A gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) is also known by the names Barberton or Transvaal daisy because it is native to the frost-free lands of southernmost Africa. Forming a deep taproot, the gerbera daisy resents transplanting. If provided the proper temperature and light requirements, this flowering plant grows as a perennial. Usually, gardeners allow fall frosts to kill it, and then it is replanted each spring and grown as an annual bedding plant.
Forming deep roots to gather moisture, gerbera daisy develops a basal rosette of green leaves 8 to 12 inches tall and wide. It develops into a somewhat spreading clump of plants. Each leaf is shaped like an inverse lance with deep lobed or jagged teeth on the edges. On the leaf underside, there are fine woolly hairs and the colour is a lighter green. Large daisy flowers, 3 to 5 inches across, appear singularly atop a sturdy stem, 10 to 18 inches tall, anytime from spring to fall. In their native habitat, gerbera daisies bloom in spring, rest in summer and again flower in fall.
In a garden setting, gerbera daisies persist as evergreen perennials as long as frosts or freezes aren't too severe and kill the underground roots. The roots create additional sprouting pup plants at the base of a mother plant to vegetatively reproduce. After insects pollinate the flowers, seeds drop to the ground and germinate. Extreme cold or excessive drought kills these plants.
Gerbera daisies grow outdoors in subtropical climates where winter frosts don't occur or are very light and weather isn't too wet. These conditions correlate to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones nine through 11. They may be grown as seasonal annuals and discarded after flowering. Where not hardy outdoors, production greenhouses grow potted daisies to sell as florist gift plants or houseplants. They also make exceptional cut flowers for vases and mixed bouquets.
Growing Gerbera Daisies
Whether grown as an annual or perennial, gerbera daisies prosper in a full-sun to lightly shaded garden setting. The soil needs to have moderate fertility and must be well-drained, such as sand or loose loam. Too much water leads to root and stem rot. During the heat of summer, water to keep soil evenly moist and fertilise with a balanced formula of liquid fertiliser. This feeding encourages plant growth and increased flower production, especially after the hottest temperatures in midsummer. If hardy outdoors, dig and divide plant clumps in early spring; sow seeds in autumn or early spring when the soil temperature hovers around 12.8 to 17.8 degrees Celsius.