How To Grow & Care African Daisies (Osteospermum) | GroveGypsy

African daisies are exotic flowers that can actually grow in America. You probably feel cheated if you've planted these flowers only to see them wilt.

Just because African daisies are common on the West Coast does not mean the Osteospermum plant will grow in all areas of the country. If you do not understand their preferred climate, this can result in dead or wilted flowers. Unfortunately, not every gardener gets a briefing at the flower nursery.

Osteospermum requires full sun and well-drained soil. For the most attractive flowers, plant them in groups of four or five with 30cm in between. As long as they have dry soil and extra organic fertilizer, they will flourish with the right care.

While many groups of African daisies are found on the West Coast, they can be found in other areas of the country as well. Missouri, Minnesota, and Texas provide the right amount of sun for easy growth. On the East Coast, African daisies are a unique type of flower that requires a few extra tips. Luckily these additional steps are not complicated and can be done with minimal expenses.

I first noticed African daisies when I visited Minnesota in the summer. Because it was July, they were already in full bloom. When I couldn’t find any in my hometown, I embarked on a journey to grow as many exotic flowers as possible. Osteospermum is my main choice. The tips I gathered along the way are sufficient to plant African daisies in almost any location.

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What Is Osteospermum?

Osteospermum is the formal name for African daisies. They originate from South Africa and are sometimes called “Cape daisies.” Unlike other types of daisies, Osteospermum is ambiguous by nature.

African daisies are primarily considered perennial flowers, but because of their cultivated hybrids, some plants are grown as annuals. Typically the perennials are hardy while the annuals are more sensitive. The climate often dictates whether an Osteospermum functions as a perennial or annual.

Subshrub or Shrub?

A subshrub is also known as a dwarf shrub because it is shorter and smaller in size. When an Osteospermum is considered an annual plant, it grows almost to the size of a regular shrub, but not quite. Shrubhubs grow to approximately 30 cm in the desert.

A shrub is considered much taller and has a significant amount of foliage. The leaves are stronger and the blooms are bright and expansive. Perennial Osteospermum typically grow into shrubs and can be used as borders for a garden or house. Unlike the annual African daisies, this species is frequently found outside the desert. They are more likely to weather the humidity during the spring and summer months.

Similarities

African daisies look similar to other strains of daisies. Their leaves are dark green and hardy. Their blooms consist of disc-shaped florets. Popular colors seen in the UK, Africa, and America include dark blue, yellow, and purple. The female plants are typically white, cream, and pink.

How To Grow African Daisies

There are dozens of Osteospermum species. Because of hybrid breeding, it is estimated that there are over 50 species spanning different continents. Regardless of the type of African daisy, there are some universal commonalities.

Climate

Osteospermum grows best in warm climates with lots of sun. Though they prefer dry air, they should never dry out completely. These flowers are not part of the cacti family.

Perennial African daisies are typically grown in Zones 10-11. If grown as an annual plant, they prefer mild climates. Moist soil that has an even temperature throughout the ground is preferred for both perennial and annual daisies.

Selecting an area with full sun is the first step to planting African daisies. This is true for gardens as well as potted plants. If you’re growing African daisies inside, I recommend placing them directly on the window sill for maximum exposure.

Planting

The pH level of the soil does matter for Osteospermum. Planting them too close to a sidewalk or road can actually harm the flowers. This is because lime from concrete tends to raise the pH levels of the soil.

Use well-drained soil with alkaline. This will help create a neutral ground for nutrients. Each daisy should be planted at an equal distance to ensure they have enough room to grow. I’ve found that African daisies look best when they’re used as borders.

Propagating

Osteospermum is typically cut during the fall. Before creating new cuttings, first choose a few non-blooming shoots. These can be replanted at any time of the year.

Hormonal root powder may be used with fungicide if you suspect root rot. Adding rotted roots to the ground will affect future plant growth, so it’s important to pay attention to any strange or unusual smells. The new cuttings will begin to grow approximately one month after planting.

