Daisy fleabane, also known as annual fleabane and eastern daisy fleabane, is much more than meets the eye. Incredibly hardy, native to almost all states in the United States, and herbaceous with powerful medicinal qualities.
The daisy fleabane is a flower any gardener in the United States should consider, for a variety of different reasons. It’s easy to plant, and easy to care for. In fact, it’s considered a weed by many people all over the world.
With delicate white petals and a golden center, it springs forth in early spring and can stick around until late fall. Its long flowering season and general hardiness make this plant an excellent pioneer species.
- 1 Daisy Fleabane Overview
- 2 Where it’s Found
- 3 History and Cultivation
- 4 Propagation
- 5 Planting
- 6 Care
- 7 Pests & Diseases
- 8 Plant Uses
- 9 Dangers
- 10 Frequently Asked Questions
- 11 Final Thoughts
Daisy Fleabane Overview
|Lady’s Mantle, Lamb’s Ear|
|Don’t Plant With|
|Clay or Well-Draining|
|Sun to Partial Shade|
|Butterflies, Bees, Moths|
|Aphids, Spider Mites|
|Rot, Leaf Spot|
Where it’s Found
After wildfires or other major destructive events, the daisy fleabane is amongst the first to show up on the scene. You may see it growing in the charred fields of a once vibrant forest or the field of a recently chopped forest.
In the city, it can be seen emerging from the cracks of abandoned parking lots, dotting the tracks of old railway lines, and growing triumphantly from the patch of barren earth where the sidewalk ends.
Even amongst pioneer species, it’s strong. In its endemic North America (where it grows in 43 of the 48 contiguous United States), it often beats out invasive weeds in pioneering new growth. The plant’s strength against alien weeds makes it an excellent plant for low-impact wildflower gardens.
History and Cultivation
The daisy fleabane has a rich and storied history, beginning before recorded history. The plant gets its name from its past utility. People in ages gone by used to dry the plant or burn it in small bags (called sachets) to ward off fleas, gnats, and all manner of annoying buzzing things.
Although today it’s generally thought that this is an ineffective insect repellant, the name stands. This plant is a member of the aster family, a huge family of flowering plants with more than 23,000 members. Common and beloved relatives include sunflowers, marigolds, dahlias, and many, many more. As is the case with the other flowers of the aster family, the flower we call a daisy fleabane flower is many flowers clumped together.
The outer ring of the fleabane’s golden center consists of a ring of “ray” flowers, each of which has one petal. These ray flowers’ laterally extended petals give the plant its characteristic look.
Meanwhile, the disc flowers in the center have small tube petals that extend outward from the flower’s face. That fact that flower is many small flowers helps pollinators like bees to work very efficiently.
It’s recognizable by most people, as these small but mighty flowers tend to spring up everywhere and in nearly all 48 of the contiguous United States. It has alternate, simple leaves with green stems. The stems are somewhat hairy, while the leaves are many.
Compared to other aster plant species, it has dense foliage, with large leaves beginning at the base. These basal leaves are easily identified, as they are coarsely toothed or cleft and quite large. Leaves further up the stem, meanwhile, may not always be cleft.
The flower head is white with a yellow center. The petals range from white to lavender, while the center florets are always a rich, vibrant yellow.
Propagation is an excellent way to expand your garden. It’s a highly tolerant and hardy plant, which means even first-time gardeners typically experience success when attempting propagation.
The two most common ways of propagating it are by division and by growing the plant from seeds.
As we’ve mentioned above, daisy fleabane sends up many flowers at once when it is time for pollination season. This means that the plant clumps together in the growing season to help maximize pollination efficiency. Gardeners have long used division (dividing the clumps) to stimulate the plant’s growth and increase the size of their gardens.
A less common but equally easy way for propagation is done with seeds.
Propagation From Division
Dividing stimulates the growth of the plant and allows you to have more fleabanes faster. Here are the steps you’ll need to take if you intend to divide.
- You should divide your fleabane when the plant is not in bloom but when it is still warm enough for it to have some growth. Autumn is the ideal time. Dividing the plant in autumn will give the roots time to develop before the growing season in early Spring.
- To begin, you’ll want to dig up the entire plant before dividing it. Begin digging about 7 inches from the center of the plant and dig deep enough to avoid cutting any roots. Lift the whole plant carefully from the ground.
- Find a spot with sun or partial shade where you plan to grow your daisy fleabane. Because it’s relatively hardy, you don’t need to do much to prepare this plot, although some gardeners put in peat moss and fertilizer to help the roots develop quickly.
- To divide the clump, pull the bunch apart with your hands. Each division should be healthy on the top and have healthy roots.
