The name Dusty Miller may call to mind dark streets, alleyways, detectives in trench coats, and shady characters straight out of your favorite noir film or crime novel. Or perhaps an actual miller from days of yore covered in flour, if fantasy or historical fiction are more your taste.
While the name “dusty miller” is shared with a few other similar plants, we’re specifically discussing the Jacobaea Maritima, a name that sounds much more impressive and smart (as long as the person I’m talking to has no idea how to pronounce it.).
They make excellent landscaping foliage with their beautiful silver-felted leaves and fluffy voluptuousness. They’re a cinch to care for and a pleasing addition that will bring a different dimension to your flower garden.
Not convinced yet? Read on and see if I change your mind.
Dusty Miller Quick Care Guide
|Common Name(s)||Dusty miller plant, silver dust|
|Scientific Name||Jacobaea maritima|
|Height and Spread||Up to 3 feet tall and 24 inches wide|
|Soil||Well drained with compost|
|Fertilizer||General every 2-4 weeks|
|Pests and Diseases||Aphids, root rot, powdery mildew, aster yellows|
All About the Dusty Miller Plant
Dusty miller plants hail from many different places, mostly rocky coasts and cliffs. You’ll find these wooly-looking plants in far west Asia, northwest Africa, and southern Europe. It’s most often grown as an annual, but can be perennial in milder climates.
It is most often paired as counterbalance with flowering plants, though they do have yellow blooms of their own. You won’t usually see them, as most aficionados of this silvery vegetation will do away with the blossoms to keep the fronds as full as possible. The flowers cost the plant much of its silver.
Dusty miller plants are most often used as bedding plants that offset other flowering plants. The fine matted hairs of their leaves tend to contrast the green of most foliage, and provide a little variation overall in texture as well. This is why dusty miller makes a good edging plant too.
Types of Dusty Miller Plant
Dusty Miller ‘Cirrus’
Cirrus is a good choice for ground cover in Zones 8a through 10a, with white, woolly leaves that make for great contrast.
Dusty Miller ‘Silver Dust’
The leaves of Silver Dust are cut a bit more finely than Cirrus, and are more silvery in shade. The shape of the silver dust fronds may remind you of large snowflakes. The silver dust variety is definitely low maintenance and tolerant of drought.
Dusty Miller ‘New Look’
The fuller individual leaves of the New Look variety make me think of sage. It’s a very productive type; the more of it you pick, the more stems you’ll get.
Dusty Miller ‘Silver Lace’
As the name Silver Lace implies, this is one of the more delicate-looking plants of the group. The plant itself is quite compact and rounded — a good choice if you need to know exactly what size it will grow to.
Other notable varieties include Ramparts, Silver Filigree, and White Diamond.
How To Plant Dusty Miller
Seeds can be started indoors approximately 10 weeks before the last frost. Dusty Miller seeds are very tiny and germination requires light. The seeds should be sown on top of moist soil and left uncovered.
Place the container in an area where the temperatures range from 65 to 75 degrees and where the seeds can receive lots of light. Germination generally occurs within 10 to 15 days.
To transplant, make a hole the same size as the container the plant originally resided within and cover the root balls with a light amount of dry soil. Protect the roots by compacting the soil with some water and add more soil as needed.
Dusty Miller Plant Care
These plants are so remarkably easy to care for, they almost take care of themselves in garden beds. Here are a few tips to keep things growing smoothly.
Light and Temperature
While they can tolerate low or partial light, they definitely love to bask in the full sun. Let them have that center stage spotlight in the sky and they’ll sing your praises with better color and more compact growth. If you live somewhere with extremely hot temperatures, a bit of partial shade rather than full sun won’t hurt.
Ideal temperature ranges for these plants lie within 40°F to 80°F. Much colder or hotter temperatures can caused singed leaves, or dieback, respectively.
Water and Humidity
Watering once a week in milder temperatures will be enough for this drought tolerant plant. Warmer temps (90s and higher) may require a dousing twice a week. These plants thrive in temperate climates with moderate to high humidity. In areas with higher humidity percentages, make sure there is adequate space between plants to prevent fungal diseases.
