"Unexpected daisies"

Here are some quite unusual 'daisy' plants!
Sunday, 23 May 2021     

Flower of Farfugium japonicum above its leaves

I have always loved daisy flowers and adore plump bushes of Marguerite daisies in spring, showy Dahlia all summer long, perennial asters in autumn, and the haze of tiny Erigeron daisies in my brick walls and steps year round. However, there are also some plants that at first don't look anything like a daisy, yet which also belong to the family Asteraceae and grow well in Sydney gardens, with some of them being in bloom now. One example in bloom at the moment is Farfugium japonicum, previously known as Ligularia tussilagineum. This perennial has large, kidney-shaped, lush-green leaves. In autumn, a stout stem arises opening to a cluster of bright golden-yellow daisies, which seem quite incongruous with the foliage! This is a plant that needs lots of moisture, and a shaded spot, to do well. A curious, yellow-spotted version (known colloquially as the leopard plant) and a rarer, white-variegated cultivar exist. Farfugium is probably more grown for its leaves than its blooms!

Another unusual daisy in bloom now is the Mexican marigold (Tagetes lemmonii, ht 1-1.5 m). It has a shrubby form, with fine, ferny foliage that smells distinctly of passionfruit. Tiny, vivid gold daisies smother the plant for several months in autumn and winter, and if the plant is sheared after flowering, more blooms may appear. In June and July, the enormous golden daisies of the tree marigold (Tithonia diversifolia) appear atop a tall, rather ungainly shrubby perennial (ht to 4.5 m). Due to its lanky shape, it is not the easiest plant to incorporate into a suburban garden; however, if it is possible to weave the stems down through the branches of some nearby shrubs, this can bring the flowers to eye level rather than having them tower way above head height. Another giant-sized specimen is Montanoa bipinnatifida (ht to 4.5 m), the tree daisy, with clusters of white flowers held way up high, in May and June. The tree dahlia completes the trifecta of enormous daisy plants, and is out now, holding big lilac-hued flowers atop its 5m tall stems! All these daisies do best in full sun.

Late winter and early spring sees the flowering of another Asteraceae member: the mist flower(Eupatorium megalophyllum, now known as Bartlettina sordida, ht 1.5 m), a frost-sensitive, soft-wooded shrub with large velvety leaves and huge fluffy panicles of lilac blooms in early spring that look very unlike a daisy! Closer inspection of the individual flowers that make up the panicle, however, show them to have a daisy form. This plant is valuable in being shade tolerant, and forms a pretty background shrub to flowering Clivia and Abutilon. It looks like a giant Ageratum, which is also a member of the daisy family, and is sometimes called the floss flower. This is often grown as a low annual but there is a perennial form (ht 30 cm) that is sometimes seen in Sydney gardens, which I have grown. Another similar flower belongs to a sun-loving herbaceous perennial known as white snakeroot: Ageratina altissima 'Chocolate' (previously known as Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'). It forms a clump of nettle-like leaves that are beautifully flushed with purplish-brown when they emerge in early spring. The plant grows to about 1 m tall and bears clusters of small fluffy white flowers in summer, which are attractive to butterflies and bees, as are those of the Eupatorium and Ageratum mentioned above.

Yet another unusual daisy is Centratherum punctatum, a short-lived perennial (ht 50 cm) that flowers most of the year, though it seems to be particularly good in winter. It has flowers like fluffy round purple buttons opening from quaint buds, held above interesting leaves that look like they have been cut with pinking shears. The plants seem to last for a few years and then fade away, but they do self-seed and I now make sure that I always have a few coming on to replace the older specimens. It can also be grown from cuttings.

Some members of the Asteraceae family are grown purely for their foliage. One of these is the purple velvet plant, (Gynura aurantiaca, ht 60 cm), a rambling, shrubby perennial with broad, velvety green leaves with a beautiful purple sheen created by a downy overlay of purple hairs. It needs a frost-free position in shade or part-shade, with sufficient moisture. Strange orange-red flower-heads, rather like a dandelion, are produced in late winter; they are not an attractive feature and I remove them! Some other daisy plants grown for their foliage include Artemisia 'Powis Castle' (ht 60-100 cm), a shrubby perennial with highly dissected, silvery foliage. It does best in a hot, sunny spot. The tiny flowers are insignificant. Also with lovely foliage is Helichrysum petiolare, a shrubby perennial plant with long stems covered in heart-shaped leaves that look like they have been cut from silvery-grey felt. It forms a mound around 60cm high and up to 1.5m or more wide. It grows well in both sun and shade and copes well with dry conditions. It has domed of heads of little creamy-yellow flowers in late spring, but these are not particularly interesting. There is a lovely cultivar called 'Limelight' that has pale lime-green foliage, and a silver-cream variegated form, 'Variegatum'.

I'd love to hear of other unusual daisies that you may grow!


 Reader Comments

1/3  Pamela - 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 24 May 2021

I grow all of these except I've never been able to find the variegated Helichrysum or the Gynura.We take many of the common daisies for granted-Im constantly pulling out the African daisies that are weeds in my garden yet provide swathes of pretty colour in early spring, some of the new hybrids are lovely.So many new varieties of Rudbeckias & Echinaceas now. I did lose many Ajanias & Chrysanthemums in the recent rain event unfortunately, theyre not happy being too wet. Great blog Deirdre Thanks, Pamela. I haven't had much luck with the new Echinaceas, but the old purple one does quite well. The African daisies are the same - I can't keep those new hybrids going for more than a season! Sorry to hear you lost a few things in all that rain - it certainly was a challenge for the garden. Deirdre

2/3  Lynne - 2479 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 24 May 2021

Wondering what you think of the white African daisy Deidre? I do like that old-fashioned plant as I remember it from when I was a little kid! It does self-seed though and also seems to have a use-by date so dies off after a few years. I think it is a great plant for a hot, dry position, as long as you watch out for self-seedlings and it shouldn't be planted where it can escape into the bush. I have had no luck with all the fancy new hybrid ones but the original purple one does OK for me. Deirdre

3/3  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 25 May 2021

I love most of the daisy group, as well, except for Tagetes lemmoni; adore the bright gold of the flowers, but not the perfume. I can not see the plant smells like passionfruit. Ligularia flowers are stunning and also the flowers of Centratherum punctatum, which provide a colourful splash of colour and contrast wonderfully with lemon or yellow flowers. Yes some people hate the smell of that Tagetes foliage! There are quite a few daisy flowers out at the moment. Deirdre

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