Want to add colour to your succulent garden? Don’t know what to plant in your sandy soil? Looking for a flowering groundcover that you can almost forget about? The answer to all these garden questions is simple: gazanias.
They are our most heat- and drought-tolerant indigenous flowers, and come in a dazzling colour range that beautifully complements the silvery, blue-green, maroon and orangey-yellow leaves of most succulents.
The open, daisy-like flowers add a depth of colour as many are bold, with stripes or deeper-coloured and dark-ringed centres. They are a magnet for bees and butterflies, providing pollen in summer, which most succulents do not because they are autumn and winter flowering.
Because they grow in poor soil and need good drainage, gazanias are ideal for seaside gardens, and the new hybrids are compact, bulkier plants that stand up to the salty wind.
Hydro-zoning is the new term of grouping plants according to their water needs, and gazanias can be used as a bright border for other dry garden plants like vincas, verbenas, coreopsis, salvias, cinerarias, arctotis and gerberas. Don’t be shy to plant lots of gazanias because they show up best when planted en masse.
The new cultivars have larger flowers on shorter stems and stay open for longer. Plants are neat and compact, with a spread and garden height of 20 – 25cm. For showy containers or window boxes, pot up a gazania mix of bronze shades, tiger stripes or pink, white and rose stripes (this variety is known as ‘Strawberry Shortcake’).
- Gazanias grow best in full sun and will tolerate poor soil. For better performance prepare the soil with added compost for good drainage and fertility. Mix in 3:1:5 or 5:1:5 fertiliser or an organic pelletised fertiliser, or well-rotted manure.
- The two things gazanias don’t like are over-watering and shade. In summer they can be watered once a week, and in winter at least once a month, depending on the temperatures.
- Gazanias in pots will need more water than those in the ground. Make sure that the water drains and doesn’t collect in a saucer.
- Gazania blooms are not ‘self-cleaning’, so it is a good idea to deadhead for an extended show of flowers. They perform adequately without feeding but an application of fertiliser in spring and again in autumn will increase their flowering.
Annuals or perennials?
Gazanias can be grown as a short-lived perennial. The optimum timespan is probably two years because after that they start to become lanky and lacking in vigour. It’s not worth cutting them back because they grow from the centre and this treatment will not regenerate them.
Did you know?
A common name for gazanias is treasure flower. The plant was named after Theodore of Gaza, a Greek theologian. In Greek, ‘gaza’ means riches, and it is thought that this may have led to its nickname. Without doubt, it is a garden treasure.