Questions on: Daisy

Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service

Q: I just got back from British Columbia and noticed their extensive use of Bellis/English daisies. It's a neat flower because it is nice, compact and has perfectly round blossoms. I'm assuming I can add this to the long list of flowers we can't grow here, but thought I would confirm this with you. As always, thanks for your advice. (e-mail reference)

A: These beauties would be considered half-hardy perennials in our area, but may move up to fully hardy if global warming continues in our favor! You can at least enjoy them as annuals by planting them in a cool, semishady, moist site. If they come back the following year, you've got double the benefits for your dollars! British Columbia is an unfair environment to make comparisons with because it is considered the Florida or California of Canada, but without all the stifling heat and humidity.

Q: I came across your Web site and I'm hoping you can help. I purchased a giant gerbera daisy that was absolutely beautiful. It had green, healthy leaves and a big, perky, pink flower. I have the plant in a pot on my porch. It is shaded in the morning, but I think it's getting some afternoon sun (haven't really been here in the afternoon to closely observe it). Today I came home to find that all the leaves look droopy. The flower has drooped as well. Any advice you can give me is greatly appreciated. I don't know much about growing flowers, but I love this plant and I don't want it to die! (e-mail reference)

A: My experience with gerbera daisy is that they make nice potted plants in dappled shade, but do poorly in direct sunlight, unless pampered beyond what most people are willing to do. The plant is probably root-bound. If there is any life left, repot with pasteurized potting soil and water on a consistent basis.

Q: My wife and I have been saving gerbera daisy flower heads thinking that there were seeds in them. We have tried to plant several seeds this year, but no plants are growing after 10 days. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. I am starting to think that what we planted are not seeds. (e-mail reference)

A: Gerbera seeds (there are 6,000 to 8,000 seeds per ounce) are expensive, delicate and sensitive to germination conditions. Considering that the crop requires 14 to 18 weeks from seed to flower, many small- to medium-sized growers order established, plug-grown seedlings from specialist propagators. The seeds should arrive packed in moisture-proof packages. The packages should be stored under cool conditions and away from strong sunlight. Once the package is open, the seeds should be planted right away because they lose viability very quickly when exposed to room conditions. Add to this day/night temperature controls and light/dark periods, with consistent moisture under sterile conditions, and you can see why specialization exists for this crop! You are to be commended for your gallantry in attempting to grow this flower from seed. I wouldn't attempt to do it myself even though I have three degrees in horticulture! You are better off purchasing plants from competent, successful growers.

Q: I am getting married this August and would like to have gerbera daisies for the occasion. What should I do to successfully raise flowers that would be available in August? (e-mail reference)

A: The average gardener can grow gerbera daisies with basic cultural care, such as full sun, good drainage and balanced fertilization. However, for wedding-quality blooms and dependability, I would strongly suggest that you contract with a greenhouse operator who has had experience growing gerbera daisies. It has been my experience that greenhouse production is far more consistent in quality and quantity than growing them outdoors. For an event as important as a wedding, you want to eliminate as many unpredictable variables as possible! We grow them annually across the state, with results varying by location and year.

Q: I have several Gerber daisy plants. The blossoms have been great, but suddenly four of my plants have turned a grayish color and the blooms are not doing well. Is there something that I can do or should I cut them back? Any information would be greatly appreciated. (e-mail reference)

A: While I cannot make an accurate diagnosis based on what you have told me, it sounds like this could be gray mold, so that is what my advice is going to be based upon. However, I could be wrong with this guess! Cool, damp weather favors the development and spread of gray mold, but it is not difficult to control. Following good sanitation practices is one of the best ways to reduce this disease. Faded flower blossoms and fallen petals should be collected and discarded. Plant tissue that is stressed, aging or inactive is a great host for gray mold. Keep the leaves dry and avoid overhead watering. If possible, increase the air circulation. Don't overwater or over-fertilize. Neem oil or Schultz's Fungicide 3 is all that I will recommend at this point.

Q: I planted a lot of gerbera daisies last year. They are in full sun almost all day and did extremely well. They were beautiful. I thought they were perennials and treated them as such. I cut them back in the fall after they stopped blooming. I haven’t seen anything leading me to believe that they are coming back this year. Is it too early to be seeing any signs of life from them or did I kill them? I am extremely distressed. I am trying really hard to create perennial gardens throughout my yard because of the time involved with planting annuals each year. Any advice or information you can pass on would be great! (e-mail reference)

A: Don't get stressed out because it isn't worth it. The gerbera daisy is an annual, so unless they had a chance to drop seed, you probably will not see anything come up again. Go to my Web site at for a list of annual and perennial flowers.

