How to Grow the African Daisy

Miss Chen
African daisies (Osteospermum spp.) look a lot like common daisies, with petals radiating around a center disk. They are even in 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. The leaves vary by variety; they can be lance-like or broadly ovate and smooth, toothed, or lobed. Petals can be smooth and flat like a typical daisy, or they can radiate out in a tubular spoon shape. 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 planting.

Botanical Name Osteospermum spp.
Common Names African daisy, blue-eyed daisy, Cape daisy
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 1–3 ft. tall, 1–2 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring, summer, fall
Flower Color Purple, pink, yellow, orange, white, bicolor
Hardiness Zones 9–11 (USDA)
Native Area Africa, Asia
Toxicity Nontoxic

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.

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. Moreover, 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.

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.

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 can 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 fertilizer for flowering plants monthly throughout the growing season.

African Daisy Varieties
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 high.
Osteospermum 'Flower Power 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. The variety grows about 14 inches high.
Osteospermum 'Sideshow Copper Apricot': This variety has striking pale apricot flowers with a purple center disk. It grows up to 12 inches high.

Propagating African Daisies
The majority of African daisy varieties are hybrids and won't grow from seeds saved from the plants. But you can easily propagate your plants by cuttings.

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. 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 pots or to an outdoor garden location.

Common Pests/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 diseases, such as gray mold.1 Such diseases 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. Moreover, some common plant pests, including whiteflies and aphids, can become a problem, especially for stressed plants.2 But they can be controlled with an insecticidal soap or chemical spray if caught early.
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