- Every division should have a hole all its own. Make sure you’ve dug up enough packed soil to allow the roots of the divisions to spread easily.
- Fill soil into the holes, but don’t pack it down completely.
- Water the plant.
One thing to note is that it may be a good idea to spread some fertilizer on the soil after repotting. This will help the plant to develop in its new spot. Water more frequently than you usually would, as the plant after division is quite vulnerable.
Propagation From Seeds
Growing daisy fleabane from seed is a less common though painless way to grow this flower. Because the plant is so common, you can find seeds in most gardening stores.
- In Spring or early Autumn, plant the seeds on the surface of the soil.
- Choose a spot with good drainage, in full sun or partial shade conditions.
- Allow time for germination.
Daisy fleabane is a very popular flower for wildflower gardens and other mixed-plant gardens. Because of their relatively long stems compared to the flower head, they are not very popular as potted plants (although it is possible)
As a pioneer species, this plant is used to conditions many other plants can’t survive. As a result, planting them is an aesthetic and painless way to fill out a wildflower garden.
To begin planting, dig out a hole a few inches deeper than the deepest root and place the plant in the hole. While planting, be sure that your plant isn’t deeper in the ground than it originally was in its pot. Burying the plant too deep can rot the roots and kill the plant.
Fill the hole you’ve created with soil, but don’t pat it too finely. In this way, the roots can develop. The soil you plant in should have good drainage but still retain some moisture after watering.
Be sure you water your the plant after repotting, as the repotting process can be traumatic for plants.
Luckily for those with a high-maintenance garden, daisy fleabane requires a relatively low amount of care. As a species that evolved to thrive in challenging environments, less is often more when caring for this particular plant.
There are, however, some tried-and-true methods to help stimulate your plant’s growth and keep it healthy.
In drier climes, you may need to water it to keep it healthy. Water enough so the water reaches the deepest roots. While waterlogged soil will kill the plant, it can survive in moist soil — in drought conditions, then, it’s best to err on the side of more water.
Like most asters, likes the sun, but too much heat can cause the petals to droop. If you live in an area with intense, hot, direct sun, you may choose a place with a lower relative heat index.
This brings us to light. Daisy fleabane thrives under full sun conditions. When germinating, the seed needs soil at least 53 degrees F (11 degrees C). A sunny patch of dirt is best for successful planting and growth. If you want to maximize growth, find a spot with full light on all sides, where the plant can fully come into its own.
While it can survive in the shade and partial shade conditions, these are not ideal for its growth. If you only have a shady patch of garden to fill, you may want to consider another plant that’s more shade tolerant.
The characteristic quality of this plant is its high tolerance for all conditions. This tolerance allowed it to spread through 43 of the 48 contiguous United States and become something of an invasive species in Europe.
In extreme conditions, however, they will not thrive. In marshy, waterlogged soil, daisy fleabane’s roots will rot, killing the plant from the ground up. That said, however, the plant is much more tolerant towards wet conditions than many other plants.
In arid environments, this plant will need to be watered. In drought conditions, you may use the rule of thumb that the soil should be moist but not completely soaked through. Frequent watering in the Summertime of young fleabane will be essential.
Consensus is generally split when it comes to the proper soil for this plant. This is due to the plant’s ability to flourish in many conditions.
Many experts advocate for soil with good drainage. This ensures that amateur gardeners (who can sometimes overdo it with the watering can) won’t kill their plants.
Others advocate for planting daisy fleabane in alkaline clay soil. Clay soils stay wet in the winter months and dry out in the summer months. These soils can hold a lot of water, so if you’re planting in clay soil, you need to be sure you’re not overwatering the plant.
Daisy fleabane is a plant native to the continental United States: as such, it is a plant that likes moderate climates. With a broad range of appropriate environments in which they can grow, however, the temperature at which they flourish varies dramatically.
In USDA zones 7 to 9 (generally speaking, the southern parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia into Texas and Florida, and the American southwest), the heat of the direct sun can cause damage to them. Afternoon shade can help keep it healthy in the hottest parts of the United States.
Further north, it can survive, but conditions aren’t as ideal. Expect less growth than in states like Virginia, Ohio, and Nebraska.
While this plant generally doesn’t need fertilizing in most wildflower gardens, fertilizing can help the plant take the most advantage of its growing season.
If you’re interested in fertilizing your fleabane, you should use liquid fertilizer. A good ratio to look for is 5-10-5. This ratio, designed as general plant food, is perfect for their generalist needs. Fertilize starting in the Springtime, once every two or three weeks.
Daisy fleabane is an incredibly low-maintenance flower and can survive sufficiently without any maintenance in most environments in the United States. However, for a more manicured garden, there are certain tricks that gardeners can use to maximize bloom and ensure perennial aesthetics.
