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Growing daisies from seed

We're Crazy About Growing Daisies From Seed!

The good ol' daisy—regardless of its species—is the universal icon for flowers thanks to its simple and highly-recognizable pattern. Crayon-scribbled daisies have decorated refrigerators for generations, and the plant has taken root in pop culture, common vernacular, and even politics.

Daisies close up at night and re-open each morning, which is why some fanciers attribute the phrase "fresh as a daisy" to the flower's knack for getting its beauty rest. According to Word Histories, The first known record of the phrase was published by London's The Town and Country Magazine in November 1778.

Other familiar associations with daisies include:

  • Whoopsie Daisy! (As in, "I screwed up by not buying my seeds from Seed Needs!") is a phrase that's been around for centuries, and was charmingly reborn in the 1999 film Notting Hill.
  • Daisy Chain: The term for connecting devices together as one would weave daisies to make a wreath.
  • Daisy Dukes: As kids, we may not have recognized the cultural controversy associated with the General Lee's paint job, but we all know the impact Catherine Bach's Dukes of Hazzard character—and her namesake denim cutoffs—had on teenage boys (and a few girls; we're inclusive here) growing up in the early 80s.
  • Princess Daisy: A prominent character in the Mario Brother's world, Princess Daisy is a tomboy when she's not wearing dresses representative of the flower's colors. Like us, she's a huge fan of flowers of all kinds.
  • Driving Miss Daisy: A classic Oscar-winning film that explored race, class, and economic status through the eyes of an elderly Jewish southern woman and her African-American chauffeur.
  • Pushing Daisies: Both a euphemism for being dead (and thus acting as fertilizer) and the title of a cult-classic romantic-fantasy television show about a handsome baker who could revive dead people, animals, and plants by touch. (In other words, he had the world's best green thumb).
  • The Daisy Ad: Any political history student knows about the controversial political ad used by Lyndon Johnson to scare the pants out of would-be Barry Goldwater supporters in his 1964 Presidential Campaign. We'll just leave this link here for you to see how the ad capitalized on the daisy's symbolism for innocence, and how its creator essentially invented fear-driven campaigning. What was shocking in that era is SSDD in ours (we're not explaining that; ask your grandmother to look it up for you).

Daisies grow in all shapes, habits, and colors, and they're wildly popular among pollinating insects. Want a butterfly garden? Plant daisies. Want flowers to complement asters, echinacea, and sunflowers? Plant daisies. Want to find out whether he loves you, or loves you not? You guessed it; plant daisies!

The Sciencey Stuff

Here's an interesting tidbit: "Daisy" is the shortened version of "day's eye," the untangled spelling of its Old English name. Native to north and central Europe (with a few hailing from Africa and Asia) many varieties have crossed the ocean and naturalized in the New World.

Like other members of the Asteraceae family, all daisy blooms are capitula; the petals (or rays) and central disks are two different kinds of flowers, and all the flowers together form a single head or capitulum.

"Daisy" is the shortened version of "day's eye," the untangled spelling of its Old English name. Native to north and central Europe (with a few hailing from Africa) many varieties have crossed the ocean and naturalized in the New World.

No matter how easy daisies are to grow, they're difficult to track by their botanical classifications. Not only can the Asteraceae family name be interchanged with Compositae, but the classification is also commonly referred to as both the "daisy family" and the "aster family." Worse still, nearly every daisy species has its own genera. Maybe LBJ had it right, and daisies should be associated with going nuclear.

Nah. Once you get past the nomenclature, you're out of the woods. Growing daisies from seed is so easy, even a pantsless duck can do it.

A Daisy for Every Garden

If you don't have a soft spot in your heart for daisies, you might not have a heart at all. So unless you're a puppy-kicking villain, you might want to consider adding this classic ornamental to your home garden.

Each daisy species has its own growing requirements, but in general, they're very easy to cultivate and maintain. Following are very generalized recommendations for raising daisies from seed and keeping them healthy through the seasons. For more specific instructions, we recommend that you refer to specific catalog descriptions or the directions on your seed packet.

The ideal environments for daisies

There's a daisy species for most every USDA growing zone, and each has a wide tolerance range for growing season length. They usually require full sun but grudgingly tolerate partial shade in the afternoon.

They bloom in their first growing season, and both perennials and annuals grow quickly, typically blooming from summer until the first frost.

Most daisies can handle drought (particularly ox-eye and African daisies) but others do best in consistently moist beds. Daisies easily naturalize in medium, neutral-to-alkaline soils but like to be treated to fertile, well-drained substrate.

Pests & diseases affecting daisies

Daisies are resilient, but they can have issues with root rot and various foliar fungi. To prevent these issues, we recommend you thin or plant your daisies to give them air circulation, especially in humid or rainy regions. Here are some tips:

  • Water deeply and infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out in between irrigation periods. Only a few species require consistent moisture, so double-check your references.
  • Use clean pruners to snip off and destroy (not compost) damaged leaves and stems. Use a bleach solution on your garden tools before moving on to the next plant.
  • Plant in full sun whenever possible.

