes. Keep your dusty miller container in full sun and water more frequently than plants growing in the ground, at least every other day in summer. Pot up dusty miller with any commercial potting soil. Make sure your container has drainage holes. Add a handful of peat moss to increase acidity. A layer of mulch on the soil will retain water and keep the soil from splashing onto the leaves. When you see roots coming out of the drainage hole, it's time to repot.
Dusty miller is tolerant of cold weather within its hardiness range, but you can reduce watering in the late summer to ready it for winter. Prune it back with sharp, sterile shears to just above ground level and mulch with pine needles or straw.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Slugs enjoy snacking on dusty miller plants, especially in flowerbeds that receive frequent irrigation. Handpick the pests, or use beer traps to control their numbers.
In addition to attracting slugs, excessive watering can cause root rot in dusty miller plants. This is more of a problem in clay soils. In areas with heavy soil, you can prevent it by growing your dusty miller plants in containers or raised beds.
Can dusty miller survive winter?
In zones 8 to 11, you can count on its survival, whereas in cooler climate zones, it might not make it through the winter. A protected location certainly increases your chances.
Does dusty miller spread?
It has a mounded growth habit and can spread up to 2 feet but it does not spread wider than that.
Does dusty miller come back every year?
Dusty miller comes back every year in warmer climates, such as USDA zones 8, and after some mild winters in zone 7. Once it dies back in winter, many gardeners pull it and treat it as an annual.
Does dusty miller repel bugs?
Dusty miller tends to be resistant to pests and disease. It doesn't necessarily repel bugs, but insects seem to leave it alone.
Safe and Poisonous Garden Plants. University of California.
Plants Toxic to Dogs. ASPCA.
Plants Toxic to Cats. ASPCA.
Capinera, John L. Acceptability of Bedding Plants by the Leatherleaf Slug, Leidyula floridana (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Veronicellidae). Florida Entomologist, vol 103, no. 1, pp. 80-84, 2020. doi:10.1653/024.103.0413