How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Dusty Miller
Have you admired Dusty Miller but never tried it yourself? Perhaps you are looking for an easy addition to your container garden. Dusty Miller is a beautiful and easy-to-grow plant known for its soft, felty-white foliage. In this article, gardening enthusiast Liessa Bowen will discuss the proper care and maintenance of these fun and easy garden plants.
Dusty miller (Jacobaea maritima), sometimes called silver ragwort, is a member of the Aster family. This plant is an herbaceous perennial that’s winter hardy in zones 7 through 10, although it is very commonly grown as an annual and replaced each year by fresh plants. Here, I’ll share essential tips for growing and caring for this attractive plant.
These plants are native to northern Africa, western Asia, and parts of Europe. They stay fairly compact, rarely reaching more than 1.5 to 2 feet tall, although many cultivars are smaller.
This species is most commonly grown for its attractive silvery foliage. The leaves are deeply serrated and covered with a downy white fuzz, which gives them a soft, silvery appearance. The flowers are generally yellow and will attract pollinators when in bloom. Some people prefer to remove the flowers to focus on the foliage so the plants maintain a more compact and rounded growth form.
If you’re ready to start growing, keep reading to learn more about these fantastic garden plants!
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Native Area Northern Africa, Western Asia, Europe
USDA Hardiness Zone 7 – 10
Sun Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type Average, Well-drained
Water Dry to medium
Plant Spacing 6 – 12 inches
Suggested Uses Annual flower beds, Containers, Borders, Mixed plantings
Plant With Begonia, Coleus, Dianthus, Marigold, Petunia
Bloom Season Mid to late summer
Flower Color Yellow
Problems Root rot, Rust, Aphids
Resistant To Drought, Heat, Deer, Shade
Height 1 – 1.5 feet
This is an easy-to-grow and low-maintenance garden plant. In mild climates, it is also long-lasting and frost-tolerant. In warmer climates, you can grow it as a perennial, although many gardeners still prefer to grow it as an annual.
Regardless of your regional climate, you can take cuttings and overwinter them indoors to be replanted outside in the following spring. You can also start them easily from seeds or find them for sale in nurseries and garden centers.
Do you plant an annual flower garden? Grow dusty miller along the edge as a border plant or in the middle as a central focal point. Have a patio garden? Grow it in mixed containers with other colorful annuals so their silvery leaves will make a fine companion plant. Need something quick and easy to fill in some gaps in your garden? This is an excellent filler plant that would look great in any setting.
This species is very easy to propagate and grow. Start plants from seed in the spring or start new plants from cuttings taken from mature plants.
Are you ready to grow dusty miller from seed? It’s quite simple to do. Start seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before your average last spring frost date. Do not bury the seeds. Simply sprinkle them on the soil surface and press them onto the soil to make full contact. Then, water the soil well and keep the soil warm and moist until the seeds sprout, possibly up to three weeks after sowing.
If you use multi-cell pots and have sown multiple seeds per cell, thin them to one seedling per unit. Keep the seedlings warm and the soil moist, and keep them in a location with plenty of bright sunlight or under a grow light. After all the danger of frost has passed and your seedlings are several inches tall, you can safely transplant them into your garden or planter.
Sometimes, it’s just easier to buy seedlings from the store. In the spring, many garden centers selling summer bedding plants will have them in stock.
You will probably have a variety of multi-cell pots full of perky little plants to select from. Choose a healthy-looking batch. Check to see that the stems are straight and strong.
The leaves and stems should be firm and vibrant looking. Don’t buy plants with obvious signs of rot or insect damage.
If you can access a mature plant, you can take cuttings to create more plants. Cut a healthy section of stem tip three or four inches long.
Remove the lower couple of leaves to have a bare stem on one end and a few healthy leaves at the tip end. Dip the bare stem in rooting hormone and then plant the stem in fresh, clean potting soil.
