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Gazania — an easy to grow gem from Africa

 

Indigenous gazanias growing in their native habitat endure poor soil, baked conditions and drought and still produce boldly coloured flowers.

Indigenous gazanias growing in their native habitat endure poor soil, baked conditions and drought and still produce boldly coloured flowers.

 

Gazania, a flamboyant, variable and versatile plant is the trademark of the unique country landscapes in Namaqualand (the wild flower region in South Africa’s western extremities) and the pride of the flower route in South Africa.

This genus of 16 species of annual and perennial daisies in the family Asteraceae hails mostly from South Africa, with one species extending the range to the tropics. They feature lovely showy flowers, which are large and brightly colored, and in favorable climates they can be relied upon to flower over a long period — in the southern Hemisphere from August till January reaching a peak in October and November. The species usually produce yellow or orange flowers, but the plants seen in cultivation are mainly hybrids and there are countless color forms and seedling strains.

For South Africans wanting to be true to the indigenous species. it is very rewarding using different species such as Gazania krebsiana, G. lichtensteinii, G. rigida, and some of the common varieties such as G. rigens var. leucolaena and var. rigens.

Gazanias may grow as perennials in their native Africa, but in frost-prone areas they're raised from seed as annual bedding plants with an exotic touch.

Gazanias may grow as perennials in their native Africa, but in frost-prone areas they're raised from seed as annual bedding plants with an exotic touch.

Most Gazania species and cultivars are low-growing, near-evergreen, clump-forming or carpeting plants. They are therefore aptly referred to as tufted groundcovers and many individuals together may give a rather mat-like appearance, a sight that is magnifivent when in bloom.They quickly develop into small clumps of narrow lance-shaped leaves that can be downy and lobed near the base, often with lighter colored undersides. Their showy flowers, which appear throughout the warmer months, are large, brightly colored, often interestingly marked, and the ray florets tend to be darker at the base, with a contrastingly colored central disc. Gazanias are a little like ostespermums in that the flowers tend to close on dull, cool days. Once things warm up again and the clouds disperse they open up quickly – just think of it as nature’s way of making the flowers last longer.

The gazania flower grows easily in full sun, but can also do well in part-shade so long as they see a majority of sun during the day. Caring for these plants is very easy as they require very little in the way of watering or fertilising and they don’t attract many pests. They are one of the ultimate waterwise plants and they flower prolifically.
The plants are relatively short-lived, up to about three years depending on various conditions.

PROPAGATION

If you plan to propagate gazanias there are three possible ways to do this. Firstly, through collecting and planting their seeds. This is easy to do by shaking the dried flowers onto a sheet of white paper and separating the seeds from the spent flowerhead. Sow these into seedling trays and plant out in early spring. If sowing seeds in situ, sow just after the last frost at a depth of about 3mm. Space the plants at 20 to 40cm apart depending upon the size of the Gazania variety. The plants should grow in a sunny part of the garden that has a light sandy soil and a slightly acidic to neutral pH (5.5 to 7).

The second method is through soft tip cuttings taken from the plant. If you decide to use this method then make sure you use plant material that hasn’t already started producing a flower.

The third and final method is the one I think is by far the most successful. This is through clump division taken by dividing the plants where they form clumps. Providing you divide the gazanias well you should find that this method has much more success and will provide plants far quicker than the other two methods.

Gazania is pollinated by a number of insects: bees, bee flies, beetles, butterflies and ants, have all been seen visiting its bright flowers. This is another reason why they are able to thrive in most environments, as they do not have any specific pollinators.

Gazania is one of those plants that adapt extremely quickly to its environment and therefore is able to survive and multiply easily compared to other plants. In the very dry summer months the plants shrivel and all that is visible is a few very dry, curly leaves. Under these conditions the plants may look dead to the observer, but in fact it is minimising its exposure to the hot sun and saving water loss through its leaves. The woolly underside of the leaves often points upwards and in so doing may help cool the plant down a little. As soon as the rain arrives, plants respond rapidly and the whole plant body swells up and becomes a lush green with leaves erect and the formation of flower buds.

POSSIBLE PROBLEMS

Damp conditions cause grey mould.