The daisy family is huge, with about 20,000 species worldwide.
The daisy family is huge, with about 20,000 species worldwide. iStock

Diverse and delightful: daisies are great for your garden

I think everybody loves a daisy. The daisy family is huge, with about 20,000 species worldwide. Australia is home to nearly 1000 of these, and, as you would expect in such a large group, there is much diversity.

Indeed, according to the Australian Native Plants Society, "there are too many Australian daisies to generalise about the growing conditions they enjoy. Some prefer full sun, others like shade, some like open conditions, others prefer overhead protection. They all appreciate group planting whereby they benefit from the increased possibilities for cross-pollination”.

The most common ones in cultivation are probably the cut-leaf or rock daisy (brachyscome multifida) and the paper daisies or everlastings (bracteantha bracteatum, formerly known as helichrysum bracteatum, but now reclassified as xerochrysum bracteatum).

Brachyscomes have small, single daisy-shaped flowers and fine, feathery foliage. The flowers are 1-2cm in diameter, and usually white, pink, mauve or blue with a yellow centre. They flower most of the year, and grow about 60cm wide and 30-40cm high. They are great for growing in rockeries or in pots, and will tolerate shallow, sandy soil in full sun or part shade.

Bracteanthas get their common names, everlasting or paper daisies, from the masses of dry, papery bracts that surround the flower. They last for ages, and make excellent dried flowers. They range from low-growing annuals less than 30cm tall to taller, shrubbier forms up to 1m tall. Colours include white, cream, yellow, red, pink, orange, gold and even purple. The foliage is also very different to the brachyscome; the leaves are quite large, lance shaped, greeny-grey and often a bit hairy.

Native daisies flower most of the year, so they are a great alternative to exotic species. They are especially useful for using as filler plants in new garden beds. They will provide lovely colour and interest while the more permanent plantings are filling out.

You will get the best results in well-drained, slightly acidic soil which is rich in organic matter with regular moisture. Aim for at least six hours of sun for optimum flowering. Fertilise a couple of times a year with a well-balanced organic plant food.

Native daisies shouldn't be confined to strictly "native'' gardens. They also work really well in pots, hanging baskets, cottage gardens, rockeries, coastal gardens and anywhere that needs some low-growing, free-flowering colour.