The end of May ushers in the blooming oxeye daisy.  Many gardens have an abundance of this prolific wild flower.  It reseeds quite easily and if not kept in bounds it can take over your garden.   I enjoy the look of this free flowering daisy in a casual garden setting and usually let it naturalize for a season or two.   Learning to recognize its leaf growth in the early stages will help you to decide if it needs to be pulled out in areas where it may overtake another plant.  This wildflower is nevertheless enjoyed by many as it brings to mind the carefree days of summer.

A vigorous daisy hybrid, Leucanthemum superbum, more commonly known as Shasta daisy, was developed in 1890 by crossing two European daisies.  The species has subsequently seen numerous improvements resulting in cultivars that produce exceptionally large blooms from early summer to fall, provided that spent flower heads are removed.

Daisies are best grown in full sun or light shade.  They prefer moist, fertile, well drained soil that has been amended with peat moss, compost, or composted manure.  With ideal growing conditions daisies will grow into a sizable clump.   It is important to provide this plant with enough growing space to help alleviate potential diseases.  Unfortunately Shasta daisies are a rather short lived perennial. This may be partly due to the fact that they flower themselves to exhaustion.  I would suggest cutting down the flower stalks in early September, which will allow the plant to direct its energy to vegetative growth in preparation for next year’s blooms. Providing extra mulch for the winter season is also helpful especially when there is not enough natural snow cover.  Dividing the clump about every three years is also a way to extend the life of the plant.

Alaska is a cultivar that is highly recommended since it is hardy to zone 4.   This daisy is also easy to grow from seed.  When starting these seeds in late March, your results will yield numerous seedlings that can be planted outside by the first week of May.  Another cultivar with exceptionally sturdy stems and large flowers is Becky.   This cultivar flowers from July to October and can grow to three feet tall.  Both of these cultivars are usually available at local nurseries.

Butterflies love daisies.  The flat landing surface is ideal for feeding.  Daisies add a bright spot to any garden and are wonderful for naturalizing with other wildflowers.

Until next time . . . happy gardening.

Nina Binkley, UW Extension master gardener volunteer