Barberton Daisy, Gerbera daisy, Rooigousblom - Gerbera jamesonii

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These South African plants are renowned around the world for their beautiful blooms borne on long stalks. Flowers can be single or double and come in an amazing array of colours; from red to orange; pink, yellow and white.  These perennials are wonderful in flower beds and make excellent edging or border plants, requiring minimal maintenance once established. They are excellent rockery plants; and because they are deep rooted, are valuable for mass plantings to prevent soil erosion.

They thrive in the summer rainfall regions; performing best in climates with warm summer days and cool nights. Although they grow best in sheltered, frost-free positions, they will tolerate some frost if the roots are well mulched in winter.  Barberton daisies are suitable for coastal regions but do not like high humidity. The soil should be extremely well drained, and mixed with plenty of organic material. In the winter rainfall regions they will require regular summer watering and extremely well drained soil. The plants can be planted in full sun to semi shade; and in extremely hot regions, some midday or afternoon shade would be appreciated. They perform best if they are watered moderately but regularly in summer; and also respond well to regular fertilising during the growing season, to promote flowering. Plants typically die back during the dry winter months and leaves begin to re-emerge in spring.

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Description, History & Interesting Facts:

These South African plants are renowned around the world for their beautiful flowers in an array of bold and pastel shades. They grow wild only in the eastern part of Mpumalanga and the southern part of the Limpopo Province; occurring in grasslands and on rocky slopes; on sandy well drained soil; in full sun or semi-shade. Its common name arose from the old gold-rush town of Barberton, where it grows in great profusion. The genus name Gerbera was given in honour of the German naturalist Traugott Gerber, and the species was named after Robert Jameson who first described it and collected live specimens while on a prospecting expedition to the Barberton district in 1884. In 1888, Medley Wood, the curator of the Durban Botanical Garden sent plants to Kew. The breeding of Gerbera started at the end of the 19th century in Cambridge, England, when Richard Lynch crossed G. jamesonii and G. viridifolia. Hundreds of hybrids have been bred over the years and most of the current commercially grown varieties originate from this cross. The flag and coat of arms of the Province of Mpumalanga include a depiction of this flower.

This perennial herb has deeply lobed leaves which sprout directly from the rootstock and are covered with silky hairs. The blooms are borne on long stalks and are available as singles or doubles, and come in an amazing array of colours; from red to orange; pink, yellow and white.  In the garden flowering occurs in spring and autumn, but for the florists trade these beauties are cultivated year round. Hairy seed clusters follow the flowers and are distributed by wind. Gerbera jamesonii grows +-45 to 55cm tall, but hybrids vary greatly in height.
 
Barberton daisies are among the best and most attractive flowers for cutting, but they should be cut a day or two before they are to be displayed, because the flowers tend to close up the night after they are cut. To make the flowers last longer you should dip the ends of their stems in boiling water after cutting, before plunging them in deep, cold water.

'Moulin Rouge''Moulin Rouge'In the Garden:

Barberton daisies are one of the most popular ornamental flowers in the world, both as a garden plant and an indoor or patio pot plant. (See under Indoor Pot Plants.)These perennials are wonderful in flower beds and make excellent edging or border plants. They require minimal maintenance once established; and because they are deep rooted, are valuable plants to use for mass plantings to prevent soil erosion. They are also excellent rockery plants; and the flowers will attract bees, butterflies and other insects to your garden.

Cultivation:

If grown in the right conditions, Barberton daisies will flower for many months through summer and into autumn; and if their needs are met they do not require a lot of care. They thrive in the summer rainfall regions; performing best in climates with warm summer days and cool nights. Although they grow best in sheltered, frost-free positions, they will tolerate some frost if the roots are well mulched in winter. Barberton daisies are suitable for coastal regions but do not like high humidity. The soil should be extremely well drained, and mixed with plenty of organic material. In the winter rainfall regions they will require regular summer watering and extremely well drained soil. In areas with less than perfect drainage it would be wise to grow them in containers, or raised beds 15 to 30 cm above ground level.

'Starlight''Starlight'The plants can be planted in full sun to semi-shade; and in extremely hot regions some midday or afternoon shade would be appreciated. Although the plants are wind tolerant, they will look at their best in a wind protected area of the garden. They perform best if watered moderately but regularly in summer; and respond well to regular fertilising during the growing season, to promote flowering. Remove dead flowers regularly to encourage further flowering.

Although it resents disturbance, after two or three years, when the plant has about six crowns and becomes overcrowded, it can be lifted for division and replanting. This is usually done in spring by gently digging up the clumps and removing the soil from around the roots by gently shaking them or by washing with water.  Cut away any damaged roots, and carefully disentangle the crowns, pulling them apart. When dividing the clumps, throw away the old woody central parts and keep only the younger divisions to replant. Cut off all the old leaves to reduce the demand on the roots for nourishment; and replant in a fresh bed, ensuring that the crown of each plant is just visible above the surface of the soil.
 
Propagation:

Barberton daisies are grown from seed sown in spring and summer and from division of the clumps, known as stools, in spring. Named hybrids can be propagated only by division, as seed from them will not breed true. Seed must be planted within two months of collection; and sown in soil temperatures of about 20 to 25°C. Use a sowing mix of one part river sand to one part loam, and if desired, one part vermiculite. Firm the mixture down well, sprinkle the seeds over the surface, and press them in gently. If you use a seed tray, cover it with a sheet of plastic or glass, with a sheet or two of newspaper on top, and put it in a warm position out of direct sunlight, until germination. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into small pots, and transplant them into the garden when they have reached a height of 15 to 20 cm; spacing them about 50 cm apart. The plants may still flower in their first season but will take 12 months to develop one or two crowns. Seed can be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date to plant out after all danger of frost is over.

Pests & Diseases:

Root rot will occur if the crowns are buried or drainage is poor. Gerbera are also prone to some viral, bacterial and fungal diseases; but if grown correctly this should not be a major problem. Watch out for thrips, aphids, mealy bug, leaf miners, spider mites and whiteflies. Slugs and snails can also be problematic. 

(See also under Indoor Pot Plants)

Additional Info

  • Common Name: Barberton Daisy
  • Latin Name: Gerbera jamesonii