Hybrids can be cultivated to form new colors. The most popular cultivars include the species O. jucundum and  O. ecklonis. These are not generally considered “hardy” plants, but depending on the breeder their environmental sensitivity may vary.

The Royal Horticultural Society has given their Award of Garden Merit to several hybrids. Some of these include the Blackthorn Seedling, Hopleys, Lady Leitrim, and Pink Whirls. Carefully crafted African Daisies can be found in eastern Africa, the United States, and the Arabian peninsula.

How To Care for Osteospermum

Once the planting conditions are correct, caring for Osteospermum is fairly simple. You must water regularly even though African daisies prefer dry climates. This is an easy assumption to make, but they cannot withstand extreme heat over a lengthy period of time. Extra water is necessary for two weeks after planting.

Enhance Flowers

For the brightest flowers, I’ve found that weekly feedings are best. Daily fertilizer can be too much for the daisies, but once every 5 - 7 days seems to be the sweet spot. Specialized fertilizer is helpful, but it’s not always necessary. All of the essential nutrients can be found in regular soil. In my opinion, the best fertilizer includes plenty of phostrogen. This will get the job done regardless of most climates.

Long-Lasting Blooms

To prolong the blooms, deadheading is recommended. You do not need organic or specialized chemical spray to keep daisies from wilting early, just a keen eye.

There is no exact time when deadheading “should” be done. It is only necessary when you notice the flowers beginning to fade. By paying attention to your African daisies on a daily basis you will be able to tell which blooms need to be picked. If a little bit of the flower stem is cut or broken in the process, this will not cause permanent damage.

How To Prune

African daisies will need to be pruned on an annual basis. This is a positive activity because it causes more shoots to sprout for fuller flowers in the summer. It’s not difficult to prune daisies, but it does take a little time.

Typically Osteospermum should be pruned every spring. Some gardeners also prune in the fall so that the stems are 2 inches from the ground. Before pruning it is ideal to have the right tools on hand.

Hand pruners and gloves are recommended. Although you can cut the stems with regular scissors, pruners are much easier. A hand pruner works by pinching off the individual dead flower so it won’t produce any new seeds.

The goal is to remove any dead flowers and yellow foliage. Not only can blooms die, but stems and leaves may need to be removed as well. Dead stems are usually black or dark brown and may look flimsy.

African daisies can be cut to different lengths, but 4 inches is custom. This leaves enough room for stems to grow while still getting rid of dead foliage. Once tiny flower buds appear, do not prune any further.

Species of Osteospermum

There are two main categories of Osteospermum: the half-hardy and the hardy. This particular characteristic can affect how long the African daisies bloom and where they thrive.

The Half Hardy

The half-hardy African daisies are usually perennials. They are characterized by their tender physicality and sensitivity to the cold. While they can withstand mild frosts and autumn nights, these species will not survive if the temperature is below -2.

The Hardy

The hardy variety is resilient in extreme temperatures. Some of these species include the Osteospermum Snow Pixie, the Osteospermum Tresco Purple, and the Osteospermum jucundum var. Compactum.  All of these hardy varieties provide brightly colored blooms in the summer.

A Sunny Disposition

African daisies give off a cheerful vibe. They are the quintessential “happy” flower with bright colors and full summer blooms. If I have trouble with a particular group of Osteospermum plants, it’s generally because of the light.

Sunlight is the most crucial factor when growing Osteospermum. Even though they are not difficult to grow, their requirements are completely necessary. Temperature is also important but will vary throughout the day. African daisies actually prefer cooler evenings.

Most varieties of Osteospermum will close their petals at night. Although all flowers are alive, the African daisy has a distinct personality.

About THE AUTHOR

Elsie Moore

Elsie Moore

As an experienced gardener & landscaper on my own property over the last 20 years, I'm excited to share the things I've learned along the way, as I continue to learn.

Read More About Elsie Moore