Dusty miller is the common name for several unrelated plants, all of which have grey or purple foliage covered with small, silvery hairs that makes them appear covered with silver dust. Many dusty miller plants are low-growing and popular as borders in the garden. Taller varieties may be planted, scatter-gun-style, throughout the garden to contrast and complement flowers, used as a specimen plant or massed for a showy swatch of silvery colour in the flower bed. The plants are easy to grow, sun-loving and drought-tolerant.
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Often called beach wormwood, the hairy, pale green foliage of Artemisia stelleriana is often seen in American gardens. The plant has a mounding, spreading habit and is tall enough at around 15 inches to use as a small, aromatic hedge. Hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8, this type of dusty miller can stand on its own as a specimen plant in the yard, spreading about 3 feet wide at maturity. Stelleriana produces yellow flowers in late summer.
True to its membership in the daisy family, Senecio cineraria produces small, daisy-like blooms in summer. A shorter type of dusty miller, Senecio cineraria features the lacy-looking, woolly silver leaves typical of dusty miller plants. The plant tolerates cold well but may be grown as a half-hardy perennial in mild climates. The plant may produce dark yellow, insignificant blooms in its second year. Cultivars include Silver Dust and Cirrus.
Commonly called rose campion, this version of dusty miller comes from the pink family and is a biennial in cooler areas of the country. The plant has a more upright habit than most other dusty millers, growing 2 to 3 feet tall with a spread of 1 to 1 1/2 feet. Like other dusty millers, Rose campion has woolly leaves with silvery hairs that reflect sunlight. The plant produces vibrantly coloured flowers its second season and develops seeds that sprout and flourish, keeping the garden filled with new plants. Varieties include Alba and Abbotswood Rose. The plant tolerates partial shade and dry soil, but appears healthier when watered during drought conditions. Hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8 and a perennial in USDA zones 5 through 8, rose campion grows easily from seed.
Centaurea cineraria and one of its cultivars, Colchester White, have the most fernlike foliage of any dusty miller. This sub-shrub is usually grown as an annual, but may be cultivated as a perennial in warm climates. The plants are taller than most dusty millers, and the feathery foliage adds to the impression that the plant is a fern spun with silver. Small, daisy-like flowers appear the second year and may be removed to preserve the appearance of the foliage.
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