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, the florist’s cineraria plant. It’s widely referred to as the cineraria plant, but is also called common ragwort. It produces beautiful daisy-like flowers 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 a cineraria plant.
This Cinderella-cineraria plant story will take you from ragwort to rich blooms in no time at all!
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- Monterey Liqui-Cop Copper Fungicide
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Quick Care Guide
|Scientific Name||Pericallis x. hybrida|
|Common Name(s)||Florist’s cineraria plants, cineraria plant, common ragweed|
|Height & Spread||12-14″ tall & similar width|
|Light||Bright, but indirect light. Full sun okay in cooler weather. Partial to full shade best in hot 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 Cineraria Plants
There’s a whole lot of flowering plants that are called “cineraria”. Needless to say, this leads to great confusion.
While we’d love to handle all the cineraria plants 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.
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 the cool ocean cliffs of 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 plants, that became a common name.
Other Senecio-species plants were recategorized elsewhere, but the confusion remains. The Senecio cineraria plant, 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. The Centaurea cineraria plant 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.
The Pericallis genus itself is fairly small. This genus of cineraria plant is made of about 14 species of flowering plants in 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 Gardens managed to produce a hybrid of these two plants. This hybrid cineraria plant turned out to be a much more stable plant than its predecessors, and it’s stunning in a garden setting.
And thus you have British Royal Gardens-produced Pericallis x. hybrida. Its common names are the florist’s cineraria plant, common ragweed, or cineraria plant.
This is a much more stable plant, but even as a cineraria plant, 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 flowering plant 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 Florist’s Cineraria Plants
This is an annual plant, but as a cineraria plant 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 plant 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 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 you have spent flowers, it will be weak, and often dies back fast.
Light & Temperature
Light is an absolute necessity for this plant. Having said that, for every cineraria plant it’s a little tricky because they are very temperature-sensitive. While it’s possible to grow them as outdoor plants you may have more luck indoors.
These plants prefer 60-70 degree days and 55-65 degree nights. If it’s much hotter than that, they tend to develop problems. In this outdoor setting, partial to full shade may be best. Cooler temperatures down to 35 are tolerated for short periods, but they’re not frost-friendly plants. To bloom, a cineraria plant needs tons of light. It’s easy to tell why greenhouse conditions are popular!
For home growers, it’s easiest to grow a cineraria plant 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 a cineraria plant 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 cineraria 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.
The cineraria plant is 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.
When it comes to soil, cineraria plants need a mixture 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 the cineraria 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. This peat moss or coir-based mix gives you the ideal slightly acidic soil cineraria needs.
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 Florist’s Cineraria Plants
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.
Propagating Cineraria Plants
Propagation of this plant is best through cineraria seeds, though it is also possible to propagate via stem cuttings. You can seed from early spring through fall. If you’re growing indoor potted plants, 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.
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 plants.
The majority of pests that impact your florist’s cineraria plants 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 plants, 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 plants. 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.
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
Q: Is cineraria an annual or a perennial?
A: This particular species of florist’s cineraria plants is most often grown as an annual. In fact, they’re 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 plants 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.
Q: How long do cineraria flowers last?
A: As long as conditions are right, the flowers will last for 3 to 4 weeks.
Q: Can cineraria be an indoor plant?
A: You can keep cineraria as indoor plants! Keep them in lower light conditions than full sun, without putting them in partial to full shade, and keep them away from HVAC vents. Among the cineraria plant category, they’re great house plants.
Q: Do Cineraria come back every year?
A: As mentioned above, the plant is a tender perennial in parts of zones 9 and 10. There they’ll return. In colder regions, these plants are annual. You’ll have to replant there, or allow the plant to self-seed.
Q: When should I plant Cineraria?
A: If you live somewhere where the winter is cold, wait for early spring and sow cineraria seeds in flats indoors. Then plant them out when the danger of frost has passed, or keep them indoors as house plants.
Q: Do Cinerarias self seed?
A: They are prolific self-seeders, which makes them seem like perennials in some areas, rather than annuals, which is what they actually are.
Q: Can I take cuttings from Cineraria?
A: Yes! Take stem tip cuttings from woody stems to propagate the plant.