|Official Plant Name||Gazania|
|Common Name(s)||Treasure Flower|
|Plant Type||Perennial / Annual Flower|
|Hardiness Rating||H2 / H3|
|When To Sow||February, March, April|
|Flowering Months||June, July, August|
|When To Deadhead||July, August|
Sheltered or Exposed
0.1 – 0.5M
0.1 – 0.5M
June – August
Moist but well drained
If you need a flower to illustrate a kids’ picture book under ‘F for Flower,’ choose Gazania. So colourful, so bubbly, so attractive, Gazanias are almost cartoon flowers! They are small, half-hardy plants that are frost-tender but are remarkably fuss-free and easy to grow. Bearing flowers in every hue of the warm spectrum, they will bring good cheer to any garden.
Visualise the simple, innocent charms of the daisy with its wide-open corolla, ray florets, and disk-shaped appearance and add brilliant, warm colours laced and streaked with bright hues in other shades, and you’ve visualised Gazania, which is one of the ‘African Daisies.’ These flowers also exhibit the charming habit of curling up for night and in overcast conditions. Evidently Gazanias like their beauty sleep!
Gazania is a genus within the Aster Family of daisy-like flowering plants. The number of species is up for debate as counts range from a low of eight to a high of 19. What is not up for debate is that there are a hundred-plus cultivars whose flowers exhibit vibrant colour-tones and dazzling designs, so to speak. Colours are predominantly in the warm range of the spectrum, ranging from yellow through red including pink. Perhaps it is because of the brilliant, jewel-like hues of the blooms that this plant is also called ‘Treasure Flower.’ The size of the flowers, depending on the variety, ranges from 6 to 12 centimetres across, with most falling in the 8- to 10-centimetre range.
These plants have a cluster of basal leaves that may be linear or oblanceolate. The colour of the foliage varies from variety to variety and, it would seem, even from plant to plant. In the main, clumping varieties’ leaves are of a rich, medium green shade and trailing varieties’ foliage presents what one may call a ‘cool, laid back,’ appearance; being of a bluish, greyish, and chalky green tone which makes a delightful contrast to the spanking bright, vivid flowers.
The flowers are single or semi-double and, like Aster-Family flowers, many-petalled. These ‘petals’ are technically florets – ray florets – because the ‘flowers’ are actually composite flowerheads. In this article we refer to them as petals and flowers respectively. Flowers or flowerheads, Treasure Flowers are (very) showy. What sets them apart from other members of the Aster Family is that many varieties either feature splashy radial striping on the petals or a central dark zone which is usually quite large and prominent. They typically start blooming near the end of spring.
The cheery flowers and ‘cool’ foliage are components of what is a sporting, happy-go-lucky plant that is no trouble at all to grow and keeps free from pests and disease but attracts butterflies and birds like there’s no tomorrow. In fact Gazanias are so easy to grow that to all intents and purposes they grow by themselves, and so much so that they are – perhaps a little unfairly – classified as weeds in Southern California, Australia and a few other regions. Most Gazania varieties bloom between mid-spring and mid-summer though under the right conditions several varieties bloom right to the end of summer and sporadically in autumn.
Background and Origins
Some genera of the Aster Family by way of their fossilised pollen grains have been dated back to about 70 Million Years B.C. . . . just when the tail-end ceratopsians may have made their last supper by chawing on some or another Aster genus minutes before that famous meteor hit our planet and put paid to those magnificent marvels of Nature, the dinosaurs.
Genus Gazania is a mere babe within its family, dating ‘only’ to about 6.6 Million Years B.C. The locale of its diversification is the Namib Zone, a swath of land covering a limited area in South Africa and Namibia. In our day, Gazanias’ native range is the southern third of Africa, ranging from Angola through Malawi down to South Africa.
The name Gazania honours Theodorus Gaza, a Fifteenth Century Greco-Byzantine man of letters. The reason is that he translated and brought to a wider readership the Plant Kingdom works of Theophrastus, ‘The Father of Botany.’
Gazanias are broadly divided into two types, clumping or mounding, and trailing, decumbent or mat-forming. Clumping varieties form mounds and have lobed leaves of a rich, medium green hue whereas decumbent varieties put out trailing stems and spread along the ground, and exhibit foliage of a delightfully appealing bluish-greyish chalky green. Gazanias are very consistent in their sizes – most varieties of both kinds (i.e. clumping and trailing) attain a height and spread of between 20 and 30 centimetres. Our favourite varieties are presented underneath.
