You don't have to be a botanist or flower connoisseur to recognize the Gerbera daisy. These slow-growing, attention-grabbing blooms come in an array of vibrant hues. Gerberas are the larger cousins of traditional daisies, but they produce thicker, sturdier stems. They’re the perfect choice for flower arrangements and adding color to a garden.
While they can be a bit stubborn at times, the Gerbera is an inexpensive flower to grow for experienced and novice gardeners alike.
You can start Gerberas indoors as seeds, then move them to a container or an outside garden, but purchasing starter plants through an online retailer gives you a head start. They’ll generally ship them a few weeks before the average date of the last frost, so that you receive them in time for planting.
Gerbera daisies should be “hardened off” before planting in your garden, which allows the young plants to adjust to outdoor conditions more slowly. Set the daisies outdoors in a protected spot for a week before putting them in the ground. If you aren’t keen on outdoor gardening, you’ll find that Gerberas also make beautiful houseplants.
Gerberas prefer moist, rich, organic soil that is slightly acidic and well-drained. Plant the seedlings about 18 inches apart in the late afternoon or on a cloudy day to reduce the chance of transplant shock. Make sure the crown — the part of the plant where the roots and stems meet — is still visible above the soil.
Sow seeds indoors eight weeks before the last frost. Seedlings emerge 14 to 28 days later.
Gerberas thrive in full sun to partial shade. In cooler climates, more sun is best. In areas with hotter climates, less sunlight is optimal. Without enough direct light, however, these flowering plants get leggy, they bloom less, and their flowers lack their usual vibrant color. Too much heat and intense sunlight can burn leaves.
Indoors, Gerberas need between three and five hours of direct morning sunlight each day, with some shade in the afternoon. Place indoor plants near a window, but not so close that the sun may scorch them.
Whether growing Gerberas indoors or outdoors, the secret to gorgeous blooms is to provide them with enough water to keep the soil moist. But, these plants don’t respond well to overwatering, either. Water Gerbera daisies in the morning, every three to five days or when the top half-inch of soil becomes dry.
Avoid letting water fall directly on the foliage or flowers, and water the soil around the plant at the root to prevent fungal diseases.
Seedlings don’t need much fertilizer, but you can feed them with a half-strength solution once they’re three to four weeks old. Indoor Gerberas thrive with a soluble flowering plant fertilizer once per month.
Fertilize outdoor plants monthly with a micronutrient liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion or seaweed. After fertilizing, put some compost around the roots for an added boost.
Gerbera daisies don’t care much for extreme temperatures. These tender perennials grow best in hardiness zones 8 through 11, but require some special care if the temperature dips too low. They generally do well in winter temperatures that hover between 45 to 50 degrees.
Once the growing season is over, the leaves may wilt and look dead, but the roots will survive and the plant will return the next season. Zone 8 gardeners usually grow and care for Gerberas as annuals, instead.
It’s a good idea to trim blooms away at the first sign of wilting. This stimulates more flowers and keeps your plants looking compact and healthy. Keep an eye on the foliage as well, and remove any greenery that appears dried-up, faded, or unhealthy to encourage a more robust plant that can better handle abrupt environmental changes.
Most Gerbera varieties tolerate temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees without damage. In cooler zones, such as zone 8, gardeners often grow these daisies in pots, so that they can move them indoors when the temperatures drop.
To prepare your outdoor plants for winter, cut the stems back to a height that’s just a tad above the soil line. Move them to an area where it won’t get colder than 40 degrees. Water every few weeks, but don’t allow them to dry out completely.
Grow new plants through root division in the early spring. Dig up existing plants to expose the root ball, shaking off excess soil. Divide the offshoots from the main plant. As long as the offshoot has a root system and a stem, you can replant it and it will grow into a new Gerbera.
You can also harvest seeds from your Gerbera daisies once the plant has finished blooming and the petals have fallen. Place a brown paper bag over the head of the faded bloom and shake the stem. The seeds will fall into the bag. Plant them immediately or store them in a cool, dry place.
Unfortunately, Gerberas are prone to fungal diseases and gray mold. Weak plant tissue, such as faded blooms and leaves, make the plant more susceptible to these ailments. To prevent the problem, routinely remove and discard any dying foliage or flowers on the plant and clean up any dead leaves that have fallen onto the soil around the plants.
Good air circulation is crucial to preventing fungal diseases. Avoid planting Gerberas too close together.
Caterpillars and leaf miners love munching on Gerbera daisy plants. Leaf miners are small black and yellow flies. They leave serpentine lines across leaf surfaces. Their larvae are cylindrical-shaped, yellow maggots. While these pests don't usually kill the plant, they can cause it to grow irregularly. Remove any affected foliage as well as fading leaves and flowers.
Spider mites, aphids, whiteflies, slugs, and thrips can also cause problems. Check the leaves regularly for signs of pests and spray with neem oil to get rid of infestations.
Large blooms in dynamic colors, light-bronze center disk, strong stalks, and rich green foliage make the Gerbera daisy an eye-catching plant indoors or out. It easily stands alone as the star of an outdoor flower bed, but it also partners well with flowering plants like Bacopa, with colorful, leafy plants like caladiums, and with ornamental grasses.
There are 40 types of daisies and all belong to the Asteraceae family of plants. True daisies, Mexican daisies, Seaside daisies, black-eyed Susans, asters, common dandelions, and Shasta daisies are in the same family with the Gerbera daisy.
However, the Gerbera stands out as a preferable choice for cut flower arrangements, not only because of its colorful blooms but also for its strong stems.
Although some daisies are toxic to pets, Gerberas pose no threat to dogs, cats, or horses. If you're seeking a deer-resistant daisy, choose the Shasta daisy instead. Deer love to munch on the flowers and foliage of Gerberas, leaving behind nothing but a mound of bare stems, yet they'll avoid the Shasta variety.
For gardeners hoping to attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds, the Gerbera is an excellent choice.
Gerberas are one of the most popular daisies in the world, and gardening suppliers and nurseries sell seeds in a variety of colors, a single hue, or as small seedlings.
The flowers offer bold colors in an assortment of red, orange, yellow, white, pink, cream, and purple shades with varying heights and petal styles, so any gardener can find a favorite. If you're looking for something big and showy, try the Karoo, which erupts in massive 5-inch pink and cream bi-colored blooms.