Recently, I have been marveling over the complexities of the common daisy. Daisies belong to the flower family Asteraceae, a family that contains more species than any other family with the possible exception of Orchidaceae. Found on every continent except Antarctica, Asteraceae species are defined by a flower that is actually two flowers in one: the sun disk attracts the pollinators while the ray flowers surround the sun disk.
Apparently, daisies make up 10 percent of all the flowering plants while the name “daisy” is a contraction of “daes eag,” meaning “day’s eye,” to describe the habit of the English daisy’s closing at night, only to reopen at daybreak. Who knew that the innocent daisy was so complex?
The daisy can be a weed so be careful as to what daisy you plant. Leucanthemum vulgare, also known as the ox-eye daisy, conquers space through its creeping underground rhizomes. The flower actually consists of three flowers, the sun disk surrounded by both the ray florets and disk florets. This species is very similar to the more desirable Leucanthemum x superbum so notice the flower tag at the nursery: one you want and one you probably do not.
The other problem with the ox-eye daisy is that one plant can produce 26,000 seeds, which I think we’d all agree is an awful lot of seeds. As a plant can regenerate from just a fragment of its rhizome, this has become a difficult weed to control.
However, Leucanthemum x superbum, aka the Shasta daisy, has conquered the weediness of L. vulgare. Called the Shasta daisy because the hybridizer developed the first one near Mt. Shasta, this Leucanthemum now has a cultivar for everyone. ‘Becky,’ found widespread at garden centers, is about two feet high. Newer cultivars also include ‘Snowcap,’ ‘Daisy Duke,’ and ‘Whoops-a-Daisy.’ I personally like ‘Snowcap’ as it’s shorter than ‘Becky’ and hopefully will not totter at the first significant rainfall.
Other daisies to consider include these:
The English daisy, Bellis perennis, is handsome — if you can find it. It requires a cool summer but be warned that it has the potential for being seedy.
Gerber daisies come in a variety of colors. Love it during the summer and then say goodbye as it won’t come back. This daisy is hardy only in 9-11 zones.
Boltonia caroliniana forms a five-foot clump, bearing small daisies throughout the summer. Provided you give it the room it wants, this is a well-behaved plant that produces a sea of white daisies. Other boltonias are taller and some bear lavender colored daisies.
Chrysanthemums — Bear in mind that Leucanthemums used to reside under the chrysanthemum umbrella. If you like your daisies in colors other than white, look at the various chrysanthemums out there — and I am not talking about those sculptured mounds that appear in garden centers every autumn. Just be warned that some like to travel by those dreaded creeping underground rhizomes. As there are many cultivars out there, it’s hard to know which ones clump and which ones travel. C. x ‘Cathy’s Rust’ is clumper that is hardy in zones 4-9.
Nipponanthemum nipponicum — The Montauk daisy makes a large clump and is very easy to grow. The white daisies appear in autumn. Montauk daisies are hardy from zones 5-9 and do not suffer from creeping rhizomes or seediness.
The great thing about white daisies is that they can go anywhere in the garden, provided there is sun. Once established, these are durable plants. I never water my Shasta daisies, my boltonias or my Montauk daisies.
And now grab a daisy and start to play, “He loves me, he loves me not.”
Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email firstname.lastname@example.org.