When it comes to selecting groundcover plants that are versatile, adaptable, reliable and aesthetically pleasing, plants from the daisy (asteraceae) family tick all the boxes.
Asteraceae is a highly developed plant family including notable genera commonly used in gardens such as arctotis, gazania, osteospermum and brachyscome.
Many asteraceae plants have a rather maligned reputation for being somewhat weedy due to their prolific seed-producing capabilities and resulting weed status in some regions. However, help is at hand with plant breeders producing low-seed or sterile cultivars that pose little risk to our natural areas.
Arctotis commonly called aurora daisy, are typically derived from crosses between A fastuosa and A venusta, natives of South Africa.
Recent advances in Australian plant breeding have seen the introduction of a range of varieties of arctotis that perform extremely well under Australian conditions and have extended the range of colours to provide an exciting palette for gardeners.
The colour range is diverse with the ray florets of flowers including shades of red, yellow, pink, purple and white, often with contrasting colour at the base of florets forming a ring around the centre disk. The disk florets in the centre of flowers are often a contrasting colour of either yellow or black.
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Arctotis flowers are photosensitive and will close at night and may only partially open on cloudy days. Flowers are produced during late autumn through to spring making them a desirable addition to gardens.
Arctotis are soft wooded perennials that grow to a height of 50cm with a spread of 75cm. They are remarkably similar in appearance to gazania and for the untrained eye can be miss-identified.
Gazanias are as tough as nails and thrive in most warm climates with reasonably well-drained soil. Safe varieties include double gold, montezuma, sunset Jane and zanya.
Both arctotis and gazania perform best in a full sun position and free draining soils. They will perform well in coastal conditions and can cope with light frost. They're tolerant of extended dry periods once established, but will flower best with consistent moisture.
Arctotis prefer cooler summer conditions and flowering may slow under very hot and humid conditions depending on variety. Regular pruning of spent flowers will extend and improve flowering.
Not to be outdone, brachyscome and osteospermum are also worth considering as colourful groundcover daisies.
- John Gabriele is a horticulture teacher with a love for green spaces.