When spring finally arrives, the ground dries up and its shoots finally pop up for a look around, the “Becky” Shasta daisy in my front garden is going on a road trip.
The maple tree has grown tall enough that it’s shading out the daisies. Over the past two or three seasons, “Becky” has been looking a little careworn, thinner and more straggly. The plant is producing fewer flowers, and the stems stretch yearningly toward the light. The trip down the border is long overdue, but this spring it’s going to happen. It will move into a sunnier spot in the front garden, where hopefully it will be happy again.
Perennial Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum X superbum) are such a cheerful, welcoming flower in the summer flower garden. They’re a perfect foil for other sun-loving perennials like daylilies, rudbeckia, coreopsis, salvia, helenium and coneflowers. Once the move is made, I’m considering adding one or two more daisy cultivars to the sunnier section of the border.
While “Becky,” first introduced in about 2003, is now a classic cultivar, there are other great Shasta daisy selections. Monrovia has introduced several new cultivars for spring: “Shortstop,” “King’s Crown” and “Lemon Puff.”
The compact “Shortstop” blooms from late spring to midsummer with bright white petals and yellow center disc. This fast-growing daisy has a mounding habit that Monrovia describes as a “tight, low habit … a real garden MVP that will reliably produce a profusion of blooms.” “King’s Crown” offers double, frilly yellow petals and a rich gold center eye. The description says it is “a wonderfully compact, mounded plant with enough height and scale to really hold its own in a mixed border.” A fast-grower, it reaches 18 inches tall and wide and blooms in late spring into summer. “Lemon Puff” offers lemon-yellow petals and a dark golden yellow center on a low, compact plant that reaches 16- to 18-inches tall and has an 18- to 22-inch spread.
Proven Winners has some favorite cultivars that sound equally appealing. “Banana Cream” is a perfect description for banana-yellow blooms that brighten to creamy white. Plants are described as vigorous growers with good disease resistance and an extra-long bloom time in summer. It is a perennial best-seller and award-winning cultivar that grows up to 18 inches tall and spreads 18 to 24 inches.
The award-winning “Daisy May” produces large, snowy white flowers in profusion. The plant boasts better branching and side buds along each stem, so this daisy blooms much longer than most daisies. Be faithful about deadheading, and it may bloom all summer long. “Daisy May” grows from 12 to 24 inches high and spreads 10 to 14 inches in an upright habit.
Shasta daisies are low maintenance but do require sun and average soil. Water well until the plant is established. The location needs to have good drainage, though, because the daisies dislike wet feet and won’t make it in soggy soil. They’ll do well in containers. Deadheading isn’t required, but will improve the plant’s appearance and lengthen bloom time.
Spring is a good time to dig and divide Shasta daisies, giving them time to get established in their new home. However, some gardeners prefer to divide daisies in late summer or early fall; just avoid high summer. Daisies don’t like making frequent moves, so divide to rejuvenate and expand your daisies every three to five years.
A killing frost will give you the signal to cut back stems to an inch or two above the soil line. In the spring, a layer of compost or mulch is a nice wake-up call for the plants. These plants, once settled in and thriving, require little care (except water in dry, hot summer).