Although most are found in the Cape provinces, Felicia ranges as far north as Arabia. Depending on the climate where they are grown, flowering times can vary and in some regions the plants may flower almost continuously, or give their best flush in spring and summer, or even in late summer and autumn. Generally, in hot climates the plant will stop blooming when temperatures rise in midsummer. Full heads of seeds follow the flowers, readily becoming detached and floating away on even the slightest breeze.
Blue Felicia, Blue Marguerite, Bloumagriet, Blou-astertjie (Felicia amelloides) is one of the most loved and rewarding garden plants, and is grown worldwide. It grows wild along the coastlines of the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces, where it ranges in altitude from 0 to 1,000 meters. It is common in coastal bush in the sheltered areas between stabilized dunes, on exposed stony hillsides, rocky outcrops and sandy flats. Its range also extends a bit inland to the Winterhoek Mountains near Port Elizabeth, and the Ecca Pass near Grahamstown. The sky-blue or rarely mauve flowers with yellow centres are born atop dark reddish stems. White, pale blue and a variegated form are also now offered by nurseries. The blue Felicia grows well throughout the country and flowering times vary; it often blooms sporadically throughout the year, with its best flush either in spring and early summer, or in late summer and autumn. This small evergreen usually grows vigorously to +-30 to 60cm tall, with a spread of +-50cm, but can reach 1m tall. It is a long-lived perennial and only needs replacing every 4 to 5 years. In its natural habitat it tolerates wind and a wide range of temperatures, as well as some frost.
Felicia amelloides 'Blue' is a compact, neat bush, +-50cm tall, which is covered with light blue daisy flowers all year. It is a rewarding patio plant and perfect in massed flower borders.
Felicia amelloides ‘Alba’ is a compact, neat bush, +-50cm tall and has crisp, pure white flowers that form a striking contrast against its dark green leaves. It is a rewarding patio plant and perfect in massed flower borders.
Felicia amelloides 'Variegated' is a vigorous grower and has the same characteristics as ‘alba’ and ‘blue’, but sports gorgeous green and creamy-white variegated leaves which contrast well with the masses of small blue flowers.
Felicia 'Puntjie Blue' is an unusual, trailing garden hybrid with pale blue flowers throughout the year. It grows +- 40cm tall, and if left untrimmed is inclined to remain neater than the well-known F. amelloides. It is an excellent choice for raised beds or rockeries as well as hanging baskets. If added to loffelstein retaining walls, it will add valuable colour and contrast.
Felicia amelloides 'Out of the Blue' is a delightful new garden hybrid developed by New Plant Nursery and is the first Felicia ever to be granted Plant Breeders' Rights. It is a huge improvement on the old varieties, retaining their combined good qualities and losing some of their bad traits. Its crisp green leaves form soft cushions, topped with masses of violet-blue, yellow centred daisies all year round, making it a cheerful border perennial.
Wild Aster, Dwarf , Wilde-aster, Bloublombossie (Felicia aethiopica) is a delightful little plant, and because its bright blue flowers with yellow centres appear all year round, it is a must in every garden. It is a compact, straggling shrub up to 1m tall, has a wide distribution range on flats from the Cederberg to the Eastern Cape, and is frequently found growing in bushy places on the lower plateau slopes of Table Mountain. This Felicia is perfect in rock garden pockets, mixed borders and as an edging for taller perennials. It is an ideal little filler plant and can also be used as a ground cover. It is also especially attractive if allowed to spill over containers or low garden walls. In a mixed border it can be planted with Helichrysum cymosum, Bulbine frutescens, Ursinia paleacea, Ursinea sericea, Plecostachys serpyllifolia, Cineraria saxifraga, C. geifolia, Dimorphotheca fruticosus, Pelargonium betulinum (white) and Geranium incanum (white).
