The gerberas

Gerbera is one of the most widespread and appreciated flowering plants: it can be used both for interior decoration (with adequate exposure), and for embellishing balconies, terraces or flowerbeds, directly in the garden. Its corollas are among the most loved for the elegance and regularity of their shape which, in the imagination, make it the symbol of the "perfect daisy". It is available in many colors and some cultivars with long stems are also excellent for use in flower arrangements.
To the genre gerbera dozens of species of perennial herbaceous plants, originating from South Africa, belong; they are cultivated in Europe until the end of the 19th century and for this reason numerous hybrids are also on the market. They produce a thick rosette of leathery leaves, enlarged, dark green, not particularly decorative, which could give the impression of belonging to a weed; from late spring to the first cold they produce numerous flower head inflorescences, similar to large daisies, of a size that varies according to the species or variety; there gerberas that can reach 35-45 cm in height, and are cultivated above all to obtain cut flowers, le gerberas more commonly grown in the garden instead they do not exceed 25-35 cm in height, with particular dwarf varieties, which do not exceed 15-25 cm.
The flowers of gerbera they are very appreciated as cut flowers, because they last even in pots for a few weeks; they are also used in the garden, or for growing in pots, because the plant is very floriferous, has few needs and the flowers are very showy; in fact there are gerberas of many colors: pure white, cream white, pink, lilac, purple, red, orange, yellow. The color of the gerberas is very intense and decisive.

How to grow gerberas

Gerberas are cultivated like most mild climate perennial herbaceous plants: they are positioned in a very bright and sunny place, but avoiding exposure to the scorching sun of July and August; they love loose and fresh soils, very well drained, the water stagnation is the number one enemy of the gerberas, which if left immersed for a long time in the water tend to rapidly develop root and collar rots, fatal for the whole plant.
Before placing the gerberas in the garden we enrich and lighten the earth, working it thoroughly and incorporating good fresh universal soil, little sand or lapillus and mature manure; such a prepared soil will not need fertilizing during the growing season.

Family and gender
Fam. Asteracee, gen. Gerbera (contains about 100 species)
Type of plant Short lasting herbaceous perennials (about 3 years)
Height From 20 to 70 cm
Corolla color White, yellow, pink, red, orange
Foliage Persistent
Maintenance Moderately difficult
Exposure Sun or partial shade
Minimum temperature -5; suffers already at 5 ° C
Ideal temperature 18-25 ° c
Ground Draining but rich in organic substance
soil pH Subacido
Irrigation Always fresh substrate, absolutely no stagnation
Flowering From summer to autumn. It can be forced.
Propagation Seed, division
Pests and diseases Aphids, red spider mites, root and collar rot, powdery mildew
Use From pot (in the apartment or outside), flower beds, cut flower


From spring to late summer we water regularly, but it is essential to always wait for the soil to dry before supplying water again; the gerberas can withstand short periods of drought, but if the soil becomes excessively dry the foliage withers, to return turgid as soon as water is supplied.
At the end of summer-beginning of autumn the foliage begins to decay, until it dries up completely: with the lowering of night temperatures the gerberas enter into total vegetative rest, which will last until the following spring.
To allow our plants to survive the winter we will have to preserve them from frost; for this reason it is good to cultivate gerberas in the open ground only in the area with mild winters, where it will be enough to cover the ground with dry leaves or straw, to protect the delicate roots.
In northern Italy it is necessary to cultivate the gerberas as annuals, or in pots, moving the containers in a cold greenhouse on the arrival of winter. As for example for the succulents, the gerberas are better able to withstand the cold the less the soil is wet, so we put the vases indoors, without watering them until the new leaves come out in the summer.

A gerbera in the house

Gerberas are often forced to bloom even in the middle of winter; a plant so treated will necessarily have to live in the apartment for the whole period of flowering; place it in a well-ventilated and bright place, with an average temperature above 10-12 ° C, even a stairwell can be a good place, while the warm and dry air of the apartment often quickly ruins the foliage.
The gerberas in the apartment need moderate watering, rather we lift them from the dry air, often steaming them with demineralized water.
In spring we can place our gerbera on the ground, or move it to the garden in a vase, but it is likely that it will not flower again until the following year.

Characteristics and origins of Gerbera

Gerbera is a medium-small herbaceous plant: the most contained cultivars grow up to 20 cm, cutting ones can reach up to 70 cm. The leaves are not particularly elegant: they are basal, lanceolate, medium green. The youngest are covered with a light down. The flower is very beautiful: the "petals" (more correctly bracts) are elongated, in shades of red, pink, yellow, orange or white. The corolla can be simple or double. Also interesting is the large and regular center, with a beautiful bright yellow.
Gerbera is native to the tropical and equatorial bands of the planet, in particular in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The species, in nature about thirty, have been used to obtain the hybrids we know, several thousand, with long flowering and perfect flowers. The most exploited were the jamsonii and the viridiflora, with a long work begun already at the end of the nineteenth century. The name "gerbera" pays homage to a German naturalist.

Climate for gerbera

This herb is of tropical origin and is not very rustic. The first damages can be noticed when the temperatures approach 5 ° C: the permanent open-air cultivation, in our country, is to be reserved for the extremely southern regions and the coasts with a very temperate climate (with adequate winter coverings and mulches).
Elsewhere, upon the arrival of the bad season, it is necessary to withdraw them, extracting them from the ground or moving the containers. Vegetative growth can, however, last all year, without the need to induce a vegetative rest: they are also very suitable for apartment cultivation, provided that the temperatures always go from 18 to 24 ° C and that environmental lighting and humidity are adequate.


