If you’re not sure of a flower’s name, call it a daisy, and you have a decent shot at being right. The daisy comes from one of the world’s two biggest flowering plant families (orchids being the other). Its members number nearly 33,000 species growing in every continent except Antarctica. Daisies are distinguished by their star-shaped flowers that have petals radiating out from around a central disc, which is also made up of much smaller flower petals. Daisy cousins include asters, coneflowers, mums, zinnias and even the dandelion, the “lawn daisy” of she-loves-me, she-loves-me-not fame.

Will the real daisy please stand up?

Shasta daisy
Shasta daisy

What most U.S. gardeners think of as a “true” daisy is a sun-loving, white-petaled perennial with a yellow central disc called the Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum). This was one of legendary plant breeder Luther Burbank’s top creations, a hybrid that took him 17 years and four parent plants to create. It’s still one of our favorite perennials, available now in yellow petals as well as heights ranging from 1 to nearly 4 feet. Another closely related perennial daisy is the Montauk daisy (Leucanthemum nipponicum), a fall-blooming 3- to 5-footer with white petals around a green disc. You might also run into several annual flowers labeled daisies. These are ones that die with frost each fall. Annual “daisies” include the Marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum), a 15-incher with narrow green leaves and petals of white, yellow or pink; the Gerbera daisy (Gerbera), a foot-tall plant with bright yellow or red flowers, and the Cape daisy (Osteospermum), a 15- to 18-inch South African native that comes in a range of colors, including blue.

3 daisy care tips

To keep your perennial daisies healthy and looking good:

   1.) Avoid poorly drained, wet soil. Move them ASAP if the site is soggy.

   2.) Cut the flower stalks to the base immediately after the flowers finish blooming.

   3.) Fertilize early in spring as growth begins, then cover the surrounding ground with an inch or two of compost or mulch to hold down weeds.