Also known as African daisy or Barberton daisy, the gerber daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) is a showy member of the aster/daisy family commonly grown across the globe as a bedding, container or house plant. The tender perennial is characterized by its large flowers, which are available in a broad spectrum of colors. Gerber daisies are fairly low-maintenance, requiring little care to thrive.
A native of South Africa, the gerber daisy is a sun-loving perennial that is sensitive to frost. The plant is suitable for USA zones 9 to 11, where it will grow in either full sun or light shade. A combination of morning sun and afternoon shade works well for this plant. Plants grown in too much shade will produce weak flower stems and pale green, sickly foliage. Plants may yellow or become more compact if grown in extremely hot sun.
Use a potting medium that is well-draining and enhanced with organic matter. Peat moss, perlite or coarse sand may be used to increase drainage. Water during dry periods, but avoid letting the soil become wet or waterlogged, as this will contribute to crown or root rot. Water early in the day rather than the afternoon, as this gives the leaves time to dry out before nightfall. Wet leaves are more likely to catch disease.
Gerber daisies respond well to fertilizer during the growing season, rewarding the gardener with prolific blooming. Apply a slow-release fertilizer to the soil two or three times during the growing season, or use a complete fertilizer monthly. Gerber daisies do best with a fertilizer that is rich in iron or manganese, two nutrients that the plant often lacks. Water the soil first to avoid burning the plant’s roots. Pinch off spent flowers to promote further flowering.
Leaf miner insects are a common insect that attacks gerber daisies, feeding on leaf tissue and causing unsightly lines and tunnels. Remove infested leaves and use a systemic insecticide if necessary. Spider mites and thrips are particularly troublesome on indoor plants, sucking nutrients from the plant’s leaves. An insecticide may be necessary for serious infestations. Caterpillars and cutworms may also be a problem if they chew through stems. Both types of worms can be removed by handpicking.