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Thread: Growing Gerbera Daisies from Seeds

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    Lightbulb Growing Gerbera Daisies from Seeds

    Growing Gerbera Daisies from Seeds

    Gerbera jamesonii

    With September comes a wave of colorful Gerbera Daisies. After having bloomed spectacularly all spring, the plants rested during the hot summer only occasionally producing a few scattered flowers. September is like the grand finale of a fireworks show, saving the best for last.

    I love growing Gerbera Daisies. They can be found in an endless array of vivid or pastel flower colors. Petals may be of a traditional daisy type or fancier shapes that look more like ‘mums. In my Coastal South Carolina garden these plants range in size from 12 to 24 inches tall, and are a perfect choice to tuck into those front border spaces adding both great color and interesting foliage. Even better, Gerberas are one of the very best plants to grow for cut flowers. The flowers will last a week or two in a vase or an arrangement. Fortunately, in this geographic area, Gerberas are hardy enough to survive most winters and grow as perennials.

    I haven’t always lived in an area where they will over winter outdoors. Since one can never have too many Gerberas and it can be somewhat expensive to purchase them in quantity in the spring, I learned to grow them from seeds. This project is much more challenging than common annuals such as zinnias, marigolds, and vinca. However, with some patience, persistence and a knowledge of this plant’s peculiar requirements, it is possible to grow them quite successfully from seeds. The reward of those beautiful flowers is well worth the effort.

    September’s bountiful display signals time for me to get busy preparing for seeds for the next generation of Gerbera flowers. The first step is to ensure a supply of viable seeds. Often there are not enough butterflies and bees working this late in the season, so I pollinate the flowers with a soft brush. (A large round artist brush or a cosmetic brush works wonderfully for pollinating daisy-type flowers.) I simply swirl the brush in the center of the dry bloom. Moving from flower to flower, the pollinating task is accomplished very quickly. I continue to pollinate them daily until each flower is mature and no longer shows visible pollen. Part of the fun is that you never know what interesting colors your seedlings will be.

    Two to three weeks later the Gerbera flower will fluff up similar to a dandelion puff. It’s now time to harvest the seeds before they fly away. After removing the seed head, I either clip or use a flame to remove the excess fluff. If not removed the fluff will usually mold and spoil your seeds. Viable seeds will be plump and somewhat oval shaped. Pick out only the best, most viable looking seeds and discard all other material from the seed head.

    After several failures using expensive commercially produced seeds, I learned that success for me depends upon the seed freshness. For that reason I use only seeds produced in my garden during the current season. Excess seeds not used on the day harvested are cleaned, dusted with fungicide, sealed and immediately refrigerated. They should not be allowed to dry out. Gerbera seed remains viable for only a very short time. Even when carefully refrigerated, the germination rate is much lower than if they were fresh, so I try to time this project to utilize the fresh seeds when they are ready.

    Immediately before planting, I soak the seeds for 15 minutes in a cup of water with one teaspoonful of bleach added. This helps to kill any bacteria, fungus, or mold clinging to the seeds.

    Since a controlled environment is needed, I grow these seedlings indoors. For good germination, a constant temperature of about 70 degrees and a daily minimum of 16 hours of intensely bright light is required. I use a large, old unoccupied aquarium with a grow light positioned above it about 18 inches from the seeds. (Sterilize the aquarium with bleach.) Strips of small square peat pots (each cell one inch wide by two inches deep) work very well for starting the seedlings and minimizing root damage later during transplanting. I fill the cells with sterile, moistened medium consisting of ½ peat and ½ perlite. The sterilized seeds are then planted two per cell and covered with ¼ inch of additional peat. Peat inhibits the growth of mold and other organisms that would kill the seedlings during their lengthy germination period.

