Add flashes of colour with perennials, such as lilac osteospermum.

Johannesburg - Spring – which is just around the corner – is a time when we should forget about colour schemes and simply enjoy our bright and beautiful gardens, where floral pictures are painted in glorious splashes of colour.

And while there are dozens of varieties, one that has become really popular is the indigenous African Daisy (Osteospermum).

These outstanding beauties have the familiar centre disc of the daisy family, but theirs are dark metallic. The brightly coloured petals come in various shades of white, pink, yellow, blue and purple, so you should find one that will fit right in with your preferred colour scheme. And they are perfect for beginners and those whose thumbs aren’t too green!

Osteos are shrubby, semi-succulent, water-wise herbaceous flowering plants which can grow between 15 and 30cm tall and spread about a metre in width. Topped with showy daisy flowers which last and last from late winter through spring, they look particularly good in mass block. They are among the easiest plants to grow. They like rich, well-drained soil and full sunshine, will readily tolerate poorer soils and partial shade and need little attention during the year.

Modern cultivars flower continuously when watered and fertilised well. A little general-purpose fertiliser in the early growth stage will help the plants develop big and strong stalks and leaves. Just before flowering, provide a fertiliser high in phosphorous to help promote big, bright blooms. Dead-heading is not necessary, because they do not set seed easily, but go ahead and do it if they’re looking a little untidy.

They are half-hardy, so are sometimes treated as annuals, but this is mainly in heavy frost. Use them in pots and containers, window boxes or out in the flower garden. If planted in a container, soil should be prevented from drying out completely. Although drought-tolerant once established, Osteospermum still need at least a couple of centimetres of water per week to grow their best. If your container does dry out, the plants will go into “sleep mode” and survive the period of drought, but they will abort their flower buds and not easily come back into flower. Moreover, roots are relatively susceptible to rotting if watered too profusely after the dry period.

Daisies are seldom bothered by insects and disease. Grey mould can develop in damp or humid conditions, so ensure they have good air circulation. A general purpose fungicide can be used, if necessary.

Whitefly and aphids can become a problem, but can be controlled if caught early. Because they can stop blooming during hot spells, they are best planted in combinations, although the funky colours can be hard to combine with other flowers. Pairing them with complementary foliage is a great way to incorporate them into a planting and guaranteeing there will be colour, even when the plants are not in bloom.

Did you know? Daisies can be found growing on every continent in the world, except Antarctica.

Saturday Star

* Don’t miss Melanie in Gardening 101 on The Home Channel (DStv 176) on Tuesdays at 9pm, with seven repeats throughout the week.