Well-drained soil is a must to prevent the root rot that might plague the drought tolerant dusty millers. A bit of space between plantings, about nine to 12 inches, will help, too. While dusty miller plants can survive in poor soil, they prefer moderately rich soils with good drainage.
In heavier soils that are more compacted, provide some drainage materials to the planting site before installing your dusty miller.
Fertilizing Dusty Miller Plants
This step is a must when you grow dusty miller, as most soils are lacking in necessary nutrients. If you use water soluble fertilizer, a routine that includes application every two weeks should suffice. For the slow-release kind, once each fall and spring growing season is fine.
Pruning Dusty Miller
You aren’t likely to need pruning while growing dusty miller. These plants are usually very specific in size and shape. (Another plus for easy gardening!) If you end up with one that likes to grow a little taller, you can always trim off the tops, leading to fluffier new growth.
If you want a prettier, bushier plant, the blooms need to be removed. The flowers will suck nutrients from the plant and usually cause it to be lanky and less bushy. For this reason it’s rare to see the plant in full bloom in landscaping or gardens. Feel free to remove dead foliage as it crops up.
You have several choices here: grow from seed, try root division, or stem tip cuttings. You may find yourself lucky to live in an area where the plant returns on its own every year.
Start seeds 10 weeks before your last expected frost. Sow them on top of moist soil and let the light shine on them. In temps of 65 to 75 degrees, you should see sprouts in 10 to 15 days.
Put cuttings in a moist mixture of peat moss and perlite, cover with plastic, and set under bright light. Keep them in a brightly lit area and wait for new growth. Then remove the plastic and harden them off to be planted outdoors, or put them in a container for indoor growing.
I swear, this plant is drought tolerant and resistant to almost anything: deer, fire, and shade. While there are few pests and diseases, here are a few bugs and fungi that may come from other plants in your garden.
Dusty miller problems are often related to improper planting conditions. In shade, they may grow in a leggier fashion than they would in fuller sun. That being said, if they are growing in an area with hot summers and are exposed to hot summer sun, their leaves can experience singing. Provide shade or sun where necessary.
If you see the leaves getting wrinkly, curled, stunted in growth, or even abandoning the stems entirely, check for the tiny suckers called aphids, which may have come from other plants nearby. A little neem oil insecticide should take care of them, though a bunch of hungry lady beetles could help in this department as well. Lacewings and other predatory bugs will munch on them too.
If root rot gets them, check that the soil is draining and that there is some space between the other plants to allow some air circulation.
Aster yellows is a plant disease that specifically affects aster plants. There is no known cure for this phytoplasma that can cause deformities in new leaves and blooms. Get rid of any infected plants ASAP and do not plant in the area where the diseased plants were growing for at least a few seasons.
Powdery mildew is easy to “spot,” since it leaves powdery spots on leaves — usually the lower ones. The above-mentioned aphids are notorious for transmitting this fungal disease. Take care of them if they are present, and use a copper fungicide for the spots. Remove any damaged silver foliage, and take out whole plants if they are severely damaged.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is dusty miller plant an annual or a perennial?
A: Depends on where you live and what type of plant you choose. If you have relatively mild winters, you could very well leave them out all season long and have them spring back to life in the warmer temperatures. If you live in one of the zones where they are annuals, expect them to die back and potentially return in spring.
Q: Do dusty miller survive winter?
A: Some varieties are bred for cold hardiness, but most can withstand short-term freezes. Long-term freezes are more difficult for dusty miller plants to tolerate.
Q: Is dusty miller a good houseplant?
A: It certainly can be! Dusty miller plants are adaptable to many different situations as long as their base needs are met.
Q: Is dusty miller invasive?
A: Dusty miller is not classed as an invasive plant in North America.
Q: Do you cut back dusty miller in the fall?
A: In areas where dusty miller is perennial, cut it back in late fall or early winter for more vigorous spring growth.
Q: Will dusty miller spread?
A: Most varieties spread 1 to 2 feet wide. However, that’s usually as far as it goes.
Q: Will dusty miller keep deer away?
A: Not exactly. Deer tend to avoid dusty miller plants, but the plan does not repel them.
Q: Are dusty miller poisonous to dogs?
A: It can cause gastrointestinal distress when ingested by dogs. The leaves can also cause skin irritation.