Q: I have a potted gerbera daisy plant that seems to be thriving, but some of the leaves have mold on them even though they're still green. I keep it inside, water it and make sure it has enough sunlight. What should I do about the moldy leaves? (e-mail reference)

A: Carefully cut off the moldy leaves and dispose of them.

Q: I just received a small, potted gerbera daisy. I am concerned about how much and how often I should water it. I have heard many cases of plants dying because of overwatering. Also, should I be feeding it fertilizer? Should it be moved to a larger pot? I plan to keep this plant in the house. (e-mail reference)

A: This is likely one of the newer, compact cultivars. It shouldn’t need a much larger pot. If you want to move it up to the next pot size, probably a 3- or 4-inch pot, that would be the maximum needed. It needs liberal amounts of water during the spring and summer seasons and to be on the dry side in the winter. Allow the soil to dry down before watering again.

Q: I am wondering why my gerbera daisy won’t put out more than two blossoms at a time. I have it planted in regular potting soil mixed with some mushroom soil. The soil is several years old. When I visit stores with gerberas, each plant has four to six blossoms. I would love to buy many more colors, but won’t now until I know how to get the one I have to bloom more. (e-mail reference)

A: You didn’t mention anything about fertilizer. Try using African violet fertilizer, which is meant to encourage blooms. Also, you need to keep in mind that what you see in stores is a pampered, everything-ever-needed plant that has been maximized to appeal to consumer lust for such beauties! If you want to ape what you see in the stores, ask them just how they get their plants to that point. You can then decide if it is worth the effort.

Q: What can you tell me about fall transplanting of painted and Shasta daisies? What about transplanting (fall) perennial lupines? (e-mail reference)

A: Dig after they have been hit with a couple of hard frosts. Plant them in the desired site with added peat moss to backfill the soil and water in well. Mulch the crowns with peat moss after the ground has frozen, but before winter sets in. Lupines are another story. They have deep roots, which make them difficult to successfully transplant, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Give it a try using the same transplanting directions as the daisies.

Q: I am having problems with my gerbera daisies. They are planted in pots with other flowers. The other flowers are thriving, but the daisies are dying. The leaves are brown and the flowers droopy. I water when the soil gets dry to the touch. The plants are located in a sunny area. Are they susceptible to fungus? This is the second year in a row this has happened. (Ellendale, N.D.)

A: Apparently these plants are jealous of their space and simply die out when planted with anything else. I have always seen daises planted in a solitary manner. I would plant them alone next year to see if they grow.

Q: I have a potted gerbera daisy that has flowers that droop and then stand back up again. Is this normal? Now the flowers have drooped and remained that way. Should I deadhead the flowers? Will the plant bloom again? Is a potted gerbera considered a perennial? (E-mail reference)

A: The gerbera daisy is treated like an annual, although it is perennial in the south. I would remove the blooms and get the plant outdoors or in a sunny window for the summer. Fertilize it during active growth with something like Miracle-Gro. Keeping it as a potted indoor plant will make it a short-lived plant. Planting it outdoors for the summer will at least give you the beauty of the blooms until frost.

Q: What is the name of the late blooming (October) flower that seems to thrive even when neglected? It is very stalk like with leaves coming out of the stem and the flowers are located on top. It doesn't seem to be a Shasta, Alaska or Nippon daisy. How can you tell the difference between small male and female cottonwoods and robust Siouxland varieties that are growing wild on Conservation Reserve Program land? I don't want the fuzz and would like to transplant some. (Fargo, N.D.)

A: I checked with my colleague Barb Laschkewitsch and in a heartbeat she said the flower you described was the herbstem giant white daisy. As far as the cottonwoods, there is no way of knowing the gender until they flower.

Q: I just received some gerbera daisy plants. The older larger leaves on some of them have small blackish spots. You need to look closely to see them and they are more noticeable on the underside of the leaves. The tiny black spots or splotches seem to be almost running together. I cut off the leaves that are affected but the new leaves also are a little black on the tips of each ruffled edge. I think the store over-watered them. What can or should I do besides cutting off the affected leaves and watering them less? Is it good to replant them in well-draining soil since this soil seems very wet? Would it be too traumatic for me to repot them now? (E-mail reference)

A: There is no greater trauma than a plant slowly dying of some bacterial or fungal disease. It sounds like they were potted in either the wrong containers and/or soil. I would suggest replanting in new freely draining containers. Use fresh potting soil that has some good drainage characteristics. Gerbera daisy is an easy container plant to grow. Any problems that arise are usually the fault of either the container, potting soil mix, or the owner’s over-watering.

