By Rob Lang

Spring is now with us at last. Our greenhouses are crammed full of our favourite daisy plants ‘Osteospermums’. Another month and we’ll be able to start planting them out. Can’t wait! We’ve been growing, collecting and breeding Osteospermums for almost 20 years now. During this time there has been such a rapid growth in new varieties coming to the market, that the consumer is now almost spoilt for choice. The colour range now consists of various shades of white, pink, purple, red, yellow, cream and orange. There are also variegated varieties such as Silver and Gold Sparkler as well as the much-loved spoon shaped varieties such as Whirligig and Pink Whirls.

Many Osteo lovers are using Osteospermums in tubs on their patios and even in hanging baskets. If you do use them in pots don’t let them dry out and feed them regularly.
We’ve grown in the region of 100 different cultivars including some of the species such as the pink flowering O. jucundum that grows wild in the mountains of South Africa. Those that have been fortunate enough to visit this beautiful part of the world quickly fall in love with Osteospermums. Although not always cheap, these plants offer an abundance of flowers over a 6-8 month period. In mild climates (free from frost) they are perennial, but in colder regions they must be treated as a half-hardy perennial. Regular deadheading helps keep the display of flowers going. When deadheading, cut the flowers off at the base of the stems. This will also keep the plant looking tidy. Keep the plant well watered especially during the first two weeks when the roots are settling down. As Osteospermums are sun-loving plants make sure you plant them in a nice sunny position. They also look good with many different plants. We’ve found they look great with penstemons, hardy geraniums, argyranthemums, verbena etc. It’s really down to your own personal taste, so don’t be afraid to try different combinations. Let us know how you get on!

Osteospermums are generally trouble free plants. They can suffer from aphids, although this is easily treated with an insecticide. If you are an organic gardener then use one of the commercially available soap sprays. A root disease called verticillium wilt can occasionally be troublesome. Like many plants Osteospermums are also susceptible to viruses such as lettuce mosaic virus. However, the commercial varieties are grown from elite virus free stock, meaning that the plants should be very healthy when you purchase them.

Osteospermums are normally propagated from cuttings. They are best rooted in autumn when temperatures are cooler. Take non-flowering side shoots 4-7cm in length and carefully cut away the bottom leaves. Then dip the base of the stem in a hormone rooting powder/liquid. They can be rooted in various mixtures such as a combination of peat & perlite/vermiculite/grit. If you try to root your cuttings at colder times of the year, then you will need a heated propagator set at about 15°c. They should root in 3-4 weeks after which they can be potted on into 9cm pots.
For those of you who enjoy growing from seed there is now commercial seed available called ‘Passion Mix’. It is claimed that they produce naturally dwarf, multi-branching plants with lots of 5cm flowers of purple, rose, pink and white. It is also claimed that they have a high tolerance to drought. The seeds require temperatures of 18-20°c (64-68F) to germinate and must be sown in spring on the surface of a good free draining, damp seed compost. Place in a propagator until germination which may take up to 14 days. The seedlings should be transplanted when they’re large enough to handle into 7.5cm (3in) pots. Grow them on in cooler conditions before planting them out when all risk of frost has passed.

If you would like to learn more about this beautiful plant then please take a look at our website that is regularly updated. We have over 200 images to look at! Each year we aim to try many of the new commercial varieties that become available. We then add photographs and comments about each plant. You are very welcome to join our mailing list to be kept informed of major updates. Don’t forget to download our free Osteospermum screensaver featuring 11 top quality photographs.

Our URL is http://www.osteospermum.com
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Email: info@osteospermum.com