Also called African daisy, this tender perennial is often grown as an annual for its beautiful spring and fall blooms.
Only available in the trade since the early 1990s, osteospermum is a fairly recent addition to the gardening world. With their daisylike blossoms in a myriad of colors, osteospermums were an instant hit. These cheery blooms, planted on their own or with other cool-season plants like pansies, make a lively display in spring or fall.
When osteospermums first became available, there were only a few colors to choose from, primarily white and peach. Even with a limited color selection, their bright blue-purple centers made them a popular garden choice. After plant breeders got to work, new hues of flowers started appearing, such as pink, purple, and bicolors.
Osteospermum Care Must-Knows
Osteospermums, similar to snapdragons and pansies, are most often grown as cool-season annuals that pack a fragrant punch. Some varieties are hardy to Zones 10-11, but it's best to grow them in mild climates. In many instances, the plants will take a break from blooming during the hot summer until cool nights resume in fall.
Ideally, osteospermum prefers full sun; the more light you can give them, the better they will bloom. Osteospermum prefers evenly moist, well-drained soils. However, too-wet soil is a sure way to stress out, and even kill, osteospermums. Once they are established, they are fairly tolerant of drought. Remove any spent blooms and fertilize regularly to keep them blooming and looking their best.
One common pest you may see on osteospermums is thrips. These tiny insects like to feed on the flowers' pollen and use their sharp mouthparts to scrape the petals for water. This damages buds and contorts new growth. Luckily, there are many other beneficial insects out during the growing season that will keep these pests in check.
Because this is a group of plants still fairly new to the horticultural industry, there are exciting varieties popping up every year. Research is being done to create longer-lasting blooms that stay open all day and night. Also, the center disk flowers have been modified to be longer and denser, creating a 3-D effect. New colors of osteospermum are constantly being created, as well.
More Varieties of Osteospermum
Osteospermum 'Flower Power Spider White' shows off an abundance of daisy-shape blooms with unique spoon-shape petals. It grows 14 inches tall. Zones 9-11
Osteospermum 'Mara' produces large blooms of apricot-tan petals that blend to a beautiful soft pink at the center. This compact selection grows 10 inches tall. Zones 9-11
Osteospermum 'Serenity Lavender Frost' bears white flowers with a lavender-purple center on 14-inch-tall plants. Zones 9-11
Osteospermum 'Peach Symphony' bears soft, peachy-coral flowers in spring and fall on drought-tolerant plants that grow 14 inches tall. Zones 9-11
Osteospermum 'Serenity Purple' bears rich-purple flowers on mounding plants that grow 14 inches tall. Zones 9-11
Osteospermum 'Sideshow Copper Apricot' bears soft apricot-orange flowers with a purple blush on a mounding, 1-foot-tall plant. Zones 9-11
Osteospermum 'Soprano Compact Purple' bears purple flowers on drought-tolerant, compact plants that grow only 10 inches tall. Zones 9-11
Osteospermum 'Soprano Vanilla Spoon' bears white flowers with spoon-shape petals on drought-tolerant, 2-foot-tall plants. Zones 9-11
Osteospermum 'Yellow Symphony' bears golden-yellow flowers with purple centers on drought-tolerant, 14-inch-tall plants. Zones 9-11
Osteospermum 'Zion Plum' is a strong-growing selection with blue-purple flowers in spring and fall. It grows 12 inches tall. Zones 9-11
Osteospermum Companion Plants
The quintessential cottage flower, pinks are treasured for their grasslike blue-green foliage and abundant starry flowers, which are often spicily fragrant. Depending on the type of pink, flowers appear in spring or summer and tend to be pink, red, white, rose, or lavender, but come in nearly all shades except true blue. Plants range from tiny creeping groundcovers to 30-inch-tall flowers, which are a favorite with florists.
Even without its fabulous scent, heliotrope would be widely grown in the garden. It has a distinctive scent: Some say it smells like cherry pie, others say a grape ice pop, still others say vanilla. Regardless, it is undeniably one of the most intriguingly scented plants in the garden. As a bonus, this tropical plant, grown as an annual, bears big clusters of rich purple, blue, or white flowers. Heliotrope thrives in a spot with full sun and moist, well-drained soil. It's a great container plant; try it in a window box or next to a doorway where you can enjoy it frequently. For the strongest scent, group several plants together where they can get afternoon sun. That warming sun releases the fragrance.
Few gardens should be without the easy charm of snapdragons. They get their name from the fact that you can gently squeeze the sides of the intricately shaped flower and see the jaws of a dragon head snap closed. The blooms come in gorgeous colors, including some with color variations on each flower. Plus, snapdragons are an outstanding cut flower. Gather a dozen or more in a small vase and you'll have one of the prettiest bouquets around. Snapdragons are especially useful because they're a cool-season annual, coming into their own in early spring when the warm-season annuals, such as marigolds and impatiens, are being planted. They're also great for fall color. Plant snapdragon in early spring, a few weeks before your region's last frost date. Deadhead regularly for best bloom and fertilize regularly. Snapdragons often self-seed in the landscape if not deadheaded, so they come back year after year, though the colors from hybrid plants will often end up muddy-looking. In mild regions, the entire plant may overwinter if covered with mulch.