Keep your cutting in a warm, brightly lit location, and keep the soil moist to the touch. After a few weeks, you should start to see fresh leaves growing, and this will be your sign that the cutting was successful.
When you are ready to plant your seedlings, cuttings, or nursery-grown plants outside, wait until springtime, after the danger of frost has passed. Identify the location where you want to grow your plants.
Dig a hole slightly larger than the plant’s root mass. Carefully remove your plant from its pot and transfer it into the hole.
Fill in the gaps around the root mass with fresh soil and carefully tamp the soil into place. Now, thoroughly water your plant and keep it moist for the next week to help it settle into its new home.
How to Grow
Dusty miller generally prefers full sun to partial shade, although they will also tolerate deeper shade and could be suitable for a shade garden. Plants in heavy shade will have greener leaves and may develop long, leggy growth. In hot, dry climates, they may prefer dappled afternoon shade over full sun exposure.
This subtle bedding plant thrives in dry to medium moisture soil. These plants will tolerate some drought, although they appreciate occasional watering during prolonged dry conditions, especially in smaller containers. Drought-tolerant does not mean that a plant needs no water, only that it can survive for short periods with less!
Soil should be loose and well-drained. Average garden soil is sufficient as long as the soil is well-drained.
Climate and Temperature
You can grow this pretty plant during the warmer months in any climate. In cold climates, cooler than USDA hardiness zone 7, they typically won’t survive the winter.
To increase the odds of your plants surviving the winter when the temperatures drop below zero, mulch your flower beds well to help protect the roots. Plants may be more prone to foliage diseases in very wet, humid climates.
Dusty miller typically doesn’t need extra fertilizer. However, if your plants start to look weak, you can give them a mid-season side-dressing of organic compost or offer a balanced flower fertilizer. If you want to fertilize, follow the directions on the product you use.
These plants are generally very low maintenance and don’t require too much extra work to maintain them. In mild climates, mulch your plants in the winter to protect them from extreme winter freezes. If the plants start to grow leggy and unkept-looking, prune them back to encourage them to stay bushy and compact.
You can use dusty miller plants in your home garden in so many ways. One of my favorite uses for these plants is to grow them in raised beds or large planters for a colorful summer garden design. Group the silvery leaves with an assortment of vibrant annual flowers for a stunning display of seasonal color.
It also makes a lovely border plant. These plants stay relatively compact and can be pruned if they become too leggy. You can also intersperse them with other annuals and perennials so their neutral silvery leaves can complement any flower color.
Do you have a vegetable garden, herb garden, or perennial flower garden that needs a bit of extra beauty? Plant it for a subtle charm that doesn’t ever feel overwhelming. The attractive foliage looks nice without growing aggressively or stealing the show.
This plant grows well in full sun or partial shade, so it is easy to incorporate into many different landscape situations. You can plant them in the spring and enjoy them all summer and fall.
You can also plant them later in the season to highlight autumn colors and fall-themed cut-flower gardens. They will survive the first few light frosts before dying back for the winter so that you can enjoy them for an extra-long growing season.
There are several interesting cultivars, but you probably won’t see them all together at your local garden center. Fortunately, whichever cultivar you purchase will be a welcome addition to your garden. Many of these varieties are very similar in appearance, with variations primarily in overall size and leaf shape.
‘Silverdust’ is one of the more popular cultivars. This plant has soft, silvery, deeply cut foliage. These plants grow to be 10 to 12 inches tall.
They generally maintain a mounded form, making them excellent for growing along borders and edges. This cultivar has yellow flowers.
‘Silver Filigree’ is one of the smallest cultivars available. It grows only 6 to 8 inches tall but can spread out and act as a ground cover.
The leaves are silvery-green, soft, and relatively small. ‘Silver Filagree’ has creamy yellow flowers.
‘Blazin’ Glory’ is a cultivar with extremely soft-looking leaves. The leaves are broad yet deeply serrated, to the point of looking slightly ruffled. This variety grows about 18 inches tall and has unusual red flowers.
