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Like our rainbow nation, African Daisies now come in an array of beautiful colours.

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Osteospermum Flowerpower 'Spider Pink' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum Flowerpower 'Spider Pink' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaAfrican daisies continue to rise in popularity, and today they are available in garden centres countrywide, in a wide selection of varieties and new cultivars, thanks to plant breeders who continue to expand their funky colour palette, and unique petal shapes, which vary by variety, and can be lance-like, broadly ovate and smooth, toothed or lobed. The flowers of these garden hybrids are so striking that you may even wonder if they’ve been dyed or painted, and their central disks look as if they have been coloured with metallic paint. Hybrids are also selected for their long blooming time, and can flower through spring, summer and autumn. So, by selecting a variety of these daisies you can extend their blooming time, and who wouldn’t want to do that - these gorgeous indigenous beauties are not only tough and water-wise, their startlingly beautiful flowers are renowned and sought after, the world over.

Osteospermum Akila 'Mixed' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum Akila 'Mixed' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum Akila 'Mixed' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaDimorphotheca is a member of the Asteraceae family, one of the largest families of flowering plants in the world. Family members are characterised by daisy-type flowers, like the well-known sunflowers, blackjacks, and cosmos. There are about 19 species occurring in southern Africa, Angola and Zimbabwe, with 7 occurring in Namaqualand. Asters occur from elevations of 3000m to sea-level, and in a variety of landscapes ranging from afromontane, karroid and arid to subtropical coastal belts and grasslands. 

All South Africans know and love our annual Namaqualand or African Daisies (Dimorphotheca sinuata) which grow naturally in the winter rainfall regions of the country, usually in sandy places in Namaqualand and also in Namibia, carpeting the bare ground in early spring, and drawing visitors from near and far to witness their abundance of brilliant orange or yellow flowers. The White Namaqualand Daisy or Ox-eye Daisy (Dimorphotheca pluvialis) is another attractive spring flowering annual related to the African daisy, which is always one of the first spring annuals to burst into bloom at Kirstenbosch, and in the countryside, huge fields are covered with this dazzling, bright white daisy. However, although this family contains annuals, it consists predominantly of herbaceous plants, and it is these evergreens like Dimorphotheca jucunda and Dimorphotheca ecklonis which plant breeders have been concentrating on, resulting in the exciting hybrids we know today.

Osteospermum 3D Silver Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum 3D Silver Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum 3D Silver Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaTrailing Daisy, Bergbietou, Bloubietou, umasigcolo nkonekazi, u-Mesigcolo-nkonekazi (Dimorphotheca jucunda) (= Osteospermum jucundum) must be our most popular daisy – even the species name, jucunda, is derived from the Latin word jucundus, meaning pleasing, delightful or lovely. In the wild it is a beautiful, erect to sprawling evergreen perennial, which grows in sandy soil, among quartzite rocks on mountain slopes and mountain grasslands; from Limpopo through Mpumalanga, Swaziland, eastern Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho and the Eastern Cape. The wild flowers are a vibrant purple above and coppery-orange below, but modern hybrids are available in inspiring shades of wine-red, white, pink, yellow, and terracotta. Its main flowering season is in late winter to spring, and again in early autumn, but some flowers can be found on the plants throughout the year. In the garden it generally grows about 30cm tall and spreads about 50cm, and is hardy to moderate frost, once established.

Blue-eyed Daisy, White Daisy Bush, Rankbietou, Bergbietou (Dimorphotheca fruticosa) (=Osteospermum fruticosum) is closely related to D. jucundum, and an excellent coastal plant that can be found growing in Malmesbury, Caledon, Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal. This daisy is a tough, spreading, perennial ground cover that bears purple daisy-like flowers. It is also available in a form that has white flowers with lilac centres, and mauve on the reverse of the petals. It starts flowering in spring and keeps blooming for many months. It is very drought tolerant, but will not tolerate much frost.

