Gerberas are becoming fashionable again, particularly as cut flowers. Gone are the narrow petals and insipid pale orange and salmon flowers. Available now are gerberas in vibrant new hues with broad petals in double and semi-double forms. As well as improving flowers, plant breeders have developed a range of more compact plants for the instant potted colour market.
Cultivated gerberas (Gerbera jamesonii) are derived from a wild South African daisy sometimes referred to as the Transvaal or Barberton daisy.
Preferred growing conditions
Gerberas are perennials and do best in full sun, in well-drained soil. They will grow in most parts of Australia but are happiest in a warm climate. In cool or moist areas plants need excellent drainage and shelter from the cold. If your soil is poorly drained, grow the plants in a raised garden bed. If you experience wet autumns and winters plant gerberas where they will keep dry during the colder months.
Gerberas are susceptible to fungal disease (sclerotium stem rot and phytophthora are two diseases which attack gerberas) so must have very well drained soils. Clean up plants by regularly removing diseased leaves and spent flower stalks. Fertilise once a month in spring and summer to encourage vigorous growth and plenty of big flowers. Reduce watering in autumn and winter.
1. From seed. Gerberas can be raised from seed planted in spring or early summer.
2. Crowns. Divide up your own gerbera clumps in late summer or autumn outside the tropics, or all year round in northern Australia.
Planting tip: When planting gerberas make sure that the crown (the part of the plant from which the new growth arises) is 1-2cm (1″) above the soil level. This will reduce the likelihood of disease such as rots which affect the crown and stems.
3. Potted plants. A wide range of gerberas should be available at your nursery, especially in warmer climates.
As cut flowers gerberas are available at florist shops most of the year. If you are growing gerberas yourself, you can pick your own flowers. Pick flowers that are fully open. As cut flowers gerberas should last 10 to 14 days.
Picking tip: Careless picking can leave behind a spot that can become infected. Instead of cutting the stem, waggle it at its base until it pulls away cleanly. To arrange the flower cut off the hairy white part on the bottom of the stem, or the flower won’t be able to absorb any water.