Australian Daisies - Cultivation

The diversity of daisies, the extent of their flowering periods, the delicacy and charm of their flowers and their generally small dimensions all combine to ensure that they find a place in every well-designed garden.

They can be used in many ways in gardens: massed as bedding plants, in hanging baskets, as ground covers, as edging plants, in rockeries, lining pools, as bog plants, for grouping or for splashes of colour in pockets among existing shrubs. Larger species are useful as specimen or background shrubs or for foliage contrast.

Annuals (or fast growing perennials) can be used to fill the empty spaces between permanent plantings in new gardens. There are daisies for coastal, alkaline, alpine, or arid situations. However, in tropical and subtropical gardens high humidity, the force of tropical rain and root rot fungi in the soil can combine to cause the death of daisies.

Cultivation in containers of any kind has many benefits; the right soil type can be provided, the containers can be moved to an advantageous position. A suitable soil mix is 3 parts friable soil, 4 parts organic material (peat moss, leaf mould or compost) and 5 parts course washed sand. The pH should be adjusted to 6 and trace elements and fertilizers added. This basic mix can be varied to cater for the requirements of a particular species. For example alpine species such as Celmisia asteliifolia benefit from the addition of extra peat moss.

Small amounts of slow release fertilizer should be used in spring and autumn to maintain healthy growth.

Xerochrysum bracteatum; Mixed colours    Olearia phlogopappa
Left: Xerochrysum bracteatum; Mixed colours. Right: Olearia phlogopappa - white form.
Photos: Brian Walters

Daisies are very useful for floral art and in this context fall into two categories. The first, those capable of being dried, includes the 'everlastings' or 'paper daisies'. They have stiff, papery, colourful bracts surrounding the flower heads. These bracts retain their shape and colour when dried. Examples are Ammobium, Cephalipterum, Ixodia, Rhodanthe and Waitzia species. Others, which dry well but have inconspicuous bracts, include Calocephalus and some Craspedia species. Drying may be achieved by simply hanging loose bunches upside-down in an airy place out of direct sunlight. The heads of many everlastings may be wired if the stem is not too narrow.

The second group, have typical 'daisy flowers' with ligulate florets (see "Background" above) and shorter soft green bracts (resembling the calyx of a single flower). This group cannot be dried, but usually have a long vase life as fresh cut flowers. Examples are Brachyscome, Olearia and Senecio species. The usual methods of increasing the lasting qualities of cut flowers apply to daisies.

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