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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

August 14, 2005

Back some years ago when the freeways were first beginning to spread throughout Southern California, CalTrans searched for suitable ground covers that would enhance the beauty of the banks and slopes of the highways. They found one that seemed perfect, and the “Freeway Daisy” began to brighten many freeways. Gardeners know the daisy as osteospermum, and for years it was seldom seen planted from seed (the freeways were planted from started cuttings), but the increased popularity of this sparkling flower got the plant breeders busy, and now we have several varieties that can be started from seed.

Whether you grow osteospermum to cover a bank or slope or big bare spot, you’ll be delighted with the glistening white, shades of purple, and pastel cream, orange, yellow and buff of the big, two inches and more daisy-like flowers that are tough, hardy, drought tolerant and easy to grow.

Most catalogs list one or two varieties, Thompson and Morgan lists five, and the seed rack will usually have one variety. Nurseries have osteospermum in gallons, sometimes in four inch pots. Planted this summer, they’ll get a good start before the days shorten and they’ll be ready to put out plenty of good blooms come spring. Most varieties will continue to bloom all summer long and well into the fall, then can be cut back to about three inches, they’ll just sort of sit until early spring, then will get going again for more blooms.

Osteospermum is an aggressive grower so give it room to spread. Plants get about 12 to 18 inches tall, depending on the variety, and will usually spread to around 10 to 15 inches. They need no fertilizer, grow in almost any soil, and after they’re well established get by with minimal watering.

Pastel Silks is an unusual mixture of light colors that includes orange, yellow, white and cream. The best white is named Glistening White, and it has about the biggest flowers. Thompson and Morgan lists one called Giant Mixed, said to have several pastel colors. Passion Mix was an All-American Winner in 1999 and it is primarily shades of purple and white with blue centers. One called African Moon has white and apricot bicolored blooms.

Osteospermum is one of the African daisies and it grows well in our dry, hot valleys with minimal care. Plantings seem to last forever, but as the plants get woody after a few years they should be replaced.

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