If you’re looking for a low-maintenance, dependable flower that’s sure to bring positivity and cheer to your garden year after year, look no further than the humble yet delightful Daisy! Versatile, low maintenance, and effortlessly elegant, they are beloved by florists, gardeners, and wildlife alike. Find out how exactly to nurture them from seed to bloom with our ultimate guide to daisies!
What are Daisies?
Asteraceae is a family of over 20,000 annual, biennial, and perennial herbaceous flowering plants which are often known vernacularly as Daisies. Endemic across every continent except Antarctica, daisies grow in a vast array of climates, altitudes, and habitats, from tropical forests to arid deserts to woodlands, to urban metropolises. Daisies have such a wide and varied distribution because of their versatile and resilient nature, able to adapt to, and thrive in, wet, dry, hot, cold, elevated, and low-lying conditions.
The earliest fossil evidence of daisy pollen dates back around 80 million years ago, to the Late Cretaceous period, meaning that daisies grew whilst dinosaurs walked the Earth.
Most types of daisies are easily recognised by their central disk florets which are surrounded by a dense ray of petals. The central disk floret is made up of many tiny, densely packed, individual flowers, giving it a fuzzy, pom-pom-like appearance. Daisy flowers protrude individually from a single stem, ranging in height from just a couple of centimetres to several feet depending on the species.
We often think of daisies as the classic yellow-centred, white-petalled petite flowers that we used to make daisy chains in our childhood, but daisies come in a rainbow spectrum of colours, shapes, and sizes. Most daisies are single-flowered, which, coupled with their wide-open structure, makes them a firm favourite of many pollinating insects who can easily access their precious pollen.
What do Daisies Symbolise?
The vernacular name ‘Daisy’ is taken from the Old English dæges ēage, meaning ‘days eye’, in reference to how the flowers close up at dusk and open up again when the sun rises at dawn. The family name ‘Asteraceae’ originates from the Classical Latin and Ancient Greek aster, meaning ‘star’. This is because of the star-shaped petal formation typical of most species of daisy.
As such a ubiquitous flower the world over, it’s no surprise that daisies are heavily symbolic.
Daisies are often thought to represent simplicity and humility because of their understated beauty. White-petalled daisies symbolise purity, innocence, and childbirth. A bouquet of daisies is often given as a gift to new parents. The cheerful aesthetic of daisy flowers means that they also symbolise positivity, happiness, and joy.
Throughout history, many cultures and civilisations have attached important meanings to daisy flowers.
In Norse mythology, daisies were the favourite flower of Freya, the Goddess of Love, and were thought to symbolise motherhood, fertility, and unconditional love.
In Christianity, daisies have long been connected to the Virgin Mary, thought to represent her innocence, chastity, and purity.
Best Types of Daisy to Grow
Offering over 20,000 varieties, there’s a member of the daisy family to suit every garden and every gardener. From dramatic, vivid-hued showstoppers to dainty and elegant blooms, here’s our pick of the best varieties to have a go at growing in your own garden.
The English Daisy (Bellis perennis), otherwise known as the ‘true daisy’ is the quintessential flower that springs to mind for many of us when we think of daisies. Famed for their petite size, most species of English daisies produce white and pink-tinged petals framing a sunshine yellow centre, although there are several more elaborate, double-flowered varieties.
Despite their name, English daisies are not limited to England. They can be found growing wild across Europe, America, Asia, and beyond. English Daisies are generally biennial, living and blooming for two seasons. They can tolerate a range of soil types, light levels, and moisture levels, making them one of the most resilient, hardy, and adaptable varieties of daisies to grow.
Oxeye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) are native to Europe, where they are found abundantly in woodlands, meadows, and arid areas. Usually reaching around two feet tall, Oxeye daisies typically produce white and yellow blooms long throughout summer and often into Autumn.
Known for their exceptional drought tolerance, Oxeye daisies are the perfect choice for a low-maintenance garden. They need a position with plenty of full sun and don’t tolerate shade very well. Excellent for pollinators, consider planting Oxeye daisies in a wildflower or wildlife garden.
Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum) emerged as a hybridisation of Oxeye and other daisy varieties. They take their name from the snow-covered Mount Shasta in California, because of their classic snow-white petals. These are some of the tallest varieties of daisies, often growing up to four feet tall and producing flowers that look like an enlarged copy of the traditional white and yellow English daisy, although there are now many different coloured cultivars available.
They are typically low maintenance, but they don’t like wet roots or waterlogged soil, so avoid planting Shasta daisies in heavy soil or rainy climates. They will produce the most abundant blooms in full sun positions.