After the first flush (likely in early to late Spring), deadhead the daisy fleabane. Deadheading is simply the process of moving the heads of the flowers once they’ve finished their flowering. Deadheading will promote dense growth and ensure a more vibrant second flush.
In late autumn, just as temperatures are beginning to drop and they are preparing to go dormant for the winter, cut the stems down to the soil. By cutting the stems to the soil in preparation for Winter, you keep your plant from getting too leggy in the following season.
Pests & Diseases
There are several pests and diseases to be cautious of. Let’s take a look at the most common pests and diseases that your fleabanes may fall victim to.
Aphids and Spider Mites
Small pests called aphids come in all different colors and are difficult to see with the naked eye. They have long antennae and can be extremely harmful to your plants (not just fleabane). Spider mites are extremely small arachnids whose colonies feed on the underside of daisy fleabane’s leaves.
To discover whether or not you have an aphid or spider mite infestation, check your plant with a magnifying glass or hand lens. Look at the buds, along the stems, on the flowers, and at the underside of leaves. You may see the aphids’ shed exoskeletons: these are a sure sign of an aphid infestation.
You should act quickly if you detect a pest infestation, like aphids, spider mites, and other pests that can easily destroy a garden. To get rid of aphids and spider mites, you can spray your infected plants with cold water. The cold water makes the pests leave, and they often can’t find their way back to the same plant.
Furthermore, you can introduce helpful predators like ladybugs to eat up your herbivorous pests.
In addition to cold water, you can use neem oil or insecticidal oil. Follow the instructions carefully to avoid damaging your plant or any helpful insects.
Bacterial Leaf Spot
Bacterial leaf spot causes this plant to turn brown and mushy and can often make it smell bad. Plants infected by bacterial leaf spots grow slowly, and younger plants collapse. The brown spots from bacterial leaf spots can cause the death of plant tissue and necrosis.
To prevent bacterial leaf spots, avoid planting them too deep. If plants are overcrowded, they can develop bacterial leaf spots. This can also occur if they are planted in areas of low air circulation. Avoid overhead irrigation, and allow foliage to dry when it gets wet.
Root, Crown, and Stem Rot
If your daisy fleabane begins to show dull-colored foliage, starts to yellow or wilt, it may have root, crown, or stem rot. This rotting of the underparts of the plant comes from a fungus that almost all flowering plants are susceptible to.
To avoid root, crown, and stem rot, avoid overwatering. Avoid planting it too deep as well, and plant in soil that allows water to drain. If your plant has some form of rot, it must be destroyed to avoid the fungus’ spreading. If propagating or dividing daisy fleabane, don’t use samples that appear to be unhealthy.
In the past, it has been used as an insect repellant. While there are other plants better suited for this now, it used to be dried or burned, and the smoke was used to keep away insects.
Daisy Fleabane has many uses in homeopathic medicine and beyond that may interest those planning to grow them. It’s also a stimulant with diuretic, antimicrobial, and astringent properties.
Its first mention was likely in the 17th century, in Nicholas Culpeper’s book “The Complete Herbal.” In this book, Culpeper notes that this plant is edible and suggests frying its seeds to help with stomach aches. He also recommends mixing the seeds’ mucilage (the oil) with boiling water and rose to treat high fevers.
A 1904 report commissioned by the US government details daisy fleabane oil in various herbal remedies.
For those at risk of heart failure, with high blood pressure, kidney disease, or swollen tissues, it can be incredibly useful for its diuretic properties. Putting it in tea or as a small part of a salad can help those with excess body fluid to help regulate their systems and keep them safe.
This miraculous little plant is also thought to prevent infections when regularly consumed. It has antimicrobial properties that can help keep those at high risk of infection safe.
For those with oily skin, this plant is also sometimes used for its astringent properties. It can help reduce the oil produced on the skin, thereby keeping down acne and other problems associated with oily skin.
Finally, a study released in May 2019 gives a convincing argument for daisy fleabane’s efficacy as an anti-obesity agent. In brief, researchers found that when water is extracted from the plant, it contains a molecule that prevents fat accumulation.
This plant is healthy for consumption by humans, but it does contain chemicals that can be toxic to housepets like cats and dogs. It is not highly toxic; however, this is something to be on the lookout for.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of our most frequently asked questions concerning daisy fleabane.
Are They Invasive?
The answer to this question is a complicated one: yes and no. As a species that is native to the contiguous United States, is by definition not invasive. That said, however, it is considered invasive in other places.
In Europe, for example, although daisy fleabane is naturalized, it is often considered a weed. Many in Europe don’t want these plants in their gardens and, as such, consider them invasive. In Kentucky, too, the plant does so well that many gardeners consider it intrusive.
