(Livingstone daisy (HAWK Takahashi) / CC BY 2.0)
Gerbera is the name for a breed of colorful daisies, which also are known as gerber or Transvaal daisies. They have satiny petals that surround a distinct center. A gerbera daisy bloom can measure as wide as 4 or 5 inches across, and the plant naturally grows low to the ground in a pile of lush green leaves. Gerbera daisies are indigenous to South Africa where they grow perennially. In cooler climates, the plants are grown indoors in pots or in annual flower gardens.
A Scotsman named Robert Jameson in 1880 first discovered the South African flower. After donating specimens to local botanical gardens, samples were sent to England where breeding and growing experiments were carried out on the colorful flowers. Extensive breeding of gerbera daisies began at the University of California in the 1970s when the plant began to gain popularity. Florida and California produce the majority of U.S.-grown daisies for the cut flower industry, but most of the flowers sold in the country come from Columbia, other parts of South America and the Netherlands.
Gerbera daisies prefer full sunlight and continue to bloom fully in artificial light indoors. They prosper in quality potting soil with high peat content and thrive in soil that’s well-drained. The flowers typically are grown from seeds that can take up to six months to bloom. While they prefer mild temperatures, the daisies may discontinue blooming in temperatures that rise above 70 degrees F.
Gerbera daisies are susceptible to a number of common garden pests and diseases. Aphids, or plant lice, are controlled with herbicides. The flowers are prone to developing grey mildew, especially when conditions are very damp. The leaves become covered with the mildew, and it can infect the roots and stems, killing a crop. When the flowers are infected with the mildew, they develop brown spots, which tend to expand after the flowers are picked. Flowers may be left to dry to ward of grey mildew. Greenhouses should be well aerated. Avoid getting the leaves wet when watering the plants to prevent mildew from developing.
Gerbera daisies are popular flowers around the world, according to the University of Florida. They make wonderful gifts for birthdays or anniversaries and cheer up any sick room. Horticulturists consistently work with the breed to develop hybrids that will last longer when cut, grow higher stems, and produce more vivid colors. Online florists such as ProFlowers offer gerbera daisies in a vivid collection of color.