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Transvaal Daisy Care

Transvaal daisy or Gerbera jamesonii, a species of the Gerbera genus of plants belonging to the Asteraceae (Compositae) family, is indigenous to Africa and was later introduced to Southeast Asia and Latin America. While the genus is named for a German botanist, Traugott Gerber, the G. jamesonii species is named for Robert Jameson, who found them near Barberton in 1884. The natural habitat of this species is at elevations of 1500 to 5000 feet, growing on rocky slopes in woodlands, sometimes in shade, or under trees and bushes.

This perennial is a tufted herb measuring 12 – 24 inches high and 18 inches wide and flowering stalks up to 29 inches high. The 10-inch long lobed leaves are hairy and rise from the plant’s crown.

The plant produces outstanding flowers sometimes measuring 7 inches or so across although they will produce smaller flowers about 4 inches across when cultivated as indoor houseplants. The striking flowers are single or double and are borne on long stalks with the ray florets (outermost petals) coming in colors of orange, cream, pink or red while the disc florets (central flowers) in cream. 

The flowering season is usually from spring to autumn and sometimes even during winter. Generally, several blooms appear over a few weeks after which more emerge while the first batch fades. This prolongs the flowering season, the seeds have bristles and are dispersed by wind, like dandelion seeds, bees and other insects pollinate the flowers. 

The development and breeding of these plants began around the late 19th century when Richard Lynch crossed G.viridifolia and G.jamesonii in Cambridge, England. The hybrid was named Gerbera × cantebrigiensis, known as Gerbera x hybrid today. Mostly all commercial varieties that are currently grown come from this cross. Thousands of cultivars exist these days and are significantly important to the horticultural industry all over the world, together with chrysanthemums, roses, carnations, lilies, and tulips.

This ornamental species is popularly cultivated and valued for its cut flowers. It grows outdoors without much care but it needs more attention and care as an indoor houseplant. Be careful when transplanting as the crowns shouldn’t be buried under the soil, in well-draining soil as rot can easily set in.

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Sunlight

These plants need full sun but don’t like intense sunlight. If you’re living in an area that has rather hot summers (or even hot afternoons), plant them in a spot that provides shade and protection from the sun in the afternoon. While they need good bright light for constant flowering, direct harsh sunlight will rapidly damage the plants and cause leaf scorch. 

The ideal location should receive some full sun, either in the mornings or late afternoons. Newly purchased plants might have to get accustomed to light levels in your garden or home, particularly if it was grown in shade. The plants might go into shock, so prudently check with sellers about lighting conditions when growing them indoors, windows facing east or west are ideal spots to grow these plants.

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Water

These plants prefer moist but not dry or water-logged conditions. Don’t water until the topsoil is dry. Water them 1 – 2 times every week in summer. Watering frequency is dependent on growing conditions and how much sunlight the plant receives. Plants growing in cooler and shaded conditions take longer to dry out and need less water compared to plants growing in warm and sunnier conditions. Always water the plant’s base, never on the leaves or from above, to avoid leaf diseases.

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Humidity

Average humidity indoors is sufficient. High humidity will encourage fungus diseases to affect flower buds and leaves.

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Temperature

Preferred temperatures for these plants range from 55 – 75°F. Try and avoid reaching the maximum temperature as flowers will last longer and the plants will repeatedly produce flowers. Don’t allow day or night temperatures to drop below 55°F – this might trigger dormancy and flower formation. Cool or average temperatures help keep the plants healthy and flowering longer.

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Soil

These plants prefer rich soil with a high organic content that also drains well. They also prefer mildly acidic soil. Alkaline soil can cause chlorosis, creating yellow stripes on leaves. In addition, very acidic soil will make black patches or spots appear on leaves.

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Repotting

These plants grow well as indoor potted plants for 2 – 3 years. Go gently when repotting they can get transplant shock. You can use potting soil when you report and this is possible at all times during the year except winter. The new container should be slightly bigger and have a good draining capacity. 

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Propagation

These plants are propagated by seeds or crown division. However, seeds often don’t grow true, like the parents.

Propagation by seeds 

Seeds collected from flowers should be used within 1 – 2 months. Prepare a tray or small pots using potting soil. Scatter the seeds and cover the tray or pots with plastic film to retain moisture. Transfer to a warm, sunny area with temperatures ranging about 70 – 75°F and wait 2 – 4 weeks for germination to begin.

Seedlings can be transferred outdoors, when there’s no danger of frost, selecting and preparing a well-draining spot with sufficient light. Plant them in the ground, with the crown sitting 1/2 inch above the soil. The new plants will flower after one year.

Propagation by division

This is usually done around spring when the plant is 3 years old. If the plant is growing outdoors, dig it out carefully and divide by pulling apart the plant into 3 – 4 sections, each with a set of leaves and roots. Plant the sections 12 inches apart, keeping the crown 1/2 inch above the plant’s original growing level in the soil.

Additional Care

Feeding is important when growing them as houseplants. A fertilizer high in Potassium suitable for flowering plants will encourage repeat flowering. However, all-purpose fertilizer can also do the job.

Feeding them once monthly with recommended dosages is sufficient. If your plant’s flower in winter (not all will), keep feeding them diluted doses of fertilizer.

Deadheading spent blooms will stop the plants from spending time and energy to produce seeds. This keeps the plants healthy and also encourages the production of more flowers. 

Common Problems

They don’t usually have any serious pest or disease issues but occasional problems from aphids, whitefly, leaf miners, powdery mildew, root rot, and leaf spot can occur. Snails and slugs like to eat the leaves. Insect problems can be treated with insecticidal soap and diseases can be prevented with proper care.

Wilting most plants is usually from under-watering. However, with these plants, wilting could also be due to shock caused by sudden changes in growing conditions. If you’re watering them properly and not disturbing them, then the only issue remaining is a sudden change of temperature. In all instances, make sure the soil is moist, the plants are in a cool, shaded location, and leave them alone. They will recover in a few days. 

Occasionally, you might see leaves become yellow and die. While this usually happens with old leaves, over-watering can also be responsible. These plants love moist soil, but too much watering will cause problems. 

Other diseases affecting leaves are often caused by careless watering by splashing the leaves or high humidity that creates perfect for fungal infections like powdery mildew or botrytis. Good watering procedures and good ventilation are important to prevent these problems. However, if the plants do get infected by these diseases, remove infected leaves and spray them with fungicide.

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