How to grow gerberas
Give these bold, colourful daisies a warm, sunny spot at the front of a border, in a patio container or on an indoor windowsill and they'll flower in profusion all summer. Only a few are hardy, so most are enjoyed as houseplants or summer bedding.
- Abundant, colourful flowers all summer
- Most are tender, a few are hardy
- Grow indoors or outside
- Need careful watering and winter protection
- Plant in late spring
- Like a warm, sunny spot in well-drained soil
All you need to know
What are gerberas?
These are perennial plants with bold daisy flowers in a wide choice of colours, often rich and vibrant. The abundant blooms stand on sturdy stems above low clumps of leaves.
Gerberas create a colourful, exotic summer display in containers and borders, and the blooms make long-lasting cut flowers too.
Most gerberas are tender, so are often grown as houseplants or temporary summer bedding.
In recent years, some hardy gerberas have been developed. These can be grown outdoors all year round in mild, sheltered, well-drained locations.
How and what to buy
Gerberas can be bought as small
Seedlings or young plants grown singly in small modules, with the advantage that they can be transplanted with minimal root disturbance. Bedding plants and young veg plants are often sold as plug plants of various sizes, with smaller ones requiring more aftercare. They usually need to be potted up and grown on indoors until large enough to plant outside.
Established plants have been in their current location for two or three years and so have well-developed root systems able to support strong growth with healthy foliage and flowers.
Plug plants are available in late winter and spring, usually from mail order suppliers. These small, young plants need to be potted up and looked after indoors for up to several months, until large and robust enough to be planted outside.
Larger, containerised plants can be bought in spring and summer from garden centres and online. These are often sold in full flower, for an instant display. They are more expensive than plug plants, but are ready to be planted straight into the garden.
Gerberas are also widely sold as flowering houseplants all year round.
Most gerberas are tender, but there are a few hardy types that can be grown permanently outdoors:
They need a warm, sheltered, sunny spot, well-drained soil and frost protection in winter.
Where to plant
Gerberas can be grown indoors or outside. With their bright, cheery colours, they work well in many styles of garden, including:
- tropical borders
- summer bedding
- container displays, including patio pots and windowboxes
- small gardens
- sheltered urban or courtyard gardens
- cut-flower borders
Plant them en masse for greatest impact, either using single colours or a mix of different hues. They also work well with various partners, including small ornamental grasses and other foliage plants, bedding plants in complementary or contrasting colours, and other tropical-looking blooms, such as dahlias.
Most gerberas reach 30–60cm (1–2ft) tall, so are best positioned at the front of borders and containers. Space them about 30cm (1ft) apart.
Grow in containers on a bright windowsill or in a conservatory or heated greenhouse. They like good light, but direct summer sun can scorch them.
Provide well-ventilated conditions, warm but not hot. Keep them between 10–20°C (50–68°F) to encourage flowering.
Most will stop flowering below 10°C (50°F) or above 20°C (68°F), but will restart once temperatures are back within their preferred range.
Tender gerberas must always be kept above 5°C (41°F).
Planting outdoors – tender gerberas
Tender gerberas can be grown temporarily outdoors, usually from mid-spring to mid-autumn, depending on your local conditions.
Plant outside in spring, once night temperatures are reliably above 5°C (41°F).
Take them indoors in autumn, before night temperatures fall below 5°C (41°F).
Give them a warm, sheltered, sunny spot.
Plant in borders or containers, in fertile, well-drained soil or compost that doesn’t get waterlogged.
Planting outdoors – hardy gerberas
In borders, plant in fertile, well-drained soil that doesn’t get waterlogged.
In containers, use free-draining compost. Never stand containers in trays of water for long spells, as gerberas are susceptible to rotting.
When to plant
Plant outdoors in spring, once night temperatures are reliably above 5°C (41°F).
Acclimatise plants to outdoor conditions by hardening off gradually.
How to plant
Gerberas are deep rooted, especially the larger, vigorous cultivars, so plant in deep containers.
Position the crown (the point from which the leaves sprout) slightly above the surface, to ensure it stays dry and doesn’t rot.
See our guide to planting in containers.
Set the crown (the point from which the leaves sprout) slightly above the soil surface, so soil doesn’t wash into the crown and increase the risk of rotting.
Space plants at least 30cm (1ft) apart. Overcrowding can encourage fungal diseases such as grey mould.
For full details, see our perennials planting guide.
In summer, when plants are in vigorous growth, water regularly. Gerberas like moist but well-drained conditions.
Take care not to wet the crown or foliage when watering.
