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Shasta daisy – a 3-4’ hybrid perennial that gardeners are often introduced to early in their gardening lives due to its simple beauty and ease of cultivation. The familiar daisy flowers come in white and shades of yellow and buff, with a great deal of variation in the petals surrounding the traditional yellow eye. Some dwarf varieties (8-12") can grace the front of garden beds, while others sport strong, attractive foliage clumps that provide a backdrop to other blooming perennials in the garden.
Extremely cold hardy, this plant can be grown from seed or from transplanting potted 'starts'. Given moist, average conditions, Shasta daisy grows well and grows strongly, allowing the gardener to propagate it easily throughout the garden and gather many blooms for inside vases. For those who wish to see carpets of white in their meadows or along the driveway, try its cousin, the vigorous Ox-eye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) – a plant so vigorous in fact, it is prohibited in some states and must be planted with care.
Potted Shasta daisies are planted in the fall and early spring. Seeds of Shasta daisy and Oxeye daisy are sown in early winter through late spring, and can also be sown in fall. Select a sunny site for your plants or seeds with well-draining soil rich in organic matter. Protection from strong winds is also preferred as some taller varieties can flop over.
Potted plants should be planted with the crown above the soil. Seeds can be scattered at a rate of approximately 1/4 ounce/100 sq. ft. and should be left uncovered, as they need light to germinate. Tamp them down to make good soil/seed contact.
Light: Shasta daisy and ox-eye daisy do best in full sun. They can tolerate part-shade conditions, but flowering will be reduced.
Soil: Average to sandy soil works well for these daisies. Overly dry conditions will result in the plant losing vigor over the season and eventually dying out.
Spacing: 24-30 inches for plants. If spacing seeds and not broadcasting them, Shasta daisy should be spaced 6 inches apart and thinned to strong plants at least 18 inches apart. Ox-eye daisy seeds are often broadcast on disturbed soil and raked in for a more natural look.
Shasta daisies are rhizomatic and spread underneath the soil, increasing the clump size fairly quickly. Ox-eye daisies are notoriously vigorous, spreading through seed and rhizomes. Ox-eyes are considered invasive in some states and it is important to check this before planting.
Planting: Plant potted plants in fall or early spring and seeds in winter, spring, or fall.
Growth Habit: Shasta daisies have a rounded upright habit with stiff stems and single or double flowers that are held above the foliage. Flowers can also have a ‘shaggy’ appearance depending on variety. Leaves are lanceolate and serrated and in warmer climates basal foliage is often evergreen. Ox-eye daisies have smaller, single flowers and stand 18-30” tall.
Staking: Some varieties of Shasta daisy need extra staking as they will flop over in a heavy storm. Other varieties, such as 'Becky' or dwarf cultivars do just fine even during heavy weather events. Ox-eye daisies generally do not need staking.
Watering: Shasta daisy prefers regular moisture but does not like overly wet feet. It can tolerate limited periods of drought in the garden. Ox-eye daisy will tolerate drier, meadow conditions. In a partly shaded site, too much moisture after blooming can set up both plants for fungal diseases, disfiguring leaves and weakening the plants.
Fertilizing: Established plants benefit from a top dressing of compost or well-rotted manure, or a balanced fertilizer worked into the soil around the clump after division.
Mulching: Shasta daisies tend to become woody in the center and rhizomes eventually move to the surface of the soil. Rejuvenating them by dividing and applying some organic mulch is a good idea.
The seed heads of Shasta daisies are not particularly attractive and tend to 'melt' into black mush during the winter. Tidying the long stems by cutting back in the fall to basal foliage will prevent this. Foliage may stay evergreen during the winter months if you live in a warmer climate.
Trimming & Pruning: If you deadhead the plant as soon as blooms fade, you will benefit from a second and sometimes even third blooming. Make sure you do this regularly and do not wait for the plant to completely finish blooming, as you will miss your opportunity. Cut the stems down just below the foliage when deadheading.
Dividing and Transplanting: After approximately three years, you will need to divide your Shasta daisy clumps as they become woody and die out in the center. Dig up the entire clump and dispose of the woody center, making divisions out of the outer young rhizomes (two or three to a division). Replant with the soil just below the crown of the new plant.
Shasta daisy often develops little plantlets along the base of its stems. These are easily recognized by their root buds and can be removed and planted shallowly, keeping them evenly moist. They will root and make a new plant within a few weeks.
Pests & Disease: Aphids can visit the developing buds in early spring, but don’t tend to do much damage.
Additional Concerns: Some people report a strong vegetative scent emanating from Shasta daisies, but this scent is extremely minor and only perceptible when the plant is bruised or cut. It definitely shouldn't be a deal-breaker for growing this lovely perennial.
Ox-eye daisy is extremely vigorous, both by seed and by rhizome, and care should be taken when planting. Some gardeners dead-head the blossoms after blooming to prevent the daisy making its way into the gardens of neighbors.
Additional Uses: With their highly visible blossoms, Shasta and ox-eye daisies attract many insect pollinators to the garden.
Ox-eye daisies can be used medicinally in a tonic form and were mentioned in as early as 1649 in Culpepper’s The Complete Herbal.
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