Common Daisy (Bellis perennis)

Common daisy, Lawn daisy, English daisy

Bellis perennis are closely related to our native daisy. The spring-flowering plant is a popular ornamental and provides colorful spots in the garden. You can read all about planting and caring for Bellis perennis here.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Bellis perennis, the daisy, is a European species of the family Asteraceae, often considered the archetypal species of the name daisy. To distinguish this species from other plants known as daisies, it is sometimes qualified as common daisy, lawn daisy or English daisy.

Bellis may come from bellus, Latin for “pretty”, and perennis is Latin for “everlasting”.

The name “daisy”, possibly originating with this plant, is considered a corruption of “day’s eye”, because the whole head closes at night and opens in the morning. Geoffrey Chaucer called it “eye of the day”. In Medieval times, Bellis perennis or the English Daisy was commonly known as “Mary’s Rose”. It is also known as bone flower.

Historically, the plant has also been widely known as bruisewort, and occasionally woundwort (although this name is now more closely associated with the genus Stachys).

Bellis perennis is a perennial herbaceous plant growing to 20 centimeters (8 inches) in height. It has short creeping rhizomes and rosettes of small rounded or spoon-shaped leaves that are from 2 to 5 cm (3⁄4–2 in) long and grow flat to the ground. The species habitually colonizes lawns, and is difficult to eradicate by mowing, hence the term ‘lawn daisy’. It blooms from March to September and exhibits the phenomenon of heliotropism, in which the flowers follow the position of the sun in the sky.

The flowerheads are composite, about 2 to 3 cm (3⁄4–1+1⁄4 in) in diameter, in the form of a pseudanthium, consisting of many sessile flowers with white ray florets (often tipped red) and yellow disc florets. Each inflorescence is borne on a single leafless stem 2 to 10 cm (3⁄4–4 in), rarely 15 cm (6 in) tall. The capitulum, or disc of florets, is surrounded by two rows of green bracts known as “phyllaries”. The achenes are without pappus.

The species generally blooms from early to midsummer, although when grown under ideal conditions, it has a very long flowering season and will even produce a few flowers in the middle of mild winters.

Bellis perennis is native to western, central and northern Europe, including remote islands such as the Faroe Islands, but has become widely naturalized in most temperate regions, including the Americas and Australasia. It prefers field-like habitats.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

English daisies thrive in full sun to partial shade. However, they do not fare well in intense heat. If you live in an area with intense midday heat, it is best to provide afternoon shade to protect your daisies.

Temperature and Humidity

In areas with cool summers, the plants might bloom throughout the season and spread into prolific colonies. Damp conditions are welcome, including high humidity. Because they love moist soil, medium to higher humidity levels are ideal.  

English daisies like cool temperatures and do not tolerate excessive heat. In hot summers, it is not uncommon for English daisies to die off and require removal. However, sometimes they can withstand light frosts.

Watering

English daisies prefer moist soil. Keeping a regular watering schedule will help these plants stay hydrated and healthy, particularly when the hotter summer months approach. Adding a layer of mulch around your daisies will help maintain needed moisture levels as well as moderate the temperature of the soil. Potted daisies need to be watered more often since containers dry out easily.

Soil

English daisies can grow in a wide variety of soil conditions. However, they do require organically rich, loamy soil that is moist and well-draining. By meeting these requirements, you can grow English daisies almost anywhere, including in containers. Just be sure that your pot has drainage holes.

Fertilizing

English daisies are heavy feeders and prefer to extract what they need from nutrient-rich soil. However, they benefit from the occasional fertilizing. Use a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring. Depending on your soil, you may want to feed them once a month during their growing season.

Propagation

English daisies can be propagated by seed, and division is sometimes possible as well.

  • From Seed

You can collect the seed from your own plants or let them self seed, but after a few generations, double forms can revert to single blooms. To guarantee double flowers, purchase seeds online or from your local nursery.

The seeds ripen in late May to October, after flowers bloom and are pollinated. Either allow the plants to self seed, or collect the seeds yourself and sow immediately after collection.

In Zones 3-7, direct sow in the midsummer to early autumn. In Zones 8-9, direct sow seeds either in the early spring when the soil is still cool, or in late autumn. The seeds need light to germinate so broadcast them on the soil surface.

While direct sowing is easiest and works well, you may also choose to start seeds indoors eight to ten weeks before the average last frost date in your area. Sow on top of a soilless propagation medium in trays or individual pots. The seeds will germinate within 10 to 25 days if kept in a bright spot that is around 70°F.

