In 1901, noted botanist Luther Burbank, developed the Shasta daisy by making numerous crossings of the wild daisy, Leucanthemum vulgarea. The result of his work quickly became a garden favourite and has retained high status ever since. With a sunny, well-drained spot, any gardener from beginner to expert, will find Leucanthemum x superbum (previously classified as Chrysanthemum maximum) an easy way to bring a long-blooming, butterfly-attracting perennial into the garden.
Perhaps the most difficult part of growing daisies is selecting the right variety for your garden. Alaska, one of Burbank's original crosses, is still widely popular because of its large blooms, but it is known to get up to 3 feet tall and will often flop over in a storm if not provided with support while growing. Becky and Switzerland are both sturdier versions of Alaska and although the blooms are not quite as large, they are just as beautiful.
Those craving double blooms can look to varieties like Crazy Daisy, Aglaya, Ice Star, Highland White and Esther Reed. For extended blooms, try Snow Lady or White Night. Shorter varieties include Silver Princess, Snowcap and Tinkerbelle while some of the funkier sports include Wirral Pride with its reflexed petals, Old Court with thin, feathery petals and Broadway Lights which is a pale yellow colour instead of the usual white.
Planting and Growing
Most growers purchase their daisies as plants from a nursery or garden catalogue. Be sure that the plants you order are at least a year old so they will bloom the year you plant them. Daisies are not picky about soil but enriching your planting hole with organic matter like compost or worm castings will increase the chances that it will thrive. After planting, keep the plants watered but be sure the roots are not wet all the time.
While starting seeds of the Shasta daisy is not necessarily difficult, as perennials the plants will not bloom until their second year. Starting from seed is, however, an affordable option for those looking to keep gardening costs low, or for those who desire a specific variety that may be difficult to find as a plant. Sow daisy seeds directly in the ground in the spring when the threat of frost has passed. Keep the ground moist but not wet for the first couple of weeks. When the seedlings stand about 3 inches tall, thin them out to at least 10 to 12 inches apart. Over time, Shastas will form a 2- to 3-foot mound, depending on variety, that will begin to bloom in early June.
In either case, pick a sunny, well-drained spot for planting for the best performance. Shasta daisies will tolerate some shade but they may be leggier and have a sparser or shorter bloom.
Shasta daisies will bloom most vigorously in June and July. Extending the plants bloom time involves deadheading (removing the spent blossoms) the plant. Doing so will encourage the plant to put its energy towards creating more buds and increasing the chances of having blooms through the fall. Shastas make long-lasting cut flowers so cutting some to bring in the house is a great way to keep deadheading to a minimum later.
Growing the taller varieties will require some staking as they are growing, or, alternatively, the growing tips and first set of leaves can be pinched back in mid- to late May to keep the plant's height down and to help create a bushier daisy. Pinching the plants back may delay their flowering by a few weeks but overall they will be sturdier and require less staking.
After the first frost, plants can be cut to the ground or allowed to remain in the garden. By spring, however, the plant should be cut down to its new basal growth. By the plant's second or third year, it should be divided to keep it vigorous. Dig the plant up in early spring or late fall and using a sharp spade, divide the plant into two or more divisions. These divisions can then be replanted or shared with others.
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