Cineraria Confusion? Finding The Florist’s Flower

Once upon a time, there was a plant genus called Cineraria. It was a surprisingly wide genus of plants, most of which originated in Africa. But over time, things changed. Some of its plants got moved to other genuses. Others never were truly cineraria species in the first place.

Take, for example, florist’s cineraria. It’s widely referred to as cineraria, but is also called common ragwort. It produces beautiful daisy-like blooms on lush green foliage. But these plants aren’t cineraria species at all – they’re pericallis.

Are you confused yet? Don’t worry, most people are.

Today we’re exploring the convoluted world of the pericallis called cineraria. Not only will you learn where the confusion originated, but you’ll discover how to care for them.

This Cinderella-cineraria story will take you from ragwort to rich blooms in no time at all!

Good Products For Keeping Cineraria Healthy:

Overview

Florists cineraria
Florist’s cineraria produces exquisite flowers over velvety green foliage. Source: afagen
Scientific Name:Pericallis x. hybrida
Common Name(s):Florist’s cineraria, cineraria, common ragweed
Family:Asteraceae
Height & Spread:12-14″ tall & similar width
Sun:Bright, but indirect light. Full sun okay in cooler weather.
Soil:Peaty, well-draining potting blend, see ‘soil’ section for recipe
Water:Keep soil moist to the touch, avoid standing water
Pests & Diseases:Aphids and whiteflies. Also susceptible to gray mold & root rot.

All About Cinerarias

Multicolored cineraria flowers
The flowers of this hybrid species can be white, pink, fuschia, blue, or violet. Source: tk78000u

There’s a whole lot of plants that are called “cineraria”. Needless to say, this leads to great confusion.

While we’d love to handle all the plants called cineraria in one fell swoop, they don’t all have the same needs. So we’re going to separate them out a bit, and pick a single plant to focus on.

Unraveling The Cineraria Confusion

At one point, the genus Cineraria covered a very wide range of plants. The majority of these were herbaceous or small shrubs. Their origins were primarily in South Africa, with a few from the Canary Islands and Madeira.

The genus was quite large, and in time a new genus, Pericallis, was created to handle some species. The plants from Madeira and the Canary Islands were moved into this new genus. So were some species of the Senecio genus, as that genus was also too large.

The plants now called Pericallis all shared similarities in growing habits. Flower types were similar, as well, and they became popular ornamental garden plants. But as many were still referred to as cineraria, that became a common name.

Other Senecio-species plants were recategorized elsewhere, but the confusion remains. Senecio cineraria, also called dusty miller or silver ragwort, is a prime example. This plant has since been named Jacobaea maritima to try to clear up the confusion. But there’s others that still make it complex. Centaurea cineraria is also called dusty miller, as an example. It is better known as its common name of silver dust.

Needless to say, all this genus-shifting makes the topic quite complex. These plants are all different! But today, we are focusing on a specific Pericallis. We’ll get back to the others another time.

Meet The Florist’s Cineraria

Pericallis x hybrida
Pericallis x hybrida can cover its foliage with a mound of flowers. Source: Ray in Manila

The Pericallis genus itself is fairly small. It’s made of about 14 species of the Asteraceae family. But our focus is narrowing down to just two of those species.

Pericallis cruenta and Pericallis lanata are two species which produce gorgeous flowers. More commonly found as wildflower species, they’re difficult to grow in home gardens.

In 1777, the British royal gardeners managed to produce a hybrid of these two plants. It turned out to be a much more stable plant than its predecessors, and it’s stunning in a garden setting.

And thus you have Pericallis x. hybrida. Its common names are florist’s cineraria, common ragweed, or cineraria.

This is a much more stable plant, but it is still a challenge to grow. Somewhat finicky, it requires very specialized conditions. A delicate hand is needed, but oh is it worth it in the end!

The leaves of this hybrid are irregularly toothed along the edges and velvety to the touch. They have the shape of an elongated teardrop, and are a medium to dark green color. Atop these leaves develop daisy-like flowers.

These flowers range from vivid dark pink to blues and purples in petal color. Multicolored varieties are available which have white or cream banding across the petals. The center of the flower is usually darker in color and is round, like the center of a daisy.

These are in heavy use in the florist industry. Because of this, they’re often grown in greenhouses to provide their exact conditions. But if you provide the right care and are patient, you can coax these stunning flowers out at home too!

Caring For Your Plant

Cineraria flowers Senetti series
The Senetti series of florist’s cineraria cultivars are extremely common. Source: tomylees

This is an annual plant, but it should really be viewed as a short-lived seasonal. Very seldom do these plants bloom more than once.

Now, don’t give up on florist’s cineraria just yet. When that bloom comes, it’s very common for the plant’s foliage to be completely covered in vivid color. You may have multicolored, pink, fuschia, or blue cineraria flowers. They’ll practically explode into existence, and they’re stunningly beautiful while they last.

But as the flowers fade, so too does the vigor of the plant. This species is born to erupt into a single glorious burst of color. Once that ends, it will be weak, and often dies back fast.

Light & Temperature

Light is an absolute necessity for this plant. Having said that, it’s a little tricky because they are very temperature-sensitive.

