The gazania has to rank near the top of those daisylike flowers that are so beautiful, everyone longs to have them in the garden.
If you find yourself in that category, then remember the name Sunbathers. This is a relatively new series that has garnered attention with its riveting colors and ease of growing.
The Sunbathers flowers are huge and semi-double reaching almost 6 inches in width. This semi-double habit means the flowers will not close at night as is typical with most other varieties.
They are available in four colors, with my favorite being the Gold Coast, a deep yellow gold, and Sunset, a fiery orange with hints of bronze. The other colors are Moonlight, a pale yellow, and Malibu, a stunning golden orange that ranks high among many gardeners.
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The Sunbathers has a remarkable heat tolerance. It is perennial in zones 8-10 and a terrific annual in colder regions.
The foliage has a thick, almost succulent, feel to the touch giving you indication of its toughness. The durability however relies on your soil preparation. Soggy soil simply will not do. This is equally critical during the winter when you are planning on a spring return.
So choose a site a full sun and incorporate 3 to 4 inches of organic matter. These are vegetatively propagated plants so you will be buying nursery grown transplants. Space your transplants about 12 to 15 inches apart. The mature plants will reach about 12 inches tall and form a rosette of thick foliage reaching 15 inches in width. Add a layer of much after planting but know these are drought tolerant low water use plants.
The Sunbathers gazanias also are well-suited to growing in containers. In fact, if you doubt your garden soil is fertile or lacks good drainage, then this is the way to go for you. The brilliant colors will thrill just as much in a mixed container on the porch patio or deck as it will in the garden.
Your choices for companion plants almost are unlimited. Try violet or purple flowers like trailing petunias with the Gold Coast gazania for a show-stopping complementary partnership. I like scaevola or blue fan flower for a dazzling trailing combination with the Sunset. For a spiky flowered partner look no further than the mealy cup sage or Salvia farinacea such as Victoria Blue, Cathedral Deep Blue or Evolution.
There is very little maintenance required. Deadheading or removing spent flowers will keep the plant tidy and keep the blooms in production.
Feed your Sunbathers with a light application of a controlled released fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks or per formula recommendations.
The gazania is back in town, it is bigger, bolder and easier to grow thanks to the new Sunbathers series. Spring is not here so talk to your nurseryman about getting a supply of these hot new plants for your garden.
* Norman Winter is executive director of The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, and author of Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South and Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.
Email him at email@example.com.