African Daisies (Osteospermum Flower): Types, How to Grow and Plant Care

African daisies make a fantastic statement in any garden. While you might think that you may need to live in one of the warmer parts of the world in order to grow them, this isn’t necessary.

You can grow them in colder climates without too much trouble, but they will be annuals, and they will die back at the first sign of cold temperatures. 

You will need to start off seeds or plug plants somewhere warm and bright. If you don’t have a greenhouse, a warm windowsill will do.

African daisies are related to the common daisy, but they are like the more fun relative, full of vibrant colors which look sprayed on. The flowers are much larger, too, though their habit is not as vigorous or as stubborn as the common daisy. 

How to Recognize an African Daisy

Part of the daisy family, African daisies or Osteospermum (see also Osteospermum Genus Guide) stand apart for their gorgeous flowers which appear in many colors.

The large petals form around a central eye, which might be the same color, or an entirely different color. Depending on the variety, the leaves can be lance-shaped, ovate, lobed, or even toothed.

Some varieties feature unusual petals which fan out, looking like tiny spoons. They only grow in full sun, and they can reach anywhere from a foot to 3 feet tall.

They are not hardy to any form of cold, so only plant them outside when they are bigger, and when the risk of any frost has completely disappeared. 

In colder parts of the world, you can either treat them as annual plants, sowing more seeds the following year, or you can treat them like other tender perennials and dig them up, only replanting them when the temperatures rise.

Some varieties will produce flowers as early as the middle of spring, while others won’t flower until the height of summer, only fading at the start of fall.

Varieties of African Daisies You Should Try in Your Own Garden

When it comes to choosing plant varieties, there are a lot of things to consider. Because African daisies largely have the same requirements, the only thing you really need to ask yourself is what color do you want? 

Would you prefer your Osteospermums to have a single block color within the flower, or would you prefer a bicolored variety? Do you want to contrast or compliment the plants you already have in your garden?

Consider also the form of the flower. Most have a classic daisy shape, while others have unusually shaped petals. 

Whichever you go for, these gorgeous flowers are sure to add life and color into any space.

It’s worth noting that most varieties of African daisies will close on very cloudy days and at night, although much newer cultivars will keep their flowers open.

Osteospermum ‘FlowerPower Purple Sun’

A very reliable and beautiful variety, ‘FlowerPower Purple Sun’ features bicolored petals in a stunning purple, fading to orange at the edges of the petals. The central eye of each flower is speckled both with a light purple and orange.  

It flowers from June all the way to October if the weather is kind enough, and isn’t picky about the type of soil you put it in, as long as it drains well. 

‘FlowerPower Purple Sun’ reaches a maximum height of 30cm, spreading about the same, adding some eye-catching compact color into your garden.

Osteospermum ‘3D Berry White’

A new and very unusual cultivar, ‘3D Berry White’ is also known as a double cape daisy, thanks to its double-form petals.

Instead of a smaller, neater central eye, large purple petals form around an explosion of miniature florets, making for an attractive display in any border or container.

You’ll need to water them in well, making sure to give them extra water during the first 2 weeks of planting, and after they’ve established, they’ll largely take care of themselves.

Osteospermum ‘Mara’ 

If ‘FlowerPower Purple Sun’ sounds too bright of a bicolored daisy for you, ‘Mara’ is a great option. 

This gorgeous but understated variety features single blooms in a pale orange, turning a soft pink the closer the petals get to the center of the flower.

This variety is also perfect for cutting gardens, where you want to compliment other flowers, but you don’t want them to compete.

Osteospermum ‘Soprano Vanilla Spoon’

One of the longer flowering Osteospermums, ‘Soprano Vanilla Spoon’ is a fantastic variety. What it lacks in color, it makes up for in form, featuring tubular, spoon-shaped petals, around a central eye ringed with orange.

It’s perfect for gardeners who prefer a muted color scheme, but still want the plants to do all the talking. The brilliant-white petals also offset nicely against darker colors.

Osteospermum ‘Zion Purple Sun’ 

If single color African daisies aren’t your thing, and you prefer flowers with at least two colors, why not go for three? 

‘Zion Purple Sun’ is the first tri-color variety, featuring captivating flowers which start off purple around the central eye, brightening to a deep orange, and then rays of yellow at the tips of the petals.

African Daisies: Care and Maintenance

African daisies are one of the simplest plants to care for in your garden, but that’s not to say that you can’t make them healthier by keeping a few things in mind. 

The healthier the osteospermum, the longer it will bloom, and the more flowers it will produce.

Planting and Position

The most important thing when it comes to caring for African daisies is to mimic their natural environment. 

While you may not live somewhere extremely warm, you can ensure that these lovely plants get as much sunlight as possible, in the most sheltered position you can find.

This will ensure that the plant produces as many flowers as possible, for as long as possible.

Soil

Make sure to keep them in soil which drains freely, as this will stop any root rot or other causes of premature plant death before they can occur. 

Well-draining soil will stop water pooling around the roots, which would be a shortcut to the plant’s death. But that’s not to say that the well-draining soil should be poor quality if you can help it.

Aim for a pH between 5 and 5.5, but this isn’t strictly necessary to have great growth on your osteospermums, it’s just the optimal pH that they’ve adapted to.

Osteospermums prefer soil which is rich in nutrients, but if you don’t have this, you can improve it with fertilizer and organic matter.

Watering and Feeding Osteospermums

When it comes to watering osteospermums, it really depends on the weather. When you’re looking to establish the roots of a newly-planted osteospermum, keep a close eye on the plant, and gently water it more frequently.