Dune Daisy, Prickly Felicia, Bloublommetjie (Felicia echinata) is easy to tell apart from the others because the branches are almost entirely covered with stiff, shiny, dark green leaves. The leaves are also edged with small white teeth which curve to form a sharp tip, and this prickly protection is probably to discourage animals and insects from taking a nibble. In nature this evergreen is frequently seen growing next to roads and on sandy dunes along the coast of the eastern Cape from Mossel Bay to Port Alfred, growing together with other herbaceous plants like the Cape forget-me-not (Anchusa capensis), lobelias and gazanias, making them ideal companions in the garden too. The dune daisy is a much branched perennial that grows +-60cm tall and the branches bend and turn towards the sun, each with 2 to 3 large daisies at their tips. Flowering profusely from autumn to early summer (April to October), these dependable daisies with their mauve flowers and sunny yellow centres will brighten up any winter’s day. White flowers are also occasionally found in the wild. Both the mauve and white forms, as well as a pink variety, are often sold in 6-packs commercially. For the best show the plants should be grouped quite close together, making purchasing 6-packs much easier and economical. The dune daisy is ideal to use as a filler plant between longer lived plants like restios, and looks good planted in rockeries and retaining walls, where the plants hang down and soften the hard edges. They are perfect to plant between large aloes such as Aloe arborescens and Aloe succotrina; as well as between pig's ears (Cotyledon orbiculata) and vygies, where the softly fill the gaps.
Wild Michaelmas Daisy, isithelelo, ixhaphozi (Felicia erigeroides) is an excellent plant for coastal gardens with its pretty daisy flowers in subtle soft shades of pink, mauve and lilac, contrasting well with its yellow central discs. It can be found growing wild on grassy hillsides in coastal bush and forest margins up to an altitude of 1,000m, from Humansdorp to KwaZulu-Natal. This evergreen perennial is a sprawling little shrub with a slender, erect growth habit. It grows +-75cm to 1m tall and the small, glossy green leaves are edged with fringed hairs. The wild Michaelmas daisy makes the best show when planted in groups of 6 to 9 plants. It acts as a wonderful filler plant for fynbos gardens and grows well with Arctotis arctotoides (botterblom), Cineraria saxifraga (wild cineraria), Geranium incanum (bergtee), Diascia integerrima (twinspur), Lobelia valida (galjoenblom), Orphium frutescens (sea-rose), Scabiosa incisa, Ursinia abrotanifolia and U. sericea (lace-leaf ursinia), as well as with taller shrubs such as Acmadenia mundiana, Phylica ericoides, Hemizygia canescens and restios. It also grows easily as a container plant.
Kingfisher Daisy, Breeblaar Astertjie (Felicia bergeriana) grows wild in the Northern Cape and Western Cape. It is a spreading evergreen perennial that is usually treated as a summer flowering annual, especially in cold regions. It is low growing +-20cm, with an equal spread, and will form a dense mat of lance-shaped, grey-green leaves that have softly hairy surfaces. If planted in massed beds it makes a striking carpet of brilliant Kingfisher blue flowers with a metallic sheen and conspicuous golden eyes, borne on slender stalks that are held above the bright green leaves. This annual will flower all summer long in full sun if the flowers are dead-headed regularly. It is a pretty border plant and ideal for growing in containers, window boxes and rockeries as well as being useful as an edging to a garden path.
True-blue Daisy, Ware-madeliefie (Felicia heterophylla) grows wild only in the Cape and nowhere else in the world; occurring naturally in the southwestern Cape from Clanwilliam to Cape Town. This is an annual which is usually found growing on sandy flats and slopes, where it blooms in spring, from August to October. This special little daisy is commonly called the "true-blue daisy" because it is one of the few Felicias with entirely blue flowers. Unlike the others with their sunny yellow centres, this one also has blue centres, making it most unusual. The flowers are borne on long stems, and with a height of +-20 to 30cm they are ideal edging plants for the spring garden. Bring some Namaqualand splendour into your garden by mass sowing Felicia and Namaqualand daisies (Dimorphotheca pluvialis and D. sinuata) together in your garden - the sight will be unforgettable! Seeds are sown in mid-March directly into garden beds, or seedling trays. Fresh seed should germinate within one week, and the seedlings can be transplanted into the garden whilst they seedlings are still fairly small. In regions with very cold winters, seeds can be sown in seed trays and kept in a frost free place until all danger of frost as over. These winter rainfall annuals will require regular irrigation if your garden does not receive rain at this time.