    The seeds will not usually begin to show sprouts until at least two or three weeks after being planted, so some patience is required. They need a humid but not soggy environment until germinated. Maintain 16-18 hours of bright light daily and temperature at about 70 degrees until the appearance of their second true leaf. With the appearance of the second true leaf, I move them out of the aquarium “incubator” and transplant them into 4” pots containing a Ph-balanced, soil-less potting mix. If two sprouts survived in the small peat cell, remove the least desirable one. (just pinch off the top of it leaving the roots in place to prevent injury to the remaining seedling.)

    Since until this time, these baby plants have had little nutrition other that what the seed provided, I feed them with a diluted solution of water soluble fertilizer (¼ strength 10-5-10 with minerals). The leaves at this stage are very tender and will burn easily; so care must be taken not to allow the fertilizer solution to touch the young leaves.

    They will now live in my garage under bright “grow lights” until warmer spring weather. In October and November, the garage temperature will cool and fluctuate normally. Even through the winter it will not freeze. As long as these little plants have bright light and adequate nourishment they will continue to grow slowly until spring. The only care they will need is occasional watering, and continued feeding every 2 weeks with ¼ strength diluted fertilizer. As spring approaches they will be gradually hardened off outdoors in a bright but protected area of the garden. After the last frost, as each one blooms and shows its colors it will have earned its permanent place in the garden.

    Cultivation of Gerberas is not complicated. They need richly organic but well drained soil. Gerberas are heavy feeders. Bright morning sun, but protection from intense afternoon heat in summer prevents wilting and encourages blooming. They should be planted on a slight mound with their crowns positioned a bit above the normal soil line and then mulch built up around the roots. Keep the crown free from mulch . This will prevent crown rot that might otherwise occur from extremely wet weather or over watering. And most important of all, enjoy those lovely flowers. Cutting some to bring inside and deadheading faded flowers keeps them blooming as long as weather conditions permit.

    Happy Gardening!

    Shari
    Attached Images  

  2. #2
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    Greenhouse Production of Gerbera

    Shari,

    Thanks ever so much. I have collected many seeds from these, but never got around to planting them. This year I will know better.

    Thanks for all the tips!

    Here is an article I found recently...

    Greenhouse Production of Gerbera Daisies
    by Alabama Cooperative Extension System

    Sounds to me like you are right on track....

    If I had planted all those seeds I collected, I would have a huge beds full of these beauties by now. It is always so much fun when I see them coming back up in the spring!

    Thanks, Again!
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  3. #3
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    I just wanted to say thanks for the great information here Shari and Ann I feel pretty confident I could grow some of these by such detail Shari puts forth here
    Gene

  4. #4
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    My First Gerbera Bloom in 2003

    This afternoon, I was digging up 5 oak tree seedings (trunks almost 2 inches in diameter, not as easy task) and a yellow buddliea that for some reason died two years ago (don't know why, it was HUGE).

    It started to sprinkle. I grabbed the tools and my garden shovel and swung around to head back into the house. Then I saw it under the red camelia bush! My first Gerbera bloom of 2003!

    Gene, I am good at growing these from seed. They come back every year and seem to grow better in the ground than in pots for me. I should have many more than I do...

    Shari, thanks for reminding me that I do need to do this. They bloom from now until frost, and the blooms are excellent to use in cut flower arrangements. I have used many in flower bouquets for Hunter's teachers in previous years.

    I ran back into the house, grabbed my camera then quickly went back outside to take this picture before the thunderstorms start ...



    BTW, this particular Gerbera is underneath my camellia bush. You see when I planted it the camellia bush was still very small, and it wasn't underneath. It was beside it.

    And, since they don't really like wet feet, I expect to see more and more of these in hanging baskets and potted arrangements.

    I am so very many ideas of what plants would look good with them and require the same type of conditions.

    Enjoying as much as I can of my Spring Break...
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  5. #5
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    Ann
    I was wondering are the gerber seeds pretty easy for you to germinate my wife bought a couple in full bloom I guess I need to hand pollinate these to get seeds. Any help would be appreciated
    Gene

  6. #6
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    Gene,

    They are very easy to germinate. The trick is to sow them right away AND to plant them with the fuzzy side up. I take a sharp pencil, punch a little hole in the seed starting medium, put the non-fuzzy side in the hole, then gently press the soil to close the hole around the seed.