Thrips and whiteflies might try to attack your daisies, but aphids tend to be the biggest nuisance. Hose them off early on a hot day, or use an insecticidal soap. Avoid using chemical insecticides to protect beneficial insects.

Growth habits

Some species form clumping bushy masses while others grow upward from compact bases. A few daisies are sprawlers, crawling and spreading closer to the ground. (Hmmm. Makes us think of Daisy von Scherler Mayer's movie, Party Girl.)

Are daisies safe for my family?

Daisies aren't a hazard to your pets or kids. Some chefs use daisies as food garnishes, or to liven up salads. Some herbalists use the ox-eye daisies to ease respiratory issues and anxiety, as they have similar chemical attributes to their close relative, chamomile.

As with any plant, if you're unsure about the edibility or medicinal value of any particular species, don't eat it.

Our Favorite Daisy Types

These are our most popular daisies, grouped together by aesthetic. As you read about them, you'll probably imagine how well they'd pair up with similar plants in the Asteraceae family.

Be sure to refer to the individual catalog pages when you're selecting the right plants, and note which species are annuals and which are perennials before you begin planning your garden.

Classic white daisies

Shasta daisies (Chrysanthemum maximum) are extremely popular for their forgiving hardiness, classic bright orange centers, and crisp, snow-white petals. They're the descendant of a hybrid of the wild ox-eye daisy and a Japanese daisy species. They make excellent cut flowers thanks to their long stems and prolific blooms. Growing between 18" and 30" tall and 12" to 24" wide, Shasta daisies are the largest of the traditional white varieties.

For a slightly more compact version, pick up some ox-eye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) seeds. If you want a dwarf-sized variety growing to about 6" tall, plant a carpet of white English daisies (Bellis perennis). We also carry creeping daisy, (Chrysanthemum paludosum) a spreading annual groundcover that easily reseeds itself.

Funkadelic-flowered daisies

If white daisies are too vanilla for you, or you want a little outrageous color in your daisy patch, you really need to check out our painted daisies (Chrysanthemum carinatum). These clumping annuals, which are sometimes referred to as "tricolor chrysanthemums," grow up to 36" high, making them excellent neighbors for Shasta daisies. On each plant, you'll find different combinations of multicolored flowers with ringed patterns radiating outward from their dark burgundy and pink centers. Like other tall daisies, they make stunning cut pink, yellow, orange, and lavender flowers. Try planting them near purple coneflowers or in front of tall sunflowers.

If you want softer colors and a variety of textures in your daisy garden, order a packet of our colored English daisy mix. The thin, quill-like flowers on some of the plants look a lot like Koosh balls. The somewhat-ragged petals of lavender, white, and pink double-layered blooms with oversized centers crowd together on diminutive, 4" to 6" plants perfect for potting.  

Sunshiney yellow daisies

Gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia gloriosa) could very well fit into the funkalicious category. They've got prominent, dark-and-lavender centers and orangey-red inner petals that melt into bright yellow pointed tips. They're a perennial African daisy that grows as tall as 36".

Some sites confuse R. gloriosa with black-eyed susans (R. hirta), which are also on occasion called gloriosas, so make sure you're ordering the correct species.

Our African daisy mix (Dimorphotheca sinuata/Dimorphotheca aurantiaca) includes a variety of yellow, white, salmon, and gold blooms, with some flowers hinting at bicolor tendencies (once again, we're inclusive). These annuals are a great compromise between the ground-hugging species and the taller ox-eyes and Shastas, growing 8" to 16" tall.

African daisies are among most drought-tolerant daisies, and they reseed freely. Like ox-eyes, they can run rampant in pastures, so take care to keep them in check.

Growing Daisies from Seed

Have we mentioned that daisies are easy to grow? They're among our favorite ornamentals for beginners. We prefer to direct-sow them as soon as the soil hits about 70°F. Surface-scattering over damp, finely-raked soil works great, or you can start them indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before your last spring frost to get a jump on your season.

  • Seed preparation: None required.
  • Planting depth: 1/16"; daisies require some sunlight to germinate. Use overhead lights for indoor starts.
  • Germination time: 7 to 14 days, but don't be surprised if they're early risers.
  • Transplanting tips: If you're growing them indoors, use disintegrating pots to avoid root shock.

Keep the soil moist until your plants are well-established. You usually don't need to fertilize your daisies, though the perennials enjoy a bit of a snack in late summer and in their second and subsequent springs.

We're Pushing Daisies at Seed Needs

Double entendres aside, we unabashedly encourage everyone to grow daisies in their own gardens...and we plan to be around for a long time to provide the freshest, highest-quality seeds to help our customers achieve gardening success. Contact us if you'd like to learn more about our Michigan-based family business, or if you'd like to suggest a new ornamental, vegetable, or herb species for our catalog!
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