Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii): History, Characteristics & Cultivation

Gerbera jamesonii is a species of flowering plant in the genus Gerbera belonging to the basal Mutisieae tribe within the large Asteraceae family. It is indigenous to South Eastern Africa and commonly known as the Barberton daisy, the Transvaal daisy, and as Barbertonse madeliefie or Rooigousblom in Afrikaans.

Gerbera jamesonii was first collected near Barberton, Mpumalanga, in South Africa in the 1880s. Named after the German botanist Traugott Gerber, the plant was first described by Robert Jameson, a Scottish naturalist and geologist, in the late 19th century. This is why the species name “jamesonii” honors his contributions.

The flower gained popularity in the late 19th century, and breeding programs in England in the 1890s enhanced its quality and color variations. The Gerbera Daisy’s popularity soon spread to growers in the Netherlands, which, along with Columbia, became the primary distributors of the flower’s cut version.

Gerbera daisies feature blooms in shades of yellow, orange, pink, white and red (jewel tones). The daisy-like flowers, the large, central disk of each flower contrasts beautifully with the radiating petals. The flowers grow on top of single, tall stems, are complemented by mounds of slightly fuzzy leaves. Gerbera is now the fifth most popular flower in the world, symbolizing innocence, purity, and cheerfulness. Its appearance has made it preferred for many occasions, from birthdays and congratulations to get well and thank you.

Gerbera daisies require about six hours of daily sunlight. Although Gerbera daisies are often grown as annuals, they are perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 to 11. It takes new Gerbera daisies about 14 to 18 weeks after planting to produce their first blooms, and then they flower reliably through summer. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall and 9 to 12 inches wide. The plant thrives in well-drained soil but can suffer when waterlogged.

Through extensive hybridization and cultivation various forms of the flower have been developed. These hybrids are not only grown for ornamental purposes but also for the cut flower industry due to their long vase life and aesthetic appeal. Plant Gerbera daisy bedding plants in the garden when all danger of spring frosts have passed.

Characteristics of Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

  • Size: Plant: 6-18 inches tall, Flowers: 3-4 inches in diameter
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Growth Form: Clumping perennial (treated as annual in some climates)
  • Leaves: Long, slightly fuzzy, arranged in a basal rosette
  • Stem: Single, leafless stem for each flower, holding the bloom 6 inches above the foliage.
  • Flower structure: Composite flower head (capitulum).
  • Flower: Large, daisy-like with single or double rows of petals in colors of (yellow, orange, white, pink, red, lavender, etc.) with a central disc in contrasting shades (yellowish, bronze, black).
  • Lifespan: Perennial (may be treated as annual depending on climate)
  • USDA Zones: 7-11 (mostly grown as annuals in colder zones)
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic, can cause irritation if ingested (keep away from pets and children)
  • Water: Moderate watering, well-drained soil is crucial to avoid root rot
  • Soil: Prefers fertile, well-draining soil with good sun exposure

Cultivation of Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

  • Planting Time: Plant in spring after the last frost for best results. In warmer climates, planting can occur in autumn.
  • Sunlight: The palnt thrives in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Make sure it receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily for the best blooms.
  • Spacing: Space plants 12-18 inches apart to allow for growth and air circulation.
  • Temperature: The plant prefers cool nights and moderate temperatures. It blooms better in early summer and autumn than in midsummer.
  • Watering: Water regularly, keeping the soil moist but not soggy. Avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot. Water in the morning to allow plants to dry out before evening.
  • Soil: Plant in well-draining soil that is slightly acidic (pH 5.5 to 6.2). A rich, organic soil mix is ideal.
  • Fertilizing: Fertilize every 2-4 weeks during the growing season (spring to autumn). Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer (e.g., 10-10-10) for general feeding. Supplement with a bloom booster high in potassium for better flowering.
  • Deadheading: Remove blooms as soon as they wilt, as deadheading prevents the plant from setting seed early in the season. To deadhead, pinch or cut the wilted bloom, along with the stem down to the next stem, bud or leaf.
  • Pruning: Trim off any dead or damaged leaves to keep the plant healthy. Thin out crowded plants to improve air circulation.
  • Mulching: Apply a light layer of mulch around the base to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Pest Control: Watch out for common pests like aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. Use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to control them.
  • Common Diseases: Common diseases include, Powdery mildew, leaf spot, root rot. Prevent with proper spacing, watering, and air circulation. Treat fungal issues with fungicides if necessary.
  • Propagation: Gerbera Daisy can be propagated by division or seeds. Divide the plant in early spring or late fall, and sow seeds in a well-draining seed-starting mix.
  • Winter Care: In USDA zones 8-11, Gerbera daisies can survive outdoors year-round. In colder zones, treat them as annuals or bring potted plants indoors before the first frost. If grown indoors, provide bright light and maintain temperatures between 55-75°F.

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