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Gardening From Southern California

by Gerald Burke
by Gerald Burke


Gerald Burke is a freelance travel and horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association

June 17, 2007

Melampodium might be a lot more popular if it had a catchier name. It’s a good summer plant, light green leaves and covered with little golden daisy-like blooms on nicely mounded plants that get around a foot tall. It’s a native of the southwest and grows well in Southern California gardens, even along the coast. But the name seems to confuse gardeners and turn them off. Maybe we should call it by one of its common names, Blackfoot Daisy.

Whatever it’s called, it grows and blooms nicely when hot weather comes, and continues well into the fall. It makes a good border and edging plant, does well in a massed planting, and single plants look very attractive in containers on the patio, or in a hanging basket.

And even better, it’s not a fussy plant and gets by with minimal water, needs little or no fertilizer, and bugs and disease leave it alone. It makes lots of seed and a planting is likely to turn up with many volunteers when next spring arrives.

Seed is easy to start, and most good catalogs list it, including Park Seed Co. and Thompson and Morgan. There aren’t many different varieties, but Park lists one named Derby that is a little more dwarf than others. Derby is only about ten inches tall, plants are very compact and loaded with small golden blooms. Thompson and Morgan lists Melanie, also dwarf at around eight to ten inches and with yellow daisy-like blooms.

One of the good features of melampodium is that it’s self-cleaning, that is, the old blooms are seldom noticeable, since new blooms keep showing up and covering the plant. Although not much of a cut flower for bouquets, a sprig or two can be added to other flowers in a vase for a different look.

With today’s garden space in many homes limited, such as apartments, condominiums, and some of the newer home with little yard, melampodium makes a good summer flower in containers. Since it roots deeply, the container should be at least 15 inches wide and about that deep.

Seed of melampodium can be sown from May through July and started plants, when you find them, can go in up until September. Melampodium should be planted in full sun everywhere, and will grow in almost any kind of soil. Plants in the soil should be set around 10 to 15 inches apart, since the plant, though well mounded, will spread.

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