A Gift from Abroad: All About African Daisy or Cape Marigold


When it comes to enjoyable South African exports, the Grammy Award-winning musical group Ladysmith Black Mambazo comes to mind, as do the many precious gems and minerals the country sends abroad.

Deadhead African daisy flower heads to keep blooms coming back: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/flowers/how-grow-african-daisy/

But in the gardening world, we have a particular reason to thank this diverse nation on the southern tip of the African continent.

Also known as cape marigold, the African daisy (Dimorphotheca sinuata) is a botanical gift that now thrives in many parts of the United States as a lovely annual that has even naturalized itself in California, Oregon, and Arizona.

After a brief interruption, we’ll tell you all about this hardy beauty and how you might be able to add a piece of Africa to your own garden.

Two entirely different species are called African daisy | GardenersPath.com

Dimorphotheca vs. Osteospermum

This article is about Dimorphotheca sinuata. Another plant, whose scientific name is Osteospermum, also goes by African daisy. Just to confuse things.

Apparently, long, long ago in a land far, far away, Osteospermum were included in the genus Dimorphotheca.

However, as they are wont to do, botanists did the plant shuffle, and Osteospernum was moved out… leaving mass confusion.

Other than to mention that Osteospermum is a perennial, whereas Dimorphotheca is an annual, and to say that both are in the Asteraceae (aster) family, we’ll leave any further discussion about Osteospermum for another day.

Rainbow of Colors From a Rainbow Nation

Like the rainbow nation it comes from — so dubbed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe South Africa’s diverse peoples — cape marigold also grows in a rainbow of colors, including white, tan, purple, yellow, gold, orange, and red-orange.

Cape marigold is easy to grow and is drought tolerant | GardenersPath.com

The 2- to 4-inch flower — which opens in the morning and closes at night — is typically daisy-like, with a single or double layer of radial petals.

This prolific bloomer grows to 8-18 inches tall, with a 12-inch spread. While its appearance is lovely, its innards are toxic, so it’s not one to add to the salad mix.

It is grown throughout the United States in zones 3-10, and attracts bees and butterflies.

How to Choose?

A number of commercial varieties of African daisy are available from online resources.

Salmon African Daisy Seeds

Via Amazon, Underthesunseeds sells a lovely salmon variety.

White African Daisy Seeds

If you’re more of a purist, you might like this white cultivar, which teases the eye with just the faintest hint of purple. It’s available from Seedville via Amazon.

Learn to grow African daisy | GardenersPath.com

Mixed Colors African Daisy Seeds

To add a number of colors to your garden, check out this rainbow seed mix from True Leaf Market.

Blowin’ in the Wind

These drought-tolerant pretties want full sun, so place them accordingly. You may be able to find seedlings at a garden store, or if you plant seeds, sow in early spring to a depth of 1/16 inch.

The plants do well spaced 9 to 12 inches apart, but will also tolerate a bit of crowding, and produce a breathtaking color mass.

African daisy is an annual but will reseed itself | GardenersPath.com

Cape marigold aren’t too picky about soil, and will do well in poor, sandy soil, as long as it is well-drained. Light loam is okay, too, but you might not have great luck with clay.

This plant will reseed, but its brownish, papery seeds are easily blown away. Your best bet is to collect the seeds and plant them yourself next season.

In fact, the seeds’ tendency to blow away and infiltrate other garden areas is cause for concern in some parts of the American Southwest, where conservationists have expressed concern about the extremely drought-tolerant cape marigold “taking over” areas once populated by native species.

A Little Water, Some Food, and That’s It

Keep young plants moist, until they reach about 4 inches tall. Then, you can allow them to survive on rainwater, unless you experience a particularly long dry spell.

Too much water produces a leggy, floppy, and sprawling plant.

African daisy is a prolific bloomer, with flowers that open in the morning and close at night | GardenersPath.com

You can apply a balanced fertilizer a couple times during the growing season, but you may find you don’t even need that.

Deadhead spent blooms to keep flowers coming back.

These easy-care plants aren’t plagued to any large degree by any particular pests or diseases.

An International Delight

Queue up some Ladysmith Black Mambazo on your outdoor speakers, sit on the porch with a glass of iced rooibos tea, gaze at the masses of colorful, daisy-like flowers, and enjoy your virtual visit to South Africa!

Get tips and advice for growing African daisy in your landscape | GardenersPath.com

These trouble-free flowers will reward you with profuse and lovely hues all summer long.

Do you call them African daisy, cape marigold, or perhaps by one of their native names: jakkalsbloubossie, namakwalandse madeliefie, jakkalsblom, or namak walandse gousblom? If it’s one of the latter, color us impressed! Whatever you call them, tell us about your love of these African imports in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to Pin It!

If your garden needs an explosion of colorful flowers that bloom all summer long, consider African daisy, also known as cape marigold. Learn how to grow this import from South Africa in the Gardener’s Path growing guide.

Product photos via Underthesunseeds, Seedville and True Leaf Market. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

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