G. linearis is one of the more abundant species that has spread from its native Southern Africa and become naturalised to diverse regions such as Australia and Canada. It is of a decumbent type and has the foliage typical of such varieties. It produces striking golden-yellow flowers that are subtly gradated and display a slightly darker zone at the centre.
G. rigens is a species that is parent to several varieties. This clumping type attains heights of only 20 to 30 centimetres. It has a particularly long blooming season, producing flowers from before summer until autumn. The flowers are a brilliant sunny yellow with each petal displaying a ‘beauty spot’ at the proximal end.
G. ‘Chansonette’ is a spreading variety that has dark, deep green foliage. It is noted for producing blooms from mid-spring. The flowers are 10 centimetres across and are in tones of yellow through red with a central dark zone. ‘Chansonette’ stands out because of the quality and hues of its pink and scarlet flowers.
G. ’Tiger Stripes’ is a very popular variety on both sides of the Atlantic. It is of the clumping type and has foliage of a rich and deep green colour. The large flowers are of a bright yellow colour with a thick rust-orange stripe on each petal. This variety blooms profusely throughout the summer.
G. ‘Aztec’ has a trailing and spreading habit with that ‘laid back’ foliage distinctive of this type. The 7-centimetre flowers are gorgeous, displaying a marvellous colour combination. The central disk is yellow and the petals are a creamy pink, with a gradated maroon stripe. A brilliant choice for groundcover. R.H.S. Award of Garden Merit.
G. ’New Day Rose Stripe’ is of the clumping type and grows to 20 to 25 centimetres. It blooms from late spring to early autumn, producing large flowers. They are brilliantly coloured, featuring a deep yellow disk and sharply gradated rose stripes on off-white petals. A great pick for walkway borders.
G. ‘Cookei’ is of the decumbent type and its 7-centimetre flowers do not have a particularly long blooming season. Yet this variety has possibly the most riveting blooms. They have a red and yellow capitulum, with the rays displaying a pronounced olive-green central zone and having a rusty, fiery orange colour. Probably the top choice among Gazanias for a specimen plant. R.H.S. Award of Garden Merit.
G. Tiger Eye = Gazte. A cultivar of G. rigens, this is a clumping type with unusual and attractive cream-rimmed leaves. The petals are of a tawny orange colour, gently gradated or flushed, each with a prominent black ‘eye’ at its base. This one’s another great pick for walkway borders.
G. ‘Big Kiss Yellow Flame’ reaches 20 to 30 centimetres but that is not the reason for the ‘big’ in its name. It does not have a very long blooming season as it lasts from mid-spring to mid-summer. What’s really striking about it is the size of the flowers (or flowerheads) which are fully 12 centimetres across. The capitulum is yellow ringed with brown, and the rays are golden yellow with a gradated maroon-red stripe.
G. ‘Big Kiss White Flame’ is similar to the variety named above except that it features an even more spectacular flower, this so because of the colours. The rays have the lightest kind of creamy off-white base on which run brilliant stripes of gradated rose red. It is a great choice for mixed beds.
G. ‘Talent Series’ are of the spreading type that rise to only about 25 centimetres and have that ‘cool’, muted bluish-grey foliage. It blooms through summer and bears flowers in a panoply of colours, including pink and rose. For all these attributes this is the Gazania variety that is the best bet for rock gardens. R.H.S. Award of Garden Merit.
Habitat and Growing Conditions
Gazanias are denizens of sunny, hot and dry conditions and they make do quite well in poor soils in their native habitat of Southern Africa. This should not be taken to imply that they should be treated without care but it does mean that they should not be ‘over-cared’ for; specifically, they should not be planted in rich humusy soils or manure, not be over-watered, and not be fertilized except, perhaps, very sparingly in mid-spring.
In their native region, Gazania species grow freely in open woodlands, grasslands, scrublands, and semi-arid regions.
These plants are invasive in favourable conditions, such as those outlined above. Another habitat it favours is coastal regions as it takes very well to salt-sea spray.
