Thursday, January 7, 2010

Plant profile: Gazania

This genus was first formally described by German botanist Joseph Gaertner in the second volume of his major work De Fructibus et Seminibus Plantarum in 1791. Gaertner named the genus after Theodorus Gaza, a 15th-century translator of the works of Theophrastus.

Popular in the 1960s, the bright flowers and drought tolerant nature of this plant made it ubiquitous in warm, dry areas. And it’s experiencing a revival, with all sorts of new colors having been cultivated. They’re easily available at your local Home Despot, and fall in the cheap’n’cheerful category. I’ve grown some from seed, bought many in 6 packs and 4” pots, and many more in flats. I even have one I paid $10 for in a gallon pot – what can I say: it has silvery leaves and a gorgeous orange flower. (photo top left)

Latin name: Gazania ("gah-ZAY-nee-ah")
Common name: Gazania
Originally from: Southern Africa.
Blooms: All shades of red orange, yellow, white and pink. Not scented but often striped, the flowers only open when the sun comes out – on a dull day, they stay shut.
Light: Full sun
Water: Drought tolerant – in fact they dislike summer water!
Where to see in P. Garden: All along the sidewalk edge are various Gazanias, and a few red ones are scattered in the red bed.

Gazanias are most often seen in two types. Trailing Gazania (Gazania rigens var. leucolaena), which we don't have (yet) is commonly used as groundcover and can be planted en masse to cover large areas quickly.

Another popular cultivated variety is the Clumping Gazania (Gazania rigens) which is the one we have.
I’ll be editing the Gazanias at P. Garden as they flower, grouping the brights and the pastels, and hopefully rounding up some yellow ones for the left bed. You can never have too much African sunshine!

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