There’s something pretty wonderful about having a variety of daisies in your garden. They are user friendly, cheerful and easy to grow. They look charming plunked in a vase – my apologies to real flower arrangers.
As children, all of us have delighted in picking a bouquet of daisies growing along the roadside or in an open field as a special present for our mothers. As adults, these flowers evoke great memories and bring a smile to our faces.
Today, the variety of great daisies to choose from is outstanding. One of my particular favorites is the Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum xsuperbum). In 1890, Luther Burbank, a great North American hybridizer, brought us this popular plant. It reminded him of the pure snow on Mt. Shasta. Shastas are wonderful white daisies with yellow centers. They grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8 (AHS Heat Zones 12 to 1) in full sun. All they require is good drainage and average garden soil. These daisies are reminiscent of childhood, when you plucked a daisy and said “he loves me, he loves me not.” All these lovely plants require is deadheading to keep them blooming. They start in June, the month of graduations and weddings, and are the perfect plants for these events. ‘Snowcap,’ is 14inches tall and produces lovely compact plants with many intensely white blooms. When in flower, it is hard to see the foliage. Plants hold up in all kinds of weather. ‘Summer Snowball’ is a stately tall cultivar (30 inches) with double white daisy blooms. It bears large flowers that really make a wonderful statement in the garden.
Erigeron speciosus is called Daisy Fleabane. Sometimes a great plant has an awful common name, which puts people off and they don’t buy it. Supposedly this native North American plant originally was used as a flea repellent. It is hardy (USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8; AHS Heat Zones 8 to 4), flowers easily in full sun, blooms for quite a few weeks and will grow in just about any soil. If deadheaded, they will continue to flower. ‘Prosperity’ is a wonderful lavender-blue hybrid with large double daisy flowers and a yellow center. It is 14- to 18-inches tall and can also be used as a cut flower. So don’t let the unattractive common name dissuade you from buying this diminutive charmer.
Aster xfrikartii (USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9; AHS Heat Zones 9 to 1) is known as Frikart’s Aster. This 20-inch plant is for full sun and well-drained garden soil. It is a wonderful disease- and insectfree plant that flowers in early summer for more than eight weeks. The cultivar ‘Flora’s Delight’ is a charming plant. It produces scads of lilacblue flowers that are very large in comparison to the diminutive size of the plant. Many of the other cultivars develop urban sprawl, but ‘Flora’s Delight’ stands nice and straight through the whole season. This particular Aster merits a place in your garden just for its long season of bloom.
Later on, three great sunny, golden daisies bring magic to the garden. Rudbeckia speciosa Viette’s Little Suzy’ is a delightful plant for the front of the border (USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8; AHS Heat Zones 9 to 2). This dwarf Black-Eyed Susan, 12- to 14-inches tall, is small but mighty. The single daisy flowers are golden-yellow with dark black centers that combine really well with Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue,’ the perennial plant of the year.
For those who are thinking tall, try Heliopsis helianthoides, the False Sunflower. This plant is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9 (AHS Heat Zones 9 to 1). All you need is full sun and well-drained soil. Heliopsis begins to flower in midsummer and, with deadheading, continues to enchant you until the fall. Each flower of the cultivar ‘Bressingham Doubloon’ is extremely large and showy on stems that are (more)
2 ad daisies 48- to 60-inches tall. The 2- to 3-inch double, golden-yellow flowers with undertones of orange make it irresistible. For almost 10 to 12 weeks, it energizes your perennial border. For something slightly different, check out ‘Loraine Sunshine,’ a really unique perennial. Beautiful, big and bold, orange-gold daisies are nestled among leaves that are white with dark green veins (30-inches tall). This is truly an eye-catching plant. No garden is complete without a showstopper, and this daisy with variegated foliage is a winner.
As summer begins to wane, Helenium autumnale, Helen’s Flower, comes into its own. Flowering starts in mid- to late summer in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 8 (AHS Heat Zones 8 to 1). Not to be outdone by the yellows, golds and orange-golds of summer, ‘Coppelia’ bears coppery-orange flowers on sturdy 3-feet stems that don’t require staking. The small daisies simply smother the top of the plant. Its dark centers and extraordinary color capture the flair of the late-season summer garden. This is a perfect plant for the back of the border and particularly handsome when back lit, catching the sun’s rays. It is a great plant for using with early flowering fall grasses. The two companion plants are a joy in the garden.
I cannot imagine my garden or any perennial garden without these wonderful, carefree daisies. In jolly old England, the name daisy really meant the “day’s eye,” later simply corrupted to daisy. To tell the truth, I feel they are a group of plants that novice and advanced gardeners can enjoy not only for a day, but for the entire gardening season.
Ms. Cohen is Adjunct Professor at Temple University Dept of Landscape Architecture & Horticulture, Ambler Campus, 20 years; Mid-Atlantic representative o’ the perennial Plant Association; and her articles have been featured in leading consumer and gardening publications.