Gerbera daisies, also called African daisies, are an herbaceous perennial native to South Africa, Madagascar and South America. There are more than 30 species and cultivars available. Some cultivars will readily cross with other gerbera daisies and drop viable seeds, for a new, slightly different generation, in your garden. Hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9 and 10, most gardeners treat gerbera daisies as annuals, replacing them with chrysanthemums or pansies in colder weather. With care, however, you can successfully overwinter gerbera daisies indoors.
To overwinter gerbera daisies you must first grow them properly outside. Hardy in zones 9 and 10 they are grown as tender perennials or annuals in zones 8 and below. Whatever zone you live in, place your gerbera daisy in a well-drained area that receives full sun or afternoon shade. Place the plant with the crown slightly elevated above the soil, to prevent crown rot, and leave enough room around plants for air circulation as gerbera daisies are prone to powdery mildew. Remove spent blossoms and dead leaves promptly for a healthier plant. Fertilise with a general liquid plant food at half strength once a month while the plant is blooming.
In early fall, several weeks before your first frost date, select gerbera daisies to bring indoors. Choose plants that are compact, with green, healthy foliage and show no signs of disease (powdery mildew or insect infestation). Gently lift them from the soil and pot up in pots slightly larger than the root ball. Gerbera daisies prefer to be root bound, so pot selection is critical. For better drainage, fill the bottom quarter of the pot with pebbles or gravel. Use a general potting soil mixed 50/50 with perlite or vermiculite to make a fast-draining soil. You can also use compost mixed 50/50 with perlite, vermiculite or sand. Plant gerbera daisies with the crown raised slightly above the soil line. Place pots on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse. Do not fertilise over the winter months, and allow the soil to dry out slightly before watering. Mist leaves weekly to raise humidity and keep them clean. Do not wipe the leaves. Gerbera leaves are hairy, wiping them with a cloth will knock the hairs off and cause the leaves to die. Keep gerbera daisies between 12.7 and 23.8 degrees C. Plant outside in spring when all danger of frost has passed.
Winter Care for Outdoor Gerberas
In zones 9 and 10 you can safely leave your gerbera daisies in the ground to overwinter. In zone 7 and 8 gerbera daisies can be left in the ground with winter protection, although the survival rate may be low. In early fall, before your first frost, in all zones, tidy your plants by cutting leaves and flowers back to the crown. Remove mulch around the daisies and replace with fresh mulch to eliminate pests that may overwinter in the mulch. Pile straw loosely over the crown to protect from light frosts. In areas that receive heavy snows, secure a floating row cover, cut to size, over the crown of the daisies and pile straw on top of the cover. Water your plant when temperatures are above 4.44 degrees C by pulling the straw away from the crown, water the soil around and under the crown , and replace the straw. Try to water in the morning to allow foliage to dry before temperatures drop overnight. Allow the soil to dry out before watering again. In spring, when all danger of frost has passed, remove the straw (and floating row cover) and care for your gerbera daisy as normal.