The full beauty of gazania is apparent on sunny days when the vibrantly coloured flowers open to greet the warmth and light. A perennial in its native South Africa, gazania seldom survives a British winter, needing to be planted anew each spring. It makes up for this by being extremely easy to grow.
The gazania, which is also called treasure flower, is named after a Greek-Italian humanist named Theodoros Gazos, who lived during the 15th century. This composite flower originates in South Africa, and can be found there in some 25 varieties.
Most varieties have glowing gold flowers. The flower can reach a diameter of 10cm. Like all plants of the Compositae family, the flower is made up of many small florets.
Gazanias are often sold in mixtures of different colours. Choose plants with particularly attractive colours and take cuttings from them in September. Overwinter the cuttings in a light, frost-free place.
Each gazania flower has a yellow or orange centre disc, typical of daisies. The ray florets sit around the middle cushion, and their colours can range from white, pink and yellow to orange and chestnut. Many varieties have ray florets, marked with a green or darker patch.
The gazania's vivid flowers add sparkle to the garden, but only when the sun shines.
The ray florets close up early in the afternoon and remain shut until the following morning. On overcast days they do not open at all.
You can use these flowers to provide wonderful splashes of colour everywhere in your garden - on the terrace and by the patio, in pots and borders and next to walls and steps. By planting gazanias along with Chrysanthemum coronarium, C. spectabile, Coreopsis and snapdragons, you can quickly achieve a vibrantly colourful flower group in your garden.
Situation and care
The gazania flowers from June until the end of September. The plant rarely grows taller than 30cm. It prefers a warm, open place, similar to conditions in its native South Africa. Naturally, it needs direct sunlight. The soil should be sandy, rich in humus and nutrients, and well drained.
The plant does not do well in rainy years, when the ground often becomes waterlogged. During dry periods, water regularly and feed with high potash (tomato-type) fertilizer.
It is a good idea to feed the plant with liquid fertilizer every 3-4 weeks.
Growing and propagating
Except in very mild areas, gazania unfortunately does not survive winter in this country, and is usually grown as an annual. Named varieties need to be grown from cuttings, while others should be sown every year.
To start flowering as early as possible, you should sow the seeds at the end of February. You can sow them in a propagator, on the window sill or in a greenhouse. Prick out seedlings early, and pot them into single pots after a few weeks.
The plants need to be hardened off (accustomed to the outdoor climate) during the day. They can be planted out in beds and borders once the risk of night frosts has passed.
The best way to propagate gazania varieties with silvery leaves is usually by taking cuttings.
In early autumn, cut strong shoots off the plants and plant them in pots in a mixture of two thirds rooting compost to one third sand. Keep the cuttings in a light, cool place until they are ready to be planted out in early June.
Three gazania species from South Africa are the basis of the many varieties and hybrids we can choose from. These are Gazania linearis, G. nivea and G. rigens. Some of the most important varieties are 'Ministar' 'Sunshine', 'Minstar Tangerine' and 'Chansonette'. The hybrid 'Harlequin' is particularly eye-catching. Its flowers have white ray florets with a thin, dark red line running through them.