Shasta Daisy

Almost everyone knows what a Shasta Daisy looks like, but it’s probably safe to say that very few people have heard of Luther Burbank. An American botanist and agricultural scientist, Burbank created more than 800 varieties of fruits, vegetables, flowers and grains. More than 15 years spent cross-breeding different types of Daisies led to the Shasta Daisy. Burbank also created the Russet Burbank potato, the Freestone Peach and 113 varieties of plums and prunes.

It began with the Oxeye Daisy, which most people know as a noxious weed. Burbank wanted to improve on it, make the flowers bigger, the stems smoother, and the bloom time longer. On top of that, he also wished the new version to be a good cut flower. Starting with the Oxeye Daisy, he added in the English Field Daisy, then the Portuguese Field Daisy and finally the Japanese Field Daisy. The result was a plant that behaved well, had huge snow white flowers, was a good cut flower and had a long bloom time. Burbank named it after the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Shasta in California. Today, it is a favorite for the garden, with more than 69 cultivars available.

Officially, the Shasta Daisy is known as Leucanthemum x superbum. At one time, it was classified as Chrysanthemum maximum or Chrysanthemum superbum, but is has since been moved to a new genus.  It has bright white petals, called ray florets, and a yellow center disk made up of tube shaped disk florets. Each erect stem carries a single flower, and the plants grow from 1 to 3 feet tall.

Shasta Daisy grows as a herbaceous perennial in zones 5-8. In warmer areas, it is evergreen year round. Full sun is preferred, along with fertile soil which is well drained. To enrich the soil, some compost or cow manure should be added. These plants can be planted directly in the ground, but they also do well in containers. Mine die back to the ground in the fall, but if they don’t, they can be trimmed close to the ground. In the spring, any remaining dead foliage should be removed.

Propagation is by seeding, cutting or division. Seeds grow easily, and will bloom the 2nd year. The plant should be divided every 3 years or so, in the spring when it begins to grow. Cuttings can also be taken during the summer and rooted.

Blooms appear from early summer until fall. To prolong blooming, spent flowers should be removed regularly. The flowers open at dawn, and can be as large as 6” across. Some types have flowers that are double, or anemone forms. Apparently, deer are not attracted to Shasta Daisies, but butterflies are. They also tolerate heat, humidity and being near the shore.  Flowers are edible and are commonly used in salads. These flowers have a distinct scent, which some humans do not find pleasant.

I have one clump of Shasta Daisies in my yard, planted about 3 summers ago. Until recently, I did not know that dividing them in the spring would extend their life. That is now on my list of things to do next spring. This particular variety, Snowcap, has a more compact shape than some others, it is about a foot tall, but covered with 4 inch blooms. In a garden full of color, it is amazing how beautiful these simple white flowers can be.


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4 Responses to “Shasta Daisy”

  1. vilma Says:

    I’m so glad and excited to know about Luther Burbank!!!! I’ve just read about him at the free dictionary because today would be his birthday.

  2. Denise Gearardi Says:

    I was so glad to read that some people find their smell as unpleasant as I do. Is it normal for these to grow to be about 41/2 feet tall?

  3. ab Says:

    Lovely, Margaret! Thank you! I always like a good botany lesson & the tips are great too! (I will divide my daisies in Spring!).

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