Is Fleabane Poisonous to Humans?
The short answer is: no, fleabane is not poisonous to humans. The leaves are edible and contain many properties that are beneficial to humans.
Among the active ingredients in the leaf is caffeic acid, which has a stimulating, antioxidant, neuroprotective effect on neuronal cells. In diseases that involve neurodegeneration, like Alzheimer’s, daisy fleabane may provide some help as treatment.
Do Bees Like Them?
Like other members of the aster family, daisy fleabane is a flower that contains many flowers in one flower shape. This highly efficient structure means that many pollinators, including bees, enjoy this plant. Carpenter bees are especially fond of them, but so too are flies, butterflies, wasps, and other insects.
Pollinators aren’t the only creatures that like daisy fleabane: be on the lookout for insect pests like aphids or arachnid pests like spider mites. On the macro scale, rabbits and other animals like to feed on them. As such, it can be at risk in wildflower gardens (especially when young).
Is it Considered a Wildflower?
Daisy fleabane exists naturally in the wild as a pioneer species. This means that in conditions when other plants aren’t growing, it is often the first to take root and begin the rebuilding of, for example, a burnt-down forest or a paved-over pasture.
That being said, it’s considered a wildflower, as it naturally grows and flowers without human intervention. Plants that human beings keep in their gardens are not specially evolved for garden growth: they are just as wild as the daisy fleabane you can see popping up through the cracks in the sidewalk.
Does Fleabane Stop Bleeding?
Daisy fleabane is used to treat a wide variety of problems, though not all of these uses are supported by evidence. Fleabane is used in many places as a homeopathic cure for headaches, heavy menstrual bleeding, sore throat, diarrhea, and to reduce swelling in the lungs.
Once again, however, few of these uses are supported by scientific studies. However, it is an effective diuretic – a property that makes it suitable for treating high blood pressure and kidney disease, amongst other disorders.
Is the Annual Fleabane Edible?
Annual fleabane, or daisy fleabane, is a known herbaceous plant. This means that it is, in fact, edible. The leaves can be used for tea or as part of a salad.
However, when considering preparing a salad, you should note that the daisy fleabane is somewhat fuzzy on the leaves. This can be an unpleasant taste in salads. To combat the fuzziness, you can use it sparingly in your salad or boil down the leaves to disguise the fuzz.
Is Fleabane a Pollinator?
Like many other plants in the aster family, it’s beloved by pollinators. The floret design, with many distinct flowers packed into one easy-to-spot shape, makes the fleabane beloved by bees and butterflies alike.
With its long flowering season, it is an excellent place for hungry pollinators to gather. It also provides a home for crab spiders looking for tasty insects. The lynx flower moth occasionally uses the fleabane as a nursery.
Is it Native to Illinois?
Daisy fleabane exists in almost every state in the contiguous United States. It has also been reported in Canada and many parts of Europe. As far as Illinois goes, it can be found in almost every county in the state.
Illinois provides an excellent habitat for this plant. In Illinois, the sun is direct but not too hot. The winter months, on the other hand, are not cold enough to kill the dormant fleabane. It can be found all across the midwest.
Can Rabbits Eat Fleabane?
Rabbits love fleabane, and this plant is not toxic to them. Many mammals, like deer and rabbits, eat fleabane in the wild. This can mean that this plant in a wildflower garden is somewhat vulnerable. For pet rabbits, daisy fleabane is perfectly healthy for them to eat.
Is Fleabane Harmful to Dogs?
Fleabane has many medicinal properties that make it excellent for human consumption. Over the years, fleabane has been used to treat various ailments and has recently been found to have anti-obesity properties.
Unfortunately, however, fleabane is harmful to dogs. This plant is toxic for both dogs and cats alike. At the same time, if your dog has just eaten a head of daisy fleabane, don’t worry! This plant merely contains a toxin that, in large quantities, can be damaging to your pet. A single head likely won’t cause any visible harm to your beloved pet.\
Is Fleabane Good for Butterflies?
Butterflies and other pollinators love fleabane! While some flowers provide little food for beautiful pollinators like butterflies, bees, and others, fleabane represents a king’s feast for these pollinators. If you’re planning to make a pollinator garden suited for butterflies, this plant is a great place to start.
Daisy fleabane: this flower, so recognizable by many in the United States, Canada, and Europe, is often written off as a weed. However, as we’ve seen, this flower contains many surprises and is full of useful medicinal properties that can be highly beneficial to humans.
In a destroyed forest or an abandoned lot, this plant is one of the first species to arrive at the scene, working to take back the dead place for mother nature. In wildflower gardens, daisy fleabane with its bright pops of gold and white can nicely fill out a wild-and-vibrant feel for any gardener.