A Gerbera daisy is a flowering plant in the sunflower family, Asteraceae. The Gerbera daisy is a popular choice of ornamental flower because of its vibrant colors and long blooming period in temperate weather. Gerbera daisies are also well suited to use as cut flowers, since they can last for up to two weeks if they are well tended and have plenty of water. Many garden supply stores sell Gerbera daisy plants in the spring, as well as seeds.
Alternate names for the Gerbera daisy include Transvaal and Barberton daisies, after the regions in Africa where the Gerbera daisy was first discovered by Europeans in the 1880s. The plants were named for Traugott Gerber, a friend of Linnaeus. The reason for the honor is somewhat unclear, as little is known about Gerber. The flowers quickly skyrocketed to popularity, since they grow well both indoors and out, and they make excellent cut flowers. To prolong the life of cut Gerberas even longer, change the water every three to four days and snip the bottom of the stems.
Like other flowers in the sunflower family, the Gerbera daisy is characterized by a broad flower with long, brightly colored petals on an elongated, fleshy stalk. The daisies come in yellow, orange, pink, white, and sometimes lavender, depending on the cultivar. Approximately 10 species of Gerbera daisy appear in domestic gardens, and another 40 can be found growing in the tropics of Africa, Asia, and South America. The plants prefer temperate weather, and will do best in USDA zones nine and warmer. Colder weather will damage them, rendering them unable to bloom.
If the flowers are regularly trimmed and Gerbera daisies are kept healthy, they can keep blooming for months. It is important to watch out for signs of rot on the leaves, which should also be regularly trimmed to prevent rot from setting in to begin with. Gerbera daisies like to grow in full to partial sun, and they prefer moist but not wet soil.
When grown from seed, a Gerbera daisy is not always true to the parent plant. Gardeners who want to replicate favorite plants should propagate from cuttings or root division, bringing the plants inside during the winter months to keep them healthy. Otherwise, in warm climates, the plants will be perennials, returning year after year to brighten the garden. In colder zones, the Gerbera daisy will die off in the winter.