Q: Can you help me identify these plants? I love the pink and purple flowers, and the branching is just fantastic. I took this picture at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose back in 2005 and use it as wallpaper for my computer. I would love to know what this is.
Richard Davis, Sacramento
According to UC master gardener Annie Kempees, the mystery plant you took a photo of in 2005 turns out to be a perennial called Pericallis x hybrid or Pericallis cruenta. This information came directly from the most recent “Sunset Western Garden Book.”
Although Pericallis is a perennial, it is often grown as an annual because it is frost tender. It grows best in coastal areas, such as Sunset zones 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24. (Most of the Sacramento area is Sunset zone 14 or zone 9.)
If your microclimate mimics those coastal zones, then Pericallis likely will do well in your garden. Otherwise, treat it like an annual.
This plant is commonly known as florist’s cineraria. A cousin to asters, it’s native to the Canary Islands. Pericallis cruenta, an early hybrid, was developed for Britain’s royal gardens in 1777. It was originally called Cineraria x hybrida, but botanists split off the genus Cineraria to refer to only South African species of this pretty perennial and placed the Canary Island descendants in Pericallis.
This perennial thrives in partial to full shade. It takes regular irrigation (watered deeply once or twice a week), and grows well in loose, rich soil. Pericallis grow 2 feet high and wide, with broad clusters of 3- to 5-inch daisylike flowers in colors ranging from white, pink and purplish red to darker shades of blue and purple, often with contrasting eyes or bands.
Most common are the large-flowered dwarf kinds (12 to 15 inches tall). These are generally sold as “Multiflora Nana” or “Hybrida Grandiflora.” They bloom in late winter/early spring in mild winter areas and early summer elsewhere. Plants sold as Cineraria stellate are 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall with clusters of smaller, star-shaped daisies.
If these plants are set out in autumn, protect them from frost by choosing locations under shrubs, trees, overhangs or beneath lath. It’s very effective in mass plantings or combined with other shade-loving plants. It also makes an excellent container plant.
Its principal pests are leaf miners, spider mites, slugs and snails.
Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties. Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “Garden Detective” in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact UC Extension directly, call:
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