    I don't make the hole very big, just big enough to insert the tip of the seed. That way, it is easier to press the soil around the seed. When this task is completed, you will usually still be able to see the fuzzy side (little whiskers of sorts) sticking up out of the media.

    They say that these plants don't like to be transplanted, but I have never had a problem with that. Just don't let the seedling become root bound before you transplant them and keep that soiless media moist so it does not fall apart when you start transplanting them.

    As with MOST of my seeds, I use plug trays of moist seed mix which has been moistened BEFORE sowing the seed. I enclose the plug tray in a clear plastic pillow case supported by wire (whatever I have available to use) to keep the plastic from touching the tops of the seedlings and place the enclosed plug tray under fluorescent lights.

    When the seedlings have at least one true set of leaves, I use a butter knife to make a hole the size of the plugs in tray cells (six packs) filled with moist soiless mix. Then with the same butter knife, I carefully lift the seeding, seed mix and all from othe plug tray and place in the newly formed tray cell hole.

    The whole process may sound complicated, but it really isn't. I use plug cells because they take less room under the lights, and I can get raise more seedlings in less space using less electrical energy.

    Depending on how warm it is, I may put them back under the lights for a week or so, then move them to the patio for a week or perhaps more, and then out to the greenhouse until it is time to either harden them off, plant them in the ground or pot them up in 4" square pots.

    Note that I don't necessarily sow these in the winter since winter may not be when I have fresh seeds available.

    Have FUN, and please do let us know how you do...
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  7. #7
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    Thanks Ann I'll have to give it a try when the flowers go to seed
    Gene

  8. #8
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    Mmmmmm....

    I was strolling around the gardens today and peaked under the what is now HUGE camellia shrub, and sure enough, there is the same Gerbera that I photographed years ago with the video camera. It went dormant, I think, but to my amazement, the new leaves are still quite green and huge, despite the recent below 30 degree temps.

    This particular Gerbera is not blooming as much as it once did. I suspect that it has to do with too much shade because the camellia bush has grown so large.

    Still, it amazes me that it is so green and not dormant. When it blooms again, I'll be sure to get a better pic, along with other gerberas in my gardens. They are so pretty, but they don't like the long droughts that we have had in the spring of the last few years. They tend to dry and wilt, but bounce back as soon as there is rain.
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  9. #9
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    Okay, last fall I purchased some sad-looking Gerberas and nursed them at home. they pretty much died with probably powdery mildew last fall, but new sprouts are coming up in each of the pots now. There is hope!
    But i did gather up the seeds, read all the posts, and didn't get around to trying out germinating them until last week. After rereading the posts yet again, I have figured out how i should have planted the seeds (fuzzy end up) but i must admit that most of the seeds don't look too plump. I have had them sealed in a zip lock baggie in a drawer, but I guess i should have started them right away. I will be trying out germinating but i don't hold much hope here. May have to just buy some from the markets, and then try to cultivate them as recommended from here.
    Here is hoping I might get a few!!
    Linda

  10. #10
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    Linda,

    You should see the display of Gerbera's at Lowes. I don't ever recall seeing that many. It was hard not to buy any because they are less than $2/pot.

    My Gerbera's do get powdery mildew if I put them in the greenhouse and the greenhouse is closed up. It doesn't seem to be so much of a problem if the fan is running and the back window and front door or open. Still, they do much better if there is sufficient air circulation.

    They do well here in full sun as long as the roots are shaded. When I planted mine, it was at the edge of the camellia bush. Now it is well under the canopy and doing quite well with foliage, but I noted that it did not bloom as well last year.

    It is possible that one reason that there aren't very many 'plump' seeds formed is the very fact that Gerbera's do not seem to produce much pollen. I keep telling myself that I am going to hand pollinate, but time always gets away from me. Hopefully, I will remember this year.

