Giant Spinners Transvaal daisies

For late-summer color, it’s tough to beat daisies. While other flowers in your garden may be on the wane, many cheerful, sunny-faced daisies are just getting started.

Most are fast-growing perennials that do well in full sun, are not fussy about soil and thrive on surprisingly little water. They bloom in a range of colors from hot pinks, reds, yellows and oranges to pastels and whites, and in sizes varying from tiny buttons to saucers.

The following twelve are a sampling.

Marguerite (Argyranthemum frutescens or Chrysanthemum frutescens)

Madeira Cherry Red marguerite

Long-blooming yellow and white marguerites have been around since about forever. More recently, they’ve been joined by hybrids that bear flowers in shades of pink and cherry red and grow 2 to 4 feet tall and wide.

All marguerites flower on slender stems atop mounds of green, finely cut leaves. Once they start blooming, they don’t stop, carrying on for several years before they need an overhaul. They are tough, too, flourishing in pots, next to lawns, in clay soil and in wind.

Bidens (Bidens ferulifolia)

Goldie bidens with Santa Barbara daisies and Nemesia

This little perennial bears dainty, clear yellow flowers at the tips of dark-green, ferny foliage.

The plants grow about a foot tall and 2 feet wide and don’t require deadheading, which is fortunate because they bloom profusely for a year or longer before they collapse.

When they do, give them a haircut and they may come back.

Miniature Shasta daisies (Chrysanthemum paludosum)

Miniature Shasta daisies

Scores of flat, open-faced white flowers with yellow centers sit above fresh, lime-green leaves on this small-scale annual. It’s a terrific summertime filler, growing about a foot tall and wide and squeezing into awkward gaps between larger plants. Or mass several for a small meadow effect, or plant a line along a path.

At the end of the season, let a few of the little guys go to seed to encourage volunteers.

Coreopsis (Coreopsis grandiflora)

Coreopsis with throatwort.

Bright yellow, daisy-like flowers perch atop knee-high stems on this perennial, which bears minimal leaves.

Let the last round of flowers in fall go to seed if you’d like any volunteers. In winter, trim back your plants to less than a foot tall to avoid leggy, floppy stems the following year.

Coreopsis lives only a few years. But by then, any volunteers should have filled in.

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Annual pink cosmos

Wispy foliage and large daisy flowers in pink, purple and white, or yellow, orange and red, are the hallmarks of this annual. Depending on the variety, your cosmos may grow from 2 to 8 feet tall in a season. Regardless of the height, expect it to be quite vertical, with individual plants growing at least twice as tall as they are wide.

Cosmos does well in difficult, lean soil and is a good back-of-the-border filler between other plants. Indoors, it makes a great cut flower, with long, wiry stems.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Primadonna coneflower

This prolific wildflower from the Midwest bears pinkish-purple flowers at the tops of upright, hairy stems that reach 4 feet tall. Rough along the bottom, it’s best as a back-of-the-border plant.

The “cone” part of the name describes what happens when the flowers mature. At the outset, the petals look like a Shasta daisy. But instead of remaining flat, the petals curve back, away from an orangish-brown center disk that rises up and forms a dome as it ages.

Purple coneflower has captured the attention of hybridizers as well. New varieties are blooming in shades of lime green, pink or white, combined with green or orange cones.

Seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus)

Bountiful seaside daisy

This perennial native of coastal California and Oregon is an ankle-hugger, forming flat clumps about a foot tall and 18 inches wide. It is at its best in sandy soil and may live only a year or two in clay.

Selections include Bountiful and Wayne Roderick, both of which bear larger, lavender flowers above flatter clumps of larger leaves. Bountiful is likely to gallop across the garden, while W.R. tends to remain a distinct plant.

Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)

Santa Barbara daisy

Despite the name, this perennial is native to Mexico, not Santa Barbara.

The plants bloom nonstop, with tiny, feathery flowers opening pale pink, then shifting to bright white, giving a multi-hued effect. The size of the flowers can be deceptive, compared to the overall scale of the plants, which quickly reach 2 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide.

In addition are the legions of volunteers that are sure to follow, especially in well-watered soil.

To minimize their numbers, grow your Santa Barbara daisies with little to no irrigation.

Blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora)

Blanket flower

The palm-sized, flat flowers of this perennial bloom in rich shades of yellow, orange and red, and are said to be reminiscent of an Indian blanket. It is often included in wildflower mixes and readily takes to poor soil, full sun and little water. It reseeds reliably, but not overwhelmingly.

Blanket flower grows about 2 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet tall, although newer varieties may grow a little shorter or taller, and bloom in solid colors.

The plants bear low, rough-textured leaves and somewhat sprawl. They are at their best in the middle of a bed, rather than up front.

Transvaal daisy (Gerbera)

Orange Transvaal daisy

Native to South Africa, this perennial is an exception to the low-water regimen of other summer daisies. Indeed, it’s downright emphatic about regular water, excellent drainage and rich, fertile soil. Also, its big, crinkly dark-green tropical-looking leaves are magnets for snails and slugs.

But the plants make up for the fuss by bearing large flowers in saturated hues of red, pink, orange, yellow and white. Most sport a daisy look, with long, rounded petals and a central disk. But there are also fluffy doubles and spidery, multi-petal types, along with an unusual Spinner series, which bears flowers that look like water lilies, bloom in orange or pink and white, and measure up to 6 inches across.

Common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Easily the most giant of daisies, sunflowers bear heads that measure up to 2 feet across and sit atop stems that grow 10 feet tall. But there are other choices. Some grow only a few feet tall and bear clusters, rather than single flowers. Petal color may be buttery yellow, bronze, orange, red or almost white. If you plan to bring your sunflowers indoors for arrangements, plant the pollenless types.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Cordoba black-eyed Susan

A basic black-eyed Susan bears yellow flowers with a dark, purple-black center, and grows 3 to 4 feet tall. But the many hybrids vary from 1 to 4 feet tall and bear flowers in all sorts of combinations of red, orange and yellow. The petals, too, may lay flat or curl into tubes like so many pipe cleaners.

All black-eyed Susans still have that central disk, and all bloom atop dark green, coarse leaves. At first glance, it may be difficult to tell whether you’re looking at a blanket flower or a black-eyed Susan. But check the leaves: blanket flower’s are slender, lighter green and more sparsely arranged, while Susan’s are fuller, shaped like arrowheads, and sit closer to the flowers.

A cheery sunflower with Santa Barbara daisies on the left, catmint and Goldie bidens on the right, and a Pink Flower Carpet rose in the background.

Easy Does It

Most summer daisies like plenty of water early on. But as they fill out and shade their own roots, you can taper off on the watering.

Avoid using sprinklers. The overhead spray can water log or knock over the flowers. Instead, use drip irrigation, soaker hose or shape a watering basin around each plant or group of plants.

If your daisies are the type that seed out and produce volunteers, leave the soil bare to encourage the process. Otherwise, heavy mulch will prevent most, if not all, of the seeds from sprouting.

Dead-head your summer daisies every few weeks. Or shear them back a few times a year. Most perennial daisies will also benefit from a final trim close to the ground in late winter in order to rejuvenate them for the following year.

Seeds of Wisdom

In the garden, summer daisies provide an informal, meadowy look. Indoors, they may last a week or more in a vase.

Visit Joan’s website at www.SantaBarbaraGardens.com, or post a comment by clicking on “Leave a Comment” back up at the top.

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