The painted daisy is a lovely perennial belonging to the Asteraceae, or aster, family that has composite flowerheads, which are typical of the daisy or chrysanthemum plants. Generally, buyers may find that botanists and growers list it under different genus and species names. Therefore, gardeners need to be alert when buying the plant. Some growers call it the painted lady. Unlike some members of the aster family, the painted daisy plant's stems and leaves are hairless. The flowerheads typically are up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) across and frequently bloom in shades of pink, lilac, or white with large yellow centers.
A daisy-like composite flowerhead consists of two types of flowers combined to make one flowerhead. The outer flowers, called ray florets, resemble flower petals. The inner ones, called disk florets, are tiny, tubular flowers. Painted daisies have bright yellow disk florets.
The ray florets vary in color, depending on the cultivar. The cultivar known as Brenda has bright cerise-pink flowerheads, while Eileen May Robinson has delicately tinted pink ones. James Kelway flowerheads may be quite dramatic with their bright yellow disk florets contrasting against the deep crimson ray florets. Snow cloud lives up to its name by producing snow-white ray flowers.
The painted daisy is a bushy, herbaceous perennial. Herbaceous plants lose their above-ground growth at the end of the growing season and regrow from their roots in the spring. Usually, these plants do not develop woody stems, although older plants may get some woody growth near ground level.
The leaves of the painted daisy are generally elliptical to oblong in shape. Their rough, ferny look comes from their pinnatisect structure. A pinnatisect leaf has deep lobes that cut almost to the main section of the leaf. On the painted daisy leaf, these deep cuts generally are opposite each other. The leaves usually are basal, meaning that they grow at the plant's base.
Gardeners typically plant painted daisies in flowerbeds, borders, and sometimes rock gardens. How they are used depends on the cultivar. Usually, painted daisy plants grow to a height of about 18 to 30 inches (45 to 75 cm) with a spread of up to 18 inches (45 cm). Brenda and Eileen May Robinson may top heights of 32 inches (80 cm). Many of the cultivars make good cut flowers, with long leafless stems.
Often growers propagate painted daisies by sowing the seeds or by dividing mature plants. When using the seeds, gardeners plant them in late winter or early spring, usually when the soil temperature is about 55°F (about 13°C). Generally, gardeners divide the plants in the springtime.
When purchasing painted daisy plants, a gardener should know the synonyms that growers and nurseries use for it. Nurseries sometimes market it under its former genus Pyrethrum as P. coccineum and sometimes P. roseum. Although most people refer to it as Tanacetum coccineum, some label it as Chrysanthemum coccineum. Any of these various genuses belong to the aster family.