Osteospermum Serenity 'Rose Magic' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum Serenity 'Rose Magic' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum Serenity 'Rose Magic' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaCape Marguerite, Van Staden's River Daisy, Sundays River Daisy, Kaapse Magriet, Jakkalsbos (Dimorphotheca ecklonis) (=Osteospermum ecklonis) is endemic to a small area in the Humansdorp, Port Elizabeth, and Uitenhage districts in the Eastern Cape, where it commonly grows in sandy soil, on steep slopes or at the base of cliffs. It forms a rounded to sprawling shrub up to 1m tall, with an equal spread; and is fast growing, frost hardy and drought resistant. The flowers are sparkling white on the upper side, and light blue or violet on the lower side, with dark blue or purple centres. The peak flowering time is in spring but some flowers are always present on the plants throughout summer, and a collection of these plants in full bloom is quite sensational.

Ox-eye Daisy, Cape Marigold, Namaqualand Daisy, African Daisy, Jakkalsbossie (Dimorphotheca tragus) is endemic in the Northern and Western Cape Provinces, occurring on sandy, rocky hills and mountain slopes in the Richtersveld, Namaqualand, Klipkoppe and Knersvlakte, and it is also found in the Calvinia area. This spreading perennial herb grows about 20 to 45cm tall, and in spring and early summer it produces white, or yellow to orange daisy flowers, with a purple central disc, putting on a breath-taking show when planted in groups. It tolerates frost and drought, as well as dry and windy environments, making it perfect for water-wise gardens.  

Osteospermus Serenity 'Red' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermus Serenity 'Red' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermus Serenity 'Red' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaRain Flower, White Bietou, Karoo Bietou, Reënblom, Witbietou, Karoobietou (Dimorphotheca cuneata) is widely distributed in arid and semi-arid regions of the Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo, and southern Grassland biomes. Its geographic range is from Touws River in the south, and north to Springfontein in the southern Free State. The species extends from Caltizdorp in the east to Springbok in the west. In early spring and summer this hardy perennial produces an abundance of predominantly white to orange flowers with yellow centres, but occasionally pink flowers occur. The plant grows into an erect, bushy little shrub up to 1m tall, but in garden cultivation it can reach a height of 1.5m.  It is frost hardy, and because its semi-fibrous root system which can go as deep as 1m, it is very drought resistant, and ideal for water-wise gardens.

In the Garden:

No matter which species of Dimorphotheca you select, rest assured that you have made a wise decision, because these Asters are renowned for their hardiness, growing extremely well at the coast, where they tolerate strong winds and sandy soils, as well as inland. And, because their fibrous root system goes deep, they are drought hardy, and able to withstand veld fires. They are also wonderful to attract butterflies and bees to the garden.

The upright species are delightful in the flower border, making the greatest impact when planted in groups; and the spreading evergreen species can be used as a border for the flower garden, to line pathways, or in a rockery where they can cascade over the rocks. Their trailing habit also makes them ideal subjects for hanging baskets and pots located in full sun. They are also hardy groundcovers, and perfect candidates for stabilising sandy soils on embankments.

Osteospermum Voltage White. Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum Voltage White. Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum Voltage White. Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaCultivation/Propagation:

Because Dimorphotheca species occur from elevations of 3000m to sea-level, and in a variety of landscapes, from arid to subtropical, tolerating drought and surviving in dry and windy environments, they are perfect for exposed coastal gardens, and ideal for water-wise gardens. Some are hardy to frost and grow very well inland, while others are tender to frost, so consult with your local garden centre to find those most suitable for your climatic region.

These daisies revel in full sun, and their blooms will only open fully in the blazing sun, so always plant them in as much sunshine as you can. They thrive in chalky soils, where they survive on very little water, but will adapt to most garden soils which have perfect drainage. To keep them looking at their best in the garden, water judiciously during prolonged dry spells. And, although these plants require very little attention, an occasional feeding will often reward you with an extra flush of flowers.

If the plants are pruned immediately after flowering, they will remain neat and tidy, but after a couple of years the plants will get very woody and unattractive, and will need replacing.  

Some species grow easily from seed, and the spreading evergreen types grow quickly from cuttings, or rooted runners which are easily removed from the mother plant.

Osteospermum Flowerpower 'Blue' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum Flowerpower 'Blue' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaOsteospermum Flowerpower 'Blue' Picture courtesy www.ballstraathof.co.zaProblems, Pests & Diseases:

If grown correctly, these plants are not affected by garden pests and diseases, making them perfect for eco-conscious gardeners.

Warning:

Dimorphotheca pluvialis is listed as non-toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, but some species are known to produce prussic acid and are toxic to livestock, especially sheep. For this reason, keep small children and pets away from these plants.

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