In containers, let the compost dry out a little between waterings. Ideally water from below, standing the container in a tray of water until the compost is damp. Don't leave them standing in water for long periods.
In winter, keep the compost on the dry side, particularly in an unheated location.
Overwatering can lead to the crown or roots rotting.
Tips on collecting and recycling water
How to water efficiently
- In spring and summer, apply a general-purpose liquid feed at fortnightly intervals to encourage strong growth.
- To boost flowering, you can use a high-potassium feed, such as tomato fertiliser, in summer.
Take care to avoid covering the crown of the plant, as this can lead to rotting.
With hardy gerberas in borders, add mulch over the root zone every autumn, to help insulate the roots over winter.
Remove fading flowers regularly, to keep the display looking its best and encourage plants to send up new flower stems.
Snip off the whole stem, down at the base.
See our guide to deadheading.
Get more flowers
Regular deadheading ensures plants put all their energy into making flowers rather than seeds.
Most gerberas are tender and won't survive below 5°C (41°F). So bring them indoors in autumn and keep them in a conservatory or heated greenhouse, or on an indoor windowsill.
Wait until night temperatures are consistently above 5°C (41°F) before moving them back out in spring. Take care to acclimatise them to outdoor conditions – see our guide to hardening off.
Even hardy gerberas (such as 'Everlast Series' and 'Garvinea Series') won't cope well in damp soil in winter or in prolonged freezing temperatures. It's best to give them some protection, especially in cooler locations.
If they are in a container, move it to a sheltered, frost-free spot, protected from excess winter wet. Ideally take them under cover, into a coldframe, greenhouse or porch. If left outside, wrap insulating fleece or bubblewrap around the container to help stop the compost freezing. Don't let the compost get waterlogged.
How to use less plastic
For plastic-free insulation, use straw and hessian, or glass cloches, instead of bubblewrap and fleece.
If they are in the ground, spread a thick layer of insulating mulch, such as well-rotted garden compost, over the root zone. But leave a gap around the crown, to help prevent rotting. You can also cover plants with a cloche, to keep the crown dry.
Caring for older plants
After several years, gerberas can form large congested clumps and may start to deteriorate. Overcrowded conditions encourage fungal diseases such as grey mould. So it is best to divide them every few years, in early spring, to keep plants vigorous and healthy.
Plant the resulting smaller sections into fresh compost (see Planting, above).
See our guide to dividing perennials.
Gerberas need no training or pruning. But you can keep plants healthy and blooming for as long as possible by:
Deadheading faded flowers to encourage more. Remove the whole flower stem at the base.
Snipping off any damaged or fading leaves, to deter mould and rot. This also stimulates the plant to produce fresh new leaves.
There are three main ways to make new plants. They are fairly straightforward, but you need to be careful not to overwater the young plants. It may take a year or so before your new plants are large enough to flower well.
- Sow in February or March. Germination rates deteriorate with age, so only use fresh seeds.
- If you use seeds collected from a named cultivar, the offspring may differ from the parent.
- Add sharp sand to the seed compost to improve drainage.
- Sow seeds thinly, setting them vertically into the compost, with the feathered end projecting. They need some light to germinate, so don't bury deeply.
- They need a temperature of 20–25°C (68–75°F) to germinate, so place in a propagator or on a sunny windowsill. Germination usually takes two to three weeks.
- Young gerberas are particularly susceptible to rotting, so water carefully and avoid leaving them in soggy compost.
- The new plants will usually flower four to six months after sowing.
See our guide to sowing seeds.
In March or April, when you see the first signs of new growth, you can divide large healthy plants. Cut the crown into four or five pieces, each with at least one growth bud and plenty of roots.
Take basal cuttings
When new shoots sprout from the crown in spring, cut off a vigorous, robust shoot right at the base, as close to the crown as possible.
Pot it up into sandy cuttings compost.
Place in a propagator until well rooted.
For more on all kinds of propagation techniques, see our guide to propagation.
Look out for sap-feeding pests on the foliage, such as whitefly, red spider mites and aphids, especially on plants growing under cover.
Damp conditions and poor ventilation can lead to fungal diseases and rot, including botrytis (grey mould), powdery mildew, crown rot and root rot.
To deter these:
- Plant so the crown (the point from which the leaves sprout) is slightly raised above the soil surface, to aid drainage.
- Avoid wetting the foliage and crown when watering.
- With plants in containers, stand the container in a tray of water until the compost is damp, rather than watering from above.
- Never let containers stand in water for long periods, especially in winter.
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