May is the season for annuals. Gardeners often seek annuals that provide maximum color and require the least amount of maintenance in full sun. One of the most valuable plants in this group is marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum).
Like many other plants, Argyranthemum was previously called a Chrysanthemum. Like most “mums,” they usually have daisy-like flowers that are available in shades of yellow, white, and pink. Flower size can range from only one inch across to almost three inches. Plant height can vary from only 8 inches to as tall as 24 inches in one season. They are not particular about their soil, but perform best in a well-drained, peat moss-based planting mix.
Marguerite daisies originated in Australia where much of the breeding is still done. There are many varieties from which to choose. The standard by which all marguerite daisies are measured is a variety called ‘Butterfly.’ It has dark green foliage and large, single, butter yellow flowers. It blooms from spring to fall and remains covered with a profusion of vibrant flowers up to three inches across. It is so hardy, it will even tolerate temperatures as low as the mid 20s. Removing its spent blooms is optional; it will continue to flower regardless. Landscapers love ‘Butterfly’ for its exceptional performance with minimal care.
In annual beds, ‘Butterfly’ is often grown behind the spiky, blue flowers of the annual mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea, such as ‘Victoria Blue’ or ‘Rhea’). This combination offers a classic contrast in color and texture. As an alternative to the mealycup sage, try blue-flowering summer snapdragon (Angelonia).
Marguerite daisy’s range of uses doesn’t end in the annual border. In the perennial garden, where flowers frequently come and go, annuals like marguerite daisy are extremely valuable. Because it resembles a hardy mum, most people enjoying your garden bed probably won’t recognize it as a perennial imposter.
‘Butterfly’ is also valuable in containers. One gardener I know created a very showy combination that fills the moss-lined, wrought iron window boxes on the front of her home. ‘Butterfly’ is the upright component that is intertwined with three spreading and cascading plants: blue fan flower (Scaevola), golden sweet potato vine, and pink petunia. The result is a showy splash of colors that you probably won’t find anywhere else in her neighborhood. To grow a planter like this at your home, just add water, sun, and some good potting soil.
More “butterflies” have joined the original classic. Golden Butterfly is a golden yellow version. Pure White Butterfly has white petals with a yellow center. Breeders have been busy developing new varieties in a range of colors, including soft pink, medium pink, hot pink, and rose.
Few bedding plants have the versatility and performance of plants like ‘Butterfly.’ If you are looking for an outstanding annual for a sunny spot, give marguerite daisy a try.
Botanical name: Argyranthemum (ar-jih-RAN-theh-mum)
Plant type: Annual (tender perennial used as an annual)
Plant size: 8-24 inches tall
Habit: Compact, upright
Flower color: Yellow, white, light to dark pink
Flower size: 1-3 inches
Bloom period: Spring into fall
Leaf color: Dark green
Light: Full sun
Uses: In containers, as a bedding plant, or an annual for the perennial border.
Companion plants: Blue-flowered annuals, including salvia and angelonia; pink-flowered annuals.
Remarks: ‘Butterfly’ is the classic variety: it performs well all summer and is low maintenance.
George Papadelis is the owner of Telly’s Greenhouse in Troy and Shelby Township, MI.