Velvet groundsel has another fitting common name—California geranium. The fuzzy leaves of this plant have a shape that is very similar to a geranium leaf. However, the size of velvet groundsel far outpaces common geranium. Count on this fast-growing plant in dry places, where it will grow 8 to 10 feet tall and wide in a single growing season. A true shrub, velvet groundsel is most often grown as a perennial because it is often killed back by cold temperatures but quickly regrows.
Velvet groundsel is one of a small number of plants that consistently grow in heat and have a tropical appearance but don't require consistently moist soil or a humid environment to thrive. A massive plant, velvet groundsel can anchor a planting area. Call on it to fill a barren corner near a patio or mask a view to a neighbor's yard. Plant it in front of a composting area where it will provide a living screen throughout the growing season. Colorful planting partners include agapanthus, an evergreen perennial with pretty purple flowers in spring or summer, and African daisy, a small perennial with colorful flowers from spring to fall.
Velvet Groundsel Care
Velvet groundsel grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. It tolerates a range of soil types and has good drought resistance, although it grows best with occasional rainfall or irrigation during long dry periods. Velvet groundsel can be grown in shade, although it will not flower as much. Choose a planting location that is protected from strong winds as its large leaves become tattered on windy sites.
Plant velvet groundsel in winter or early spring. Water plants well and continue to water weekly during the first 6 months. Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch over the soil surface to prevent soil moisture from evaporating and to encourage a strong root system. Hardy to 20°F, velvet groundsel can freeze to the ground and resprout when temperatures rise above its cold tolerance. Expect velvet groundsel to bloom in winter or spring. Its burgundy flower buds open to reveal bright yellow daisylike flower clusters. Flowers decorate the plant for weeks in spring.