To have a vigorous growth and beautiful blooms it is essential to place them where there is excellent lighting. Outdoors, siting is good even in full sun for most of the day, as long as the area is also open and well ventilated. A somewhat more sheltered position, especially from the afternoon sun, is recommended only in the southern regions to avoid excessive dehydration and possible leaf burns.
At home we choose for them a room with large windows illuminated at least for six hours every day: in the summer season we can, if necessary, shield them with light colored curtains. Of course from spring to autumn, if it is possible, it is good to move the vessels outside.

Soil and composition of the vase

The most frequent cause of decay, in these plants, is root rot: often they are in fact grown in not adequately draining substrates and irrigations are too frequent.
To avoid these inconveniences we first of all choose containers that are not too large (12-20 cm in diameter): on the bottom we create a thick draining layer of expanded clay or lapillus. We insert the plant and fill it with a rich but draining compost. We can get it by mixing soil for flowering plants (not peaty) with some sand (or perlite) and mature compost. We carefully avoid covering the collar: in this way it will get less wet and we can monitor it carefully.

Gerbera in the garden

If we want to create flower beds with gerberas we will have to pay particular attention to the texture of our soil: if it were too clay-like we would have to extract it and mix in plenty of leaf soil and a little sand. We need to create a compost capable of keeping itself slightly cool, but never wet. On the bottom of the hole, to facilitate water draining, we can create a drainage layer with gravel or lapillus.
In any case, let's make sure that the substrate has an acid pH: we will avoid the appearance of leaf chlorosis and the consequent use of expensive chelated iron.

Irrigation of gerbera

This is the aspect to pay more attention to: the gerbera likes having the roots always slightly fresh but, on the other hand, it fears terribly water stagnation. To be sure not to overdo it, we only give water when the soil is dry at least in the first 5 cm of depth: a little drought, in this case, is always preferable to excessive humidity. The saucers must absolutely be avoided. It is important to always wet the earth, never the leaves (and especially the collar area).

Fertilize the gerbera

To have colorful and lasting blooms it is important to regularly give a fertilizer for flowering plants. The best results are obtained with liquid products that have a high potassium content. We can mix them with water every two weeks or dilute them very much, distributing them with each watering. At the beginning of the season we can mix, in the substratum, a little granular slow release fertilizer for flowering plants.


The flowering of the gerberas, in the right climatic and light conditions, can be almost continuous. The buds are released when temperatures exceed 18 ° C. If we want to have a copious flowering concentrated in a precise period, strive to induce, before, a short period of dormancy: we will have to move the vase to a room where there is about 10 ° C and a slight shadow. After about 10 days we will gradually bring the plant back to normal conditions and abundant flowering will begin.


The only necessary interventions are those of cleaning: we promptly eliminate old and damaged leaves. The stems should never be cut with scissors ("wounds" can easily become a vector of pathologies). When a flower is withered we intervene by pulling the stem from the side: it will be enough to tear it. Plants kept clean at all times grow better and flourish more continuously.
In the middle of the earth it is operated in the same way but, at the end of the season, it is good to eliminate all the aerial part and cover the area with a thick mulch.

Pests and diseases

In this respect the gerbera is quite delicate. The most common parasites are aphids; in pots, if the attacks are frequent, we can make use of special insecticide tablets to be inserted in the ground. In the flower beds we use instead products to spray based on pyrethrins or pyrethroids.
Another frequent enemy is the red spider: it strikes potted plants, very exposed to heat, in poorly humid environments. We often wet the surrounding floor and move to a less sunny location. In extreme cases we resort to specific acaricides.
Root and collar rots are also frequent: they are mainly linked to inadequate cultivation. First of all it is necessary to replace the substrate and, secondly, to regulate the irrigations avoiding absolutely stagnation.
Another common cryptogam is oidium, especially in spring and autumn with alternating heat and humidity: we immediately eliminate the affected leaves and prevent new onset with wettable sulfur.


Obtaining new gerbera seedlings is not particularly difficult: usually proceeding by division of the rhizome. This method, in addition to giving more certain results, guarantees the maintenance of the peculiar characteristics of the cultivar.
The best time to divide the clumps is the end of winter or the beginning of autumn: the root system is extracted from the ground and the rhizome is divided into several sections, each with at least one eye. We use clean and well sharpened scissors or razor blades to create clean cuts, without fraying: we will thus avoid the development of pathologies. Place them singularly in small pots with very draining soil. We work only when it is dry even in depth.
Sowing, to be done in autumn or late winter, presents more difficulties and, if we do not have selected seeds, does not guarantee the maintenance of the color or size of the original plants. Furthermore, the seeds lose germination very quickly and should be used as soon as possible. We make use of alveolar trays: the root system is very delicate and it is almost impossible to replant the young plants.
The seeds have a thin "feather": they must be placed horizontally, without being buried. The substrate must be very light, composed of half soil and half fine sand (or agriperlite). We keep slightly moist at a temperature of about 15 ° C. Germination takes place within 15 days and we can transfer them into 10 cm pots after about 40 days.
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Flowering in the garden

From April to October
Flowering in the apartment All the year
Vegetative rest / winter retreat From October to April
forcing 15 days at 10 ° C (at any time of year)
Sowing February to April / October-November
Division April