Felicia josephinae has only recently been named and described (Bothalia October 2002) although it was first collected in 1933 by C Louis Leipoldt the well-known poet, author, medical practitioner and plant collector. For about two decades following its first collection in 1933, a handful of further collections were made by various Cape botanists, all from the same small stretch of country where it occurs naturally between Elands Bay and Lambert's Bay; on hills and dunes as part of the Sandveld Succulent Karoo vegetation of the area. These early collections were all identified either as a new species or as a possible variant of Felicia heterophylla, hence the confusion. It has been named after Dr Josephine (Jo) Beyers, assistant curator of the Compton Herbarium. This charming little low-growing annual has shown great horticultural potential with its strikingly different white to cream flowers with deep purple centres. It is not yet in general cultivation, but early attempts to grow the plant from seed have been very successful, so watch this space!
In the Garden:
These evergreen perennials are long-lived in the garden and the delicate beauty of their blooms belies their ruggedness. They are excellent container plants and if planted in mass, make a breath-taking sight when in bloom. Mix them with grasses, aloes, pincushions, red hot pokers and other indigenous plants for a glorious show, or use them in mixed flower borders as filler plants. They are also excellent for pebble gardens and rockeries, and provide valuable colour if combined with other plants in retaining walls. Taller growing varieties can even be clipped into a tiny formal hedge, and all of them combine well with other plants in mixed containers. Although they are mainly sun loving, Felicias will also grow quite happily in semi-shade and do well in the light, dappled shade of trees. In fact, these versatile little gems can be used almost anywhere you have a reasonably sunny spot in the garden. The flowers make lovely little cut flowers for the vase and in the garden they are visited by butterflies, bees and many other small flying insect. You may even occasionally spot a well camouflaged, bright yellow ‘flower’ spider lurking in the centre of the bloom.
Kingfisher daisies are rugged, low maintenance and water-wise evergreen perennials which are long-lived in the garden. They grow vigorously and easily, with little fuss, doing extremely well at the coast, where they tolerate strong winds. Because they revel in hot, dry climates the plants may struggle in very humid regions. Otherwise, they tolerate a wide range of temperatures, including some frost in inland gardens. In regions that experience heavy frosts Kingfisher daisies are often planted as long flowering summer annuals, or in containers which can be protected in winter; and in heavy summer rainfall regions, ensure that the soil is extremely well drained. Although these daisies love full sun, they will also grow in semi-shade. They are perfect for sandy, soils but will grow easily in any fertile soil, as long as it drains well. In very sandy soils, a generous helping of compost or other organic matter will help to conserve moisture and get the plants off to a good start. Although these plants are water-wise, in the garden they will perform best if watered moderately. An occasional feeding with a balanced plant food will keep them looking good, and a good pruning after they have finished flowering will keep them looking neat and bushy.
Established plants often self-seed easily and may be found growing nearby or at quite a distance from the original plants, these seedlings can be transplanted to a new position. Seed can also be sown in spring or early summer. The easiest method of propagating perennial Felicias is to take cuttings in spring. Select nonflowering stems and cut them just below a node. Strip off almost all of the leaves and side shoots, leaving only a couple of upper leaves. Dip the stems in some rooting powder and tap off any excess powder before planting them, up to the leaves, in a very sandy soil, with added perlite or even finely milled pine bark, which has been moistened beforehand. Cover the pot with a plastic bag or clear, cold drink bottle to help keep the cuttings moist until they root. Many cuttings can be rooted in a single pot, and when they start to grow, they are divided and planted into individual containers to grown on, until they are established enough to be planted out.
Pests & Diseases:
If grown correctly, Felicia is remarkably pest and disease free. In very humid regions it may be susceptible to fungal attacks like grey mould, and in waterlogged soil the plant may rot. Aphids can be blasted off the plants with a jet of water.
Felicia amelloides is reported to be non-toxic to humans, cats, dogs and horses.