Gerbera Daisies, (Gerbera L.) also known as African daisies, comprise a vibrant and diverse group of daisies with huge, brightly coloured flowers, ranging from white to orange to red to pink to purple. These highly ornate flowers are a firm favourite in bouquets and flower arrangements.
Originating in South Africa, Gerbera daisies are tender perennials. Unlikely to survive through winter in most northern climates, they should be treated as an annual. Gerberas are more shade-tolerant than other varieties of daisy and will flourish in dappled sunlight.
Gloriosa Daisies (Rudbeckia hirta) are sometimes known as ‘black-eyed Susan’ because of their dark-coloured central disks framed by sunny yellow, fiery orange, or deep rust-coloured petals. Their statuesque height coupled with their striking blooms makes them a sure show-stopper in any border.
These daisies love a position with plenty of direct sunlight but will struggle in very poor soils, so add a little nutrient-rich organic matter before planting Gloriosa daisies.
Michaelmas Daisies (Aster amellus) get their name because of their tendency to produce late summer blooms which coincide with the Christian festival of Michaelmas. They produce delicate violet or white coloured flowers with a mass of elegant, slender petals framing yellow central discs.
Michaelmas daisies prefer a full sun position and with the right care, will continue flowering long into autumn. They are a particularly robust daisy, able to withstand freezing winter temperatures so are perfect for colder climates.
Marguerite Daisies (Argyranthemum frutescens) originate from the Canary Island regions of Spain and offer bold, vivid blooms in yellow, fuchsia, and purple hues. They will continue to bloom from spring right through to late summer. Acclimatised to the warm conditions of their native Spain, these daisies are usually grown as an annual in northern climates.
Marguerites like a position with full sun. They will produce plenty of dense, shrub-like foliage so make sure they have plenty of room in a border or container.
Echinacea Daisies (Echinacea), are also known as coneflowers. They are unique amongst daisies in that the central disk of their flowers protrudes in a semi-spherical or conical shape, whilst other varieties tend to have flat central disks. Native to the Americas, Echinacea daisies have long found purpose as an ingredient in traditional and herbal medicines thanks to their immune system-boosting properties.
Available in a variety of bright colours from whites to pinks to oranges, this hardy daisy is adaptable to a variety of growing conditions and soil types, although they will struggle to produce flowers if they are grown in heavy shade.
Painted Daisies (Tanacetum coccineum) are prized for their brightly coloured blooms which are easily deserving of their artistic name. Originating in Europe and Asia, these pretty daisies will bloom from midsummer to autumn, providing a dazzling display of Scarlett, fuchsia, purple, or yellow petals. They are a mid-sized variety, usually reaching around two or three feet tall.
Painted daisies prefer full sun, but will still produce beautiful blooms in partial shade. They like relatively moist, but not wet, soil, although they can tolerate short periods of drought.
Swan River Daisies (Brachyscome iberidifolia) are a delicate and dainty variety that originates from the hot climate of Australia. They produce a delightful abundance of small violet and blue-hued blooms all throughout summer.
Swan River daisies are tolerant of almost any soil type and are particularly drought-hardy. They are also one of the more robust varieties of daisy, able to thrive in harsh winds and coastal climates.
How to grow and care for daisies
Whatever variety of daisy you decide to grow, most of them are incredibly low-maintenance, making them ideal for beginner gardeners and busy lives. Although the individual care requirements of your chosen species may vary slightly, the basic requirements will remain the same. Here are the fundamentals of growing beautiful, blooming daisies.
Starting from mature plants
Mature daisy plants can be purchased from just about every garden centre and nursery. They are the best option if you want guaranteed blooms during their first summer. In late spring or early summer, find a suitable position in the garden for your new daisy plant, preferably somewhere with full sun. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot your daisy currently lives in. Transplant your daisy from the pot to its new hole and fill the space around the rootball with soil. Ensure you leave one or two feet distance between other plants as daisies have vigorous roots which like to spread. Water your daisy thoroughly, and continue lightly watering once per week until it becomes well established.
Starting from seed
Growing from seed is a great, cost-effective alternative to purchasing mature plants, especially if you want to grow daisies in large volumes, but be mindful that you will have to be patient. Most seed-grown daisies won’t produce any flowers until their second year.
Seeds are best sown in the spring after the final frost has passed, although some varieties can be sown in autumn. You can sow them directly into their intended position, which should be a fairly sunny spot. Scatter the seeds loosely and cover them with a layer of soil that is thin enough for sunlight to penetrate, since daisies need light to germinate. Water the soil well and keep it evenly moist until your daisies have germinated.
Seedlings are perfectly happy in pots, beds, or borders. You can even scatter smaller species seeds such as English Daisies over an existing lawn to form part of a vibrant tapestry lawn that will boost biodiversity and visual interest in your garden. Just remember to keep the lawn lightly moist until the seeds germinate.