As most species hardy to H2 and most cultivars hardy to Zone H3, Gazanias are half-hardy plants in the United Kingdom with a lot depending on the specific region of the country and the spot in the garden that they are placed in. In the Midlands in an exposed location Gazanias are as annuals. Down south by the sea in a sheltered spot, they can be grown as perennials. In fact, Gazanias are particularly suited to coastal conditions where they also bring an ecological benefit as they control erosion in sandy and dune areas.
Where to Plant Gazania
Where you plant and how you ‘deploy’ Gazanias is strongly predicated on where you are located (in the United Kingdom) in that whether or not Gazanias can be grown outdoors as perennials.
The cultivars of the Kiss Series are one zone more cold-hardy than the species, unlike those of the Talent Series they are evergreen, and they are decumbent, mat-forming types. As such, they can be grown as a hugely attractive groundcover and can be used to great effect in mass plantings on embankments and slopes, especially in the southern, coastal areas of the country. They are also wonderful choices for growing in hanging baskets and balconies as their trailing habit will produce a cascading, ‘flowing,’ effect.
Clumping varieties that have a long blooming season, such as ‘Tiger Stripes,’ are just as terrific for borders and edging, especially along walkways. They are also very fine companions in beds with statelier plants whose blooms would contrast strongly with those of ‘Tiger Stripes’ or other Treasure Flowers (though the plants’ different water needs would have to be managed). These little plants are great choices for a sunny windowsill or balcony.
No matter which part of the country you are located in, Gazanias will make cheerful annuals be they grown in beds or pots.
Feeding, Care and Growing Tips
Gazania is one of those rugged plants that may not respond well to TLC. Conversely, it will positively thrive if treated with ‘tough love’! Accustomed to the heat and sun of Southern Africa and acclimated to dry conditions and poor soil, Gazanias are very easy to grow and need little care as to heat and soil type. The only point on which they need care is extremes of cold as they are frost tender.
The optimal soil for Treasure Flowers is a sand-based loam that is not overly-rich with manure or compost. It must drain very well – these plants do not thrive in moisture-retentive soils. The ideal soil pH is from Slightly Acidic to Neutral, though this plant will be content in soils with pH from Moderately Acidic to Slightly Alkaline. In the U.K. they should be located in full sun.
Gazanias may be started from seed in containers indoors in winter, and transplanted outdoors or moved outside after there is no danger from frost. The advantage of potted Gazanias is that you can move them back indoors at the end of autumn. If they are kept toasty in a greenhouse or any warm spot indoors, they will survive the winter. However, they must get ample sunlight.
Before transplanting or moving potted Treasure Flowers outside, they should be hardened by putting them out during the day and back indoors for progressively longer durations.
Gazanias are just as easy to grow outdoors from seed, again after there is no danger from frost. You need do nothing more than push seeds just a tad into the soil and water them . . . and watch them sprout.
You can also propagate this easy-to-grow plant from basal softwood cuttings. Take cuttings in mid-autumn and plant them in sand-based loam with additional compost or a potting soil in pots. They should be kept indoors or in a greenhouse through the winter but they must get sufficient sunlight. They can be transplanted outside in spring.
Whether you grow or transplant Treasure Flowers outdoors, space them 50 to 70 centimetres apart.
Gazanias are drought-tolerant but not ‘damp-tolerant.’ Sprinkle water moderately, even in summer. Water when the soil has become dry and avoid over-watering these plants. In some rainy regions of the U.K. you may not need to water outdoor Gazanias for weeks on end.
Treasure Flower plants do not need pruning except for regular deadheading. However, if you grow trailing or decumbent varieties as groundcover or for a cascading effect, you should judiciously prune, and also train, the plant for shaping and landscaping. Upright or straggly growth should be removed and the plant should be trained and pruned to develop along the ground, or over and down the rim of a basket.
Common Diseases and Problems
Gazanias are valued for being resistant to pests and for being disease-free.
Occasionally a plant may be attacked by aphids or grey mould, particularly if it is brought indoors or kept in a greenhouse for the winter.
Damp soils may lead to root rot.
Where to Buy Gazania
The United Kingdom was one of the first regions in Europe where Treasure Flower was naturalised, and it remains one of the few countries in Europe where this plant is available at garden centres, if not very widely or in full variety.
Potted plants are available, usually in spring, in garden centres and nurseries. Varieties of the Kiss Series and Talent Series are more widely available than most.
A very good option is to buy Gazania seeds online.