South Africa Plant LifeThe Gerbera daisy
The popular South African Gerbera brightens up homes, offices and event venues with its cheerful flowers and vibrant colours, and is a popular choice for weddings. The Gerbera belongs to the Asteraceae family, which is the same family to which the happy sunflower belongs.
Gerbera is an annual grower that is a stunning addition to any vase, arrangement and garden. There are about 30 different Gerbera species, which differ in colour and size and make for a fascinating array of blooms.
The large, vibrant colours of the Gerbera are available in a wide range of colours. These include red, pink, orange, yellow and white; making them particularly versatile and attractive for a range of applications.
Each flower has its own long, elegant stem leading to a clustered capitulum, which can accommodate hundreds of individual flowers. The largest blooms reach about 12 centimetres in diameter, while the smallest are about seven centimetres. The plant reaches about 30 centimetres in height and 60 centimetres in width.
Gerberas favour warm to hot weather with moist, but not overly wet, soil. They are found all over South Africa, providing that the area does not get too cold. They usually flower between November and May (summer and spring, stretching into the warmer parts of winter).
Use in the garden
Gerberas attract insects, including bees and butterflies. These, in turn, attract beautiful birds that want to feed on the insects, making them real treasures for any residential garden or in public areas. They grow well in pots and make pretty borders for flower beds.
In the wild, Gerbera daisies can be found in Africa, Asia and South America. The Barberton Daisy is particularly common in the hotter parts of South Africa and is widely cultivated for the local and international markets. (See our article "Cockney Liz - The Lady Who Gave The Barberton Daisy Its Name").
Growing Gerbera in your garden
Gerberas are best planted as seedlings, rather than seeds. This is because the flower resulting from a seed may not reflect the colour expected and take far longer to flower. They prefer full sun with relatively sandy soils that are well-drained, as opposed to clay-type soils. None of the stem should be planted under the soil as it will rot and the plant will die.
Gerberas should be fertilised on a regular basis (about once or twice a month), and wilting flowers should be removed. In rainy seasons, do not water them as often, as the soil should not become saturated. They can be grown in pots or containers too. They do well in the heat, but do not handle the cold well.
Crowns should be split using a knife, dead roots removed and the flowers replanted immediately after splitting for effective propagation. Gardeners are advised not to attempt growing Gerberas from seed. However, if necessary, it is possible and rewarding when successful.
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