Alternatively, you can start your seeds off indoors around eight weeks before the last frost is due. Sow the seeds thinly in trays filled with a loose substrate. Cover the seeds with a very thin layer of soil and place the tray in a sunny position. Keep the substrate lightly and evenly moist until germination occurs, usually around one to three weeks after sowing. Once the last frost has passed you can begin acclimatising your daisy seedlings to outdoor conditions over a couple of weeks. Once fully acclimatised, they can be planted in their permanent position outdoors.
Daisies like loose, well-draining soil that will allow their vigorous root systems to breathe and spread easily. They need a relatively fertile substrate to produce larger and more abundant flowers, so work in plenty of nutrient-rich organic matter before planting. If you have heavy clay soils you may want to incorporate some additional drainage materials like gravel or perlite since daisies don’t tolerate waterlogged soil. A slightly acidic pH level is best for thriving daisies.
Most species of daisy prefer a position with at least six hours of full sun per day, although they are a fairly undemanding plant, and will still produce blooms even in semi-shade. Some of the more sun-loving varieties tend to become tall and spindly if positioned in shade though, as they stretch out to find more sunlight.
Well-established daisies are relatively drought tolerant and are usually content with the natural rain cycle, so long as it provides around an inch of water per week. That being said, pay extra attention to daisies during prolonged periods of drought or extreme heat. If they become wilted, they may not recover, so an increased watering schedule during the height of summer might be necessary. Seedlings and young plants will usually need a light, weekly watering, which can be reduced as they become established.
Overwatered daisies can become spindly and leggy, causing their stems to collapse. They are also prone to root-rot if the soil is regularly oversaturated, so always allow the top couple of inches of soil to dry out between waterings. Daisies generally don’t need to be watered at all during winter.
Daisies should be fertilised monthly during the growing and flowering season of late spring through to early autumn. An all-purpose, balanced fertiliser is best for all-around vigour and health, but you can encourage bigger and better flowers by adding extra phosphorous just before blooming.
Some larger daisy varieties can become quite top-heavy and unstable as they mature, producing disproportionately large blooms compared to their spindly stems. If you find this is the case with your daisies, you may want to give them some extra support in the form of a stake. Insert a bamboo cane vertically near the base of your daisy plant. Using string or garden twine, loosely tie any wobbly stems to the stake to prevent them from toppling over.
Daisies should be deadheaded regularly throughout the flowering season to promote new growth. Each individual daisy flower will bloom for around ten days. Snip off any dead or fading flowers to extend a second or even third lot of flowers long into autumn.
Daisies are prolific self-seeders and their seeds will start to drop during late summer and early autumn, expanding their population throughout your garden naturally. If, however, you prefer to have a little more control over the position of your daisies, you can easily propagate through division. This is best done in the autumn when the plant has finished flowering. Dig up the entire plant and rinse off the soil from the root ball. You can then divide the roots and their offshoots into new, individual plants which can be positioned anywhere you like.
Daisies grow fast and their root systems spread quickly, so you will probably need to divide your daisy plant every two or three years to keep it manageable. Remember to deadhead any late-season blooms before they go to seed if you want to avoid unruly self-seeding.
Overwintering methods for daisies differ depending on the species you choose to grow. Often, your local climate will influence the longevity of your daisies. Some are tough and tolerate very low temperatures, whilst others are less hardy and should be treated as annuals unless you live in a particularly warm climate. Simply dig up and discard any tender daisies once they begin to perish in late autumn.
Perennial daisies, on the other hand, will return year after year with the correct care. After all the blooms have faded, cut each stem right back to the leaves. Mulch around the base of the stems to protect from frost and weeds over the winter. In spring, new foliage and flowers should emerge.
Are daisies toxic?
Most daisies aren’t toxic and don’t pose a risk to humans or animals. In fact, some species are edible and many species of daisy have been important ingredients in traditional medicines for millennia.
How long do daisies live?
The lifespan of your daisies depends on whether they are an annual, biennial, or perennial variety in your local climate. Annual varieties will live for one season, biennials for two, and perennials will likely survive for several years with the correct care.
Can I grow daisies indoors?
Tender varieties may be treated as houseplants and grown indoors, whilst hardier varieties like English daisies might struggle to adapt to indoor conditions. Even the hardiest daisies make excellent cut flowers though, and Gerbera varieties can last for up three weeks in a flower arrangement.
There really isn’t a more resilient, versatile, or cheerful flower to grow than a daisy. Perfect for cottage gardens, wildflower meadows, and tapestry lawns, these effortless, humble plants are guaranteed to bring pollinators, positivity, and peace to your garden!