Q: After plants in the daisy family have finished blooming, should you cut back the spent blossoms, or are they like tulips and need the nutrients to go back into the plant? (Bismarck, N.D.)

A: Deadhead the flowers back to where they emerge from the foliage. This keeps the plants from expending energy into making seed.

Q: We have a daisy in its third year. It started very well this spring. We noticed that the plant had what appeared to be fussy cobwebs and the plant began to deteriorate. We sprayed the plant with house and garden bug killer approximately a week ago. This did not seem to do much so far. Is there anything we can apply that will take care of the problem? (E-mail reference)

A: Usually the pesticides formulated for houseplants are too wimpy to be effective on real insect problems for outdoor plants. Without knowing what it could be that you are trying to control (sounds like spittlebug) I suggest spraying with Orthene, a systemic insecticide. That way, as the insect begins feeding on the plant, it ingests the toxin and is killed. Direct contact of the insect with the spray is not necessary.

Q. What is the proper method for deadheading daisy blossoms that have bloomed and died? (New Rockford, N.D., e-mail)

A. In deadheading any perennial that still has green tissue, simply remove the spent flowers back to the first set of leaves. You can do this by using a pocket knife and a piece of rubber hose around your thumb, or with some pinking shears.

Q. Could you tell me what is happening to my hibiscus plant? It still has blossoms, but the leaves are turning yellow. Also, do you know anything about the Gerbera daisy? (Valley City, N.D.)

A. The hibiscus could be short on nutrients, or it is attempting to go into a rest period--known as dormancy.

The Gerbera daisy is an easily grown pot plant with daisy-like flowers. They come in a wide range of colors and need to be kept constantly moist and occasionally misted. They can be started from seed. The cultivar Parade will produce uniform, compact flowers--a very satisfying plant to grow if you have a bright spot that gets direct sun part of the day.

Q. I saw your responses regarding growing Dahlberg daisies from seed. Dahlberg daisies must be very lazy in North Dakota. Mine take about two months from seed to bloom.  I continue to enjoy the column. Keep up the good work. (Frankfort, S.D.)

A. Thank you for reading the column and for writing.

My belief concerning Dahlberg Daisy is that our salts are high in the water (with a pH 8.9), the water is very cold and our light intensity is almost nil.

You folks in South Dakota live in the banana belt compared to us! I enjoy them anyway, no matter how long it takes to coax them into flowering.

Q. I'm getting pulled together and making all those important planting decisions now. However, as I'm planning and scheming my way through the seed catalogs, I'm finding I'm in need of information. Please help me with days to germination, sun requirements, and weeks to bloom for Abutilon, Bird of Paradise, Dahlberg Daisy, and Ipomosis. Thanks for your expertise. (Minot, N.D.)

A. Your letter will likely be very close to the top in asking some simple, but tough questions. I'll give it my best shot.

Dahlberg Daisy—give yourself about 12 to 16 weeks before your outdoor transplant date. Don't keep too wet, and try to irrigate with room-temperature water. My references don't specify light for germination, so I assume they should be lightly covered. Better get them sown fast, as they take four months from seed to flower. They do best in full sun, but will take light shade.

Abutilon—another plant requiring 4 to 5 months to go from seed to flower. Once started, you are better off to propagate from stem cuttings. Again, light is likely not required for germination and you should see emergence in 14 to 21 days. They seem to do better in light shade.

Bird-of-Paradise—I assume you mean Strelitzia. Saw this when I was living in Arizona. Very frost-sensitive, likes sunshine or light shade. No information on temperature requirements for germination, etc.

Ipomosis—A biennial treated like an annual in our region. Keep seeds at 65 F or below for germination, which should be in 15 days. Seedlings do not transplant well, so I would suggest sowing in peat pots. Put in full sun and water sparingly. Stake taller plants, which may reach 6 feet.

Hope this helps.

Q: My Shasta daisies (6-8 years old) are turning brown, starting with the lower leaves and continuing until the whole stem is crisp and dead. Almost looks like they have been sprayed with Roundup, but I haven't used any herbicides since late last fall. Now several stems on one plant in a different location are doing the same thing, but the plant just next to it is still dark green, healthy, and setting new buds. Haven't been able to see any insects. I have been cutting them off, even with the ground. Will they come back OK next year, or should the whole plant be dug up and destroyed? What can I do to prevent this from happening on my remaining plants? (E-mail reference, Wagner, S.D.)

A: Shasta daisies are usually indestructible, but occasionally come down with fungal diseases when the conditions are right, such as fungal stem rot, which it sounds like is happening to yours.  This is either a Rhizocotonia or Fusarium fungus, both difficult to control once the infective organism has begun work. Try spraying with captan or chlorothalonil to see if that helps. 

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