These plants prefer 60-70 degree days and 55-65 degree nights. If it’s much hotter than that, they tend to develop problems. Cooler temperatures down to 35 are tolerated for short periods, but they’re not frost-friendly plants. To bloom, they need tons of light. It’s easy to tell why greenhouse conditions are popular!

For home growers, it’s easiest to grow these indoors for good climate control. Use a grow light to mimic sunlight, but make sure that it doesn’t put out lots of heat.

It is possible to grow these outdoors, but usually for just a short window of time in the spring.

Water & Humidity

Regular and consistent watering will provide the best results for your plant. It likes its soil to be moist to the touch, but not super-saturated. Avoid allowing the pot to sit in water as that can cause the soil to wick up too much water for the roots to handle.

It’s a lover of high humidity as well. In fact, go as humid as possible for the best looking foliage. Placing a humidifier nearby helps. A pebble tray underneath will keep the pot out of water while creating a pocket of humidity. Mist the foliage lightly with water in the morning to simulate morning dew.

Soil

Blue cineraria flowers
Blue cineraria flowers like these are popular cultivars! Source: jjjj56cp

You’ll need a soil that holds moisture well but still drains off excess. To achieve this, it’s best to make your own potting mix.

A good blend for this plant is 1-2 parts sphagnum peat moss, 1 part vermiculite, 1 part loamy soil, and 1 part perlite. You can replace the perlite with coarse sand if necessary. A reasonable replacement for the peat moss would be coconut coir.

Your potting blend is reusable for future batches throughout the growing season. After that, work the potting mix into one of your outdoor garden beds and replace it.

Fertilizing

Since this plant is quite short-lived, fertilization isn’t strictly necessary. Before it blooms, you can use a weak liquid fertilizer just one time. Once flowers start to form, don’t fertilize until after it’s finished its bloom.

If you are trying to coax a second flowering out of your plant, wait until the flowers fade. Trim the flower stems, then fertilize once more. There are no guarantees that it will bloom a second time, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Propagation

Propagation of this plant is best from seed. You can seed from spring through fall. If growing indoors, you can sow seed year round if you maintain the right temperature for your plants.

To have consistent blooms, start a new plant every two to three weeks. A single plant will generally last for up to a month of flowering, but usually won’t do more than that.

Problems

Fading florist's cineraria flowers
These flowers are beginning to fade and are at the end of their bloom period. Source: David441491

As you can see, it’s a little finicky to get going. Once you have a plant thriving, you’ll want to keep it healthy! Here’s a short list of pests and diseases that may appear in your florist’s cineraria.

Pests

The majority of pests that impact your florist’s cineraria will be sucking pests.

Aphids are by and far the worst and most common on this plant. You’ll find them around the leaf axils and on the underside of leaves. To get rid of them, use an insecticidal soap.

That same treatment should be used for whiteflies. You’ll know you have them when clouds of little white insects are visible around your plants. If you see that, look for tiny larvae on the plant’s leaves. Spray with insecticidal soap to wipe them out.

While less common on cineraria, thrips may be present. These black insects are most commonly found on the flowers. Use insecticidal soap on these as well.

The last two pests are a bit more irritating to handle. First, we have spider mites. These can be wiped out using either neem oil, or using a product like Mite-X.

And finally, the chrysanthemum leaf miner is known to go after florist’s cineraria. This leaf miner is part of the Chromatomyia family of leaf miners. You’ll begin to see white maze-like patterns chewed into your leaves.

This latter one is more difficult to treat because the larvae will burrow into the leaf itself. It’s best to remove damaged leaves entirely. Use a powdered or liquid form of bacillus thurigiensis to prevent further colonization.

Diseases

Botrytis cinerea appears to be a gray-colored mold. It’s actually a fungus which will cause damage to the leaves of your plant. Neem oil is a good treatment and preventative. For more severe cases, use a liquid copper fungicide.

Powdery mildew is also common, especially as your plant loves humidity. White spores that look like dust will start to form on leaves. Mild cases can be treated with neem oil, but like botrytis, use copper fungicide for severe cases.

Common rust is an occasional issue. This begins with whitish, slightly-raised spots on the underside of leaves. In time, the spots develop orangish-colored spore masses. Like the above, copper fungicide is effective against this. Sulfur sprays also have good effect against rust.

Finally, there’s many types of soil-dwelling fungi that can cause root rot and basal rot. These tend to thrive in moist, warm soil. Use a sterile soil blend to prevent these from occurring, and keep your plant in cool locations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pericallis x hybrida 'Senetti Deep Blue'
This Senetti cultivar of florist’s cineraria is referred to as Senetti Deep Blue. Source: KHQ Flower Guide

Q: Is cineraria an annual or a perennial?

A: This particular species of florist’s cineraria is most often grown as an annual. In fact, it’s usually grown for a specific season at most. In zones 9b, 10a, and 10b, it can be grown as a tender perennial, but it usually will only flower once per year.

Q: Can you prune cineraria?

A: Well, you can, but given its short seasonal life you shouldn’t have to! Other forms of cineraria tend to be more in need of pruning. I personally wouldn’t bother, as once the plant has flowered, it’s easiest to start a new plant.


As you can see, pericallis x. hybrida might be a little tricky. But oh, those mounds of cineraria flowers are well worth the effort. Grow a few different cultivars for blue, magenta, or multicolored blooms!


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:

Lorin Nielsen
Lifetime Gardener

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