For more established osteospermums, you’ll only really need to water them when it’s quite dry, or once a week in the summer months. 

If you notice that the flowers have closed up on a sunny, calm day, wait until the plant’s roots are in shade and give it a good drink.

Fertilizing Osteospermums

As with most annual plants, African daisies benefit from regular doses of fertilizer. This is especially important when it comes to those plants living in containers, as they will run out of nutrients much quicker than if they were in the ground.

Hold off on feeding osteospermums until they start to flower, and then feed them weekly with a general flower fertilizer, or something more specialized if you have it to hand.

Concentrated fertilizer that you dilute with water is generally better as it feeds the plants immediately, although they will also benefit from granular fertilizer early on. 

Go for organic, if you can, to reduce your carbon footprint while also bettering your plants.

Pruning and Propagating Osteospermums

When do you prune osteospermums? Well, deadheading any prolific bloomers once the flowers start to fade will encourage more flowers, so it’s a good practice to get into.

It’s much easier to deadhead flowers with small clippers or shears for a clean cut, making sure to put the heads into a bucket before transferring them to a compost or waste heap. You don’t want the flower heads to sit on the floor, as this can encourage disease.

If you prefer, you can leave the spent heads on to form seed pods, either for decorative or practical purposes, but these may not be viable, and you’ll get fewer flowers.

You can also pinch off any leggy growth with your fingers, if you feel that your osteospermums are getting too tall, but this isn’t necessary, and doing it too much can stop the flower buds from forming.

Propagating Osteospermums

One way to ensure that you get as much from your plants as possible is to take cuttings from the plant during spring or summer. Only take shoots off that are not flowering.

Take the tip of the shoot off, and the leaves, to save the cutting some energy. If you have any hormone rooting powder to hand, dip it in that. 

For best results, take several cuttings, and plant them around the edges of a pot in well-draining soil. Water the shoots, and you’ll know they’ve rooted once new growth forms.

Pests and Diseases to Watch Out For

Osteospermums are fairly hardy when it comes to pests and disease, but that doesn’t mean they are invincible. 

There are some which you need to watch out for, and keeping the signs in mind, while keeping your plants as healthy as possible, goes a long way in preventing both pests and disease from taking hold.

Root Rot

Root rot occurs when you overwater the plants, keeping them in soil which doesn’t drain very well, or a combination of both. Too much water pooling around the roots will cause them to rot, accelerating plant death.

African daisies are vulnerable to root rot as they can go for long periods of time without water, and this is true of any drought-tolerant plant.

If you think that you’ve overwatered your osteospermums, if the foliage is wilting and turning yellow, the soil is soaked and the flowers are dropping, remove it from the soil immediately and transfer it into dry soil.

It may or may not be able to recover from this, but repotting it gives it a chance. 

If you find that several of your osteospermums or other drought-resistant plants are struggling, improve the drainage with some gravel or horticultural sand, and cut back on the watering schedule.

Gray or White Mold

Osteospermums are vulnerable to mold, too. This fungus appears in damp areas that don’t have enough air circulation. You can recognize gray mold by strange brown spots appearing on the leaves, flowers dying off before they open, and mold growing on rotting plant tissue.

This particular disease is caused by Botrytis cinerea

They can also get white mold, caused by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, and it’s also known as crown rot. 

You’ll notice the stems wilting and discoloring to a sickly white, cotton-like fungal growth, and the leaves turning brown and dying.

It needs cool and wet conditions to survive, so make sure your plant has plenty of drainage, keeping it in full sun to prevent it.

If all else fails, treat the plants with a fungicide, being careful to follow the directions exactly.

Aphids

Aphids are the enemy of all gardeners and houseplant lovers alike. Aphids leech out the nutrients from the leaves of a plant, which will cause holes, spots, and even plant death.

The cheapest way of getting rid of them is to spray the infected parts of the plant with a dish soap solution. This may kill some of the leaves, but it will also kill the aphids. 

You’ll need to do this every day for about a fortnight, until you’re sure they won’t make a reappearance.

As lacewings are their natural predators, you can also order these insects online in order to help, but be careful of tipping the delicate balance of your garden’s ecosystem by introducing more predators.

Spider Mites

Spider mites affect houseplants more than they trouble plants which live outdoors, but that doesn’t mean they cannot cause damage. 

You’ll recognize the signs during the summer months, especially during hot dry spells. On the upper edges of the leaves, you may notice pale stippling, and the leaves discoloring overall, making them drop early.

You’ll also notice tiny webbing on infected leaves. They can cause plant death.

There are several things you can do to prevent them, including holding off the fertilizer during dry spells, and avoiding overwatering them.

If you see any signs of spider mites, use water to wash them away from the plant. 

Ladybugs are their natural predator, so as a preventative measure, you can increase your ladybug population by planting marigolds, yarrow, feverfew, and other high-pollen plants into your garden. 

Whitefly

One good practice to get into is checking the undersides of leaves for pests, as many will cause damage to the undersides before the overleaf. Whitefly is one of these pests.

They leave similar signs to aphids as they do a similar job, feeding on the nutrients in the leaves. 

Crush them with your finger against the leaf, and invest in some sticky traps.

While reading about plant pests and disease can be a little overwhelming, there are things you can adjust in order to make sure these never appear on your African daisies. 

The healthier your plant, the less likely it is to be bothered about pests, and you’ll be able to treat small infestations without any huge problems.

Don’t forget, caring for your plants is largely a huge learning curve and an experiment rolled into one. It’s extremely satisfying when you get it right, and getting it wrong is just part of the process.

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