    I also haven't tried to grow many from seeds. Part of the reason for that is because the price of a blooming sized plant is now inexpensive and they can be overwintered in the gardens here. Shame on me for not having more of them in my garden. That, for sure, I will do this year.

    I do have numerous plants that I started from a package of 'California Mix' seeds that I sowed several years ago. I had to dig them up last fall because they were in the way of the heavy equipment that was used to clear the neighbor's pecan tree stump. They have gotten dry a couple of time, but are doing fine. Because they are enclosed, I am careful not to let them stay overly wet.

    There is no doubt that they need warmth to germinate, and I do specifally remember that the purchased seeds were inside one of those tiny, foil lined packages and well sealed. Yep! I would have hope, so give it a try.

    What FUN! Let us know!
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  11. #11
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    am keeping my eyes open, the flowering flats are not out yet, as our last frost date is usually about 1 MAY and not too many want plants to remain indoors for long after purchase. The bulbs are here, and the seeds are here.....
    I started things way too early this year, my tomatos are a month old, and I have repotted some of the bigger ones. I only have one set of grow lights and no room for more, this makes it hard to get everyone enough light now that they are bigger. Silly me.

    Thanks for the advice. I will try to buy some gerberas this spring and figure out where I can keep them in some shade, and try my hand at hand pollenation (if only I won't pick every darn flower to take indoors!!)
    Linda
    Linda

  12. #12
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    The florist types usually arrive inside the garden centers before Valentines. They are popular for gifts.

    The ones that are now outside are on pallets, so I am suppose they bring them inside before the store closes each night.

    The next time you pick one for a floral arrangement, try rubbing the pollen directly from the face of the flower to one of the non-cut blooms. Maybe that would help pollinate them. I've never tried this, but I may just do that when I get some potted ones that are in bloom. Wouldn't that be a hoot if that produced more viable seeds?
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  13. #13
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    Good idea, thanks, Ann!
    Now that you mention it, I did see some at Lowe's last weekend inside. I, of course, am looking for things to plant out, but I only need to guard them, and harden them off this spring carefully and put them out. I do have two plants that apparently survived the winter in the garage from the ones I bought as closeouts last fall....there were three plants in each pot, but only one seems to have made it. i only hope I don't kill them off!! I might sink the entire pot into the ground for the summer if i think I can find the right place. Our summers get hot and sometimes very wet or very dry....last year was very dry. Do they like wet feet or dry feet?
    Linda

  14. #14
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    Linda,

    Too dry and hot and they will wilt. If you see signs of wilting, water as soon as you can.

    Too wet and you chance losing them to disease.

    Ie., plant them in well draining soil with plenty of humus or peat to maintain some moisture.

    Actually, in the ground, they are not too picky. Full sun in mid summer, here anyway, combined with drought conditions and they will pout.

    They don't seem to mind our heavy rains, but mine are planted where they will not flood or sit in water.

    Have fun! They are little beauties.
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  15. #15
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    ho HO HO!!!
    Silly me, I went over to Lowe's and bought 14 Gerbera plants, so cheap and blooming so prettily. Then I looked at my damp paper towel in my zip lock baggie and saw that all 7 little Gerbera seeds i had stuck in there were sprouting....so i have potted them all up too. I am so excited to get my own crop of Gerberas going! They are so lovely. I also invested in 4 rannunculus, what a gorgeous flower, I just am flower happy. Lowe's really had a nice display of fun flowers. I also planted 13 emerald green arborvitae to start my living fence. I only hope my crape myrtle seeds get going, so far they have only one set of true leaves on a few of them.
    Maybe when the weather warms a bit the plants will take off!!

    Did some winter sowing as well, but they all should be sprouting shortly anyway as it is bound to warm up by month's end.
    Linda
    Last edited by lbfoss; 03-06-2006 at 02:31 PM.
    Linda

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