‘Cirrus’ has more broadened leaves towards the tips while staying deeply cut along the lower edge. The leaves are soft grayish-white in color.
This variety stays compact, reaching only about 12 inches tall. It produces yellow flowers.
The ‘Silver Lace’ cultivar has more finely cut leaves than many other varieties, giving it a more delicate appearance. But don’t worry, it’s just as hardy as its cousins.
‘Silver Lace’ stays quite compact, rarely reaching over 8 inches tall, making it an excellent choice for containers. ‘Silver Lace’ has yellow flowers.
If dusty miller plants reach the flowering phase, butterflies and other pollinators will come to visit the flowers. Otherwise, this plant does not have great wildlife value.
It is generally not bothered by deer or rabbits but doesn’t necessarily repel them. While this species doesn’t offer much to wildlife, it makes a beautiful complement to other wildlife-friendly plants.
Pests and Diseases
This plant is generally not bothered by many pests or diseases. Avoid wet soil conditions that can lead to root rot and fungal diseases like rust. As with any plant, watch for potential insect invasions, such as aphids.
If plants sit in wet, saturated soil, they can develop root rot. You will notice something is wrong with your plant because it will start to look limp and mushy.
The leaves and stems will become soft and brown, and plants will fall over. Once a plant has developed root rot, it may be best to remove it and avoid overly wet conditions. However, you can try rejuvenating the plant by carefully removing it from its soil, pruning off damaged roots, and replanting it in a fresh, well-draining potting mix.
This plant is somewhat prone to rust. Rust is caused by a fungal infection that is most common after an extended period of wet weather. Rust on dusty miller generally looks like yellow or orange patches on the undersides of the leaves and, if allowed to spread, will infect the entire plant, causing it to appear stunted, deformed, or die.
If you have had problems with rust, try to choose disease-resistant varieties. At the end of the growing season, remove leafy debris from around the plants where diseases can overwinter and spread the following year. Water your plants from below rather than unnecessarily spraying water on the leaves.
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects, typically green, pink, or grayish in color. They suck hide on the undersides of leaves and along stems, sucking plant juices with tiny piercing mouthparts. Aphids will cause stunted growth and deformed leaves, and they can transmit plant diseases.
To help control aphids, encourage beneficial insects to visit your garden. Spray heavily infected plants with a jet of water to dislodge and disrupt the aphid feeding cycle.
Spray infected plants with insecticidal soap, but do this in the evenings to minimize potential harmful contact with beneficial insects that fly primarily during the day. Closely follow the directions on whichever product you decide to use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I allow my dusty miller to overwinter or buy fresh plants each year?
If you live in a relatively warm climate, you have the option to overwinter your plants or start fresh each year. Many people choose to start new plants each year. This is convenient if you want your plants to stay more compact or want to move them around each year. If you choose to overwinter them, you can still prune them low in late winter or early spring so the fresh seasonal growth will be more compact. If you want to grow your dusty millers as perennials and not move them, allowing them to overwinter is a perfectly fine option.
Will it spread and become invasive?
Dusty miller plants are not native to North America but aren’t invasive, either. These plants may slowly spread into a larger clump, but they don’t spread in a way that will overtake your garden or the surrounding landscape.
Is Dusty Miller an annual or a perennial?
It totally depends on your climate zone. Dusty miller can generally be grown as a perennial in zone 7 and warmer, but t will die back in the winter but regrow the following spring. If you live in zone 6 or cooler, you will have to grow dusty miller as an annual, and it makes a splendid annual garden plant. Even in warm climates, many people still choose to grow it as an annual because it is easy to grow, and young plants tend to look fresher and more robust than older plants.
This attractive foliage plant is easy to grow and worthy of consideration. Its soft, silvery-green leaves contribute complementary beauty and interest to your garden throughout the growing season. However you decide to incorporate this plant into your garden, dusty miller will surely please.