After germination occurs, continue to provide even moisture and when the plants are three inches tall, you can harden off before transplanting into the garden.

Plants will establish roots in the first year and bloom in year two. Seed every year for an annual spring flush of flowers.

  • By Division

While many people grow this plant as a biennial, they are naturally perennials, so mature clumps can be divided in spring or summer after flowering.

The roots are fibrous and shallow, so dig 12 inches deep and six inches out from the crown. Use a sharp shovel to cut the plant in half or thirds and replant immediately. Divided plants should show reinvigorated growth.

  • Transplanting

When planting divisions, seedlings, or nursery starts, amend the soil with some compost.

Space the plants four inches apart and plant to the depth of the root ball, keeping the crown at the soil level. Water in well.

Potting and Repotting 

Take advantage of the hardy nature of English daisies by potting up any second-year volunteers in the early spring. They tend to be larger than first-year plants which might only produce foliage. Use any standard potting soil, and choose a container with large drainage holes. Discard plants in the summer when blooming is finished, and repot new plants the following season for fresh blooms.

Pests and Diseases

  • Common Pests

This plant is not susceptible to diseases but a few pests may attack it. Thrips and leafminers might feed on English daisy plants as temperatures warm up. This feeding often coincides with summer plant decline, and any plants that look shabby at this point can be removed. The peppered moth may also use the English daisy as a host plant and it will be tough to see this camouflaged pest when the plant is used in rock gardens. Root-knot nematodes (galls) may also attack this plant. Soil solarization is often the solution to this problem.

  • Common Problems 

English daisies require very minimal care, making these flowers a great choice for a more hands-off gardening experience. Regular watering and the occasional deadheading are all that are required to keep these plants healthy and blooming. But stay aware of these two issues.

Wilting

If they don’t receive enough water, English daisies will wilt. They don’t do well in dry conditions and need regular watering in the absence of rain.

Aggressive Growth

The flowers freely reseed themselves in the very late summer to early fall when seeds ripen. English daisies tend to spread outside of your garden and become invasive. This may be undesirable for manicured landscaping but wildflower gardens are a perfect place to let this spreading plant run wild. If you would like to keep your daisies from hopping any garden borders, these plants make wonderful additions to potted flower displays.

III. Types of English Daisies

Many varieties of English daisies show pretty pastel or bold colors and frilly or spherical shapes.

  • ‘Galaxy’ is a series that grows into a dense carpet and produces deep ruby red (‘Galaxy Red’), white, or rose rays with yellow eyes. It’s a low-growing type that’s perfect for borders.
  • ‘Tasso Strawberries and Cream’ is a double variety that boasts creamy pink and white blooms. Their creamy color makes them perfect companions for other soft-colored flowers.
  • ‘Tasso Pink’ has bubblegum-pink pompon blooms.
  • ‘Pomponette’ (multicolored shown below) is a double variety in an almost spherical shape that produces quilled rays to give the blooms a frilly appearance. They can be found in red, pink, or white.
  • ‘Habanera Mix’ is a striking variety with many rays that come in a variety of colors from red, pink, and white. One stunning type of ‘Habanera Mix’ produces white pompons with red tips .

IV. Uses and Benefits 

These low growing, carpet forming plants can be used in bulb beds, and their bright flowers look great planted alongside tulips, buttercups, forget-me-nots, and other spring-blooming plants.

Plant in drifts and clumps for bright swaths of spring color. 

Try adding them as a filler, or feature, in containers for your patio. Some cultivars may grow tall enough to use as a cut flower, and these flowers dry well also.

Scientists today are studying extracts of the plant to determine their effectiveness for a variety of applications, including treatment of mild postpartum bleeding as well as reduction of blood glucose levels for those with type 2 diabetes.

Bellis perennis may be used as a potherb. Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked, though the leaves become increasingly astringent with age. Flower buds and petals can be eaten raw in sandwiches, soups and salads. It is also used as a tea and as a vitamin supplement. If you plan on eating any part of the plant, make sure it was grown organically and not recently sprayed with anything toxic.

Daisies have traditionally been used for making daisy chains in children’s games.

Common Daisy (Bellis perennis) Details

Common name Common daisy, Lawn daisy, English daisy
Botanical name Bellis perennis
Plant type Annual
Hardiness zone 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
Growth rate Fast
Height 0 ft. 3 in. - 0 ft. 6 in.
Width 0 ft. 3 in. - 0 ft. 6 in.
Sunlight Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
Soil condition Clay
Flower color Blue
Leaf color Green