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Easy to grow Shasta Daisies

The mid-summer blooms of Shasta Daisies make them a backbone plant for the perennial garden.

The mid-summer blooms of Shasta Daisies make them a backbone plant for the perennial garden.

The simple white flowers with yellow button centres are a symbol of purity and are perfect for cutting. Easy to grow, they are a favourite for beginner flower gardeners and are effective when planted in small groups.

Just over 100 years ago, horticulturalist Luther Burbank introduced his Shasta Daisy to the world. Burbank had spent 17 years creating the hybrid he named for the pure white snow on Mount Shasta that Burbank could see from his garden.
Burbank admired the fresh white flowers and yellow eye of the wild Oxeye Daisies. He wanted to create a garden version of the plant that would be good for cutting as well as the perennial border.

The Shasta Daisy of today was the result of crossing the Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) with English field daisies (Leucanthemum maximum) and then crossing the best selections from that match with the Portuguese field daisy (Leucanthemum lacustre). After six years of selectively breeding within this pool, Burbank added the pollen of Japanese field daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum), for its pure white flowers.

Until recently, Shasta Daisies were considered members of the Chrysanthemum family. But the daisies’ lack of fragrance and hairless stems caused them to be recently reclassified to Leucanthemum, the Sunflower family.

Shasta Daisies come in several varieties, single or double petals, dwarf to tall. They bloom over a long period, from early summer until fall, forming tidy clumps from 60cm to 90cm tall and up to 60cm across. The bright flowers contrast nicely with the glossy, dark green foliage, livening up any garden bed. The flowers are also suitable for cutting.

The mid-summer blooms of Shasta daisies make them a backbone plant for the perennial garden. Other plants that will go well with Shasta Daisies include Scabiosa or Veronica. Scabiosa blooms almost all summer, as does Shasta Daisy, so the combination will last a long time. You could also try a red-and-white combination for dramatic effect, by planting Red Salvia in front of the daisies. Campanulas, Daylilies, Dianthus, Coreopsis, Siberian Iris and Marigolds are all good planting companions for Shasta Daisies

This plant is easy enough to grow for a beginner yet important enough in garden design that experts include them in many perennial borders.

Daisies like rich, fast draining soil, ample water and lots of sunshine. However, they are hardy and will tolerate poor soil conditions and partial shade. Work some old animal manure or compost into the soil to help promote abundant blooms.

Shasta Daisies are easy to start from seed. In areas with long growing seasons, seeds can be sown directly into the garden, covered lightly and kept well watered until the first true leaves appear.

Indoors, sow seed sparsely on a seed starting medium. Germination rates for fresh Shasta Daisy seed are very high and separating plants at transplant time will be easier if they are not too thickly sown.

As perennials, it will take seed-started Shasta Daisy plants two years to bloom.
For quicker blooming plants, transplant from divisions of older plants. Shasta Daisies multiple rapidly and will require dividing every few years to keep them blooming robustly.

Shasta Daisies are a hardy perennial that grows well in Zones 4 -9 in the US.

Plant in spring, spacing plants 30cm to 60cm apart, depending on the variety. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 30cm to 40cm, then mix in a 5cm to 10cm layer of compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.

For shallow-rooted Shasta Daisies, mulching is essential. Spread a 5cm layer of some organic material such as wood chips, shredded bark or chopped leaves from your garden on the soil over their roots. This mulch helps to control weeds, conserves soil moisture, and keeps soil from splashing up on the flowers during the bloom period. In winter, after you have cut back dead stems, add another 25mm or so of mulch over the dormant plants to buffer the soil against severe winter temperatures.

Shasta Daisies are relatively carefree. Pinch back the tips of the stems of young standard types when they grow to about 15cm to encourage bushiness. Flowers will be a bit smaller, but more numerous. Cutting off dead flowers will extend their bloom period. Stake tall varieties to keep them upright.

After the first killing frost, cut stems back to 3cm above the soil line.

Divide plants every 3 to 4 years as new growth begins in the spring, lifting plants and dividing them into clumps.