Dusty Miller Plant: Care, Types, and Growing Tips

244 Shares

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 Overview

Common Name(s) Dusty miller plant
Scientific Name Jacobaea maritima
Family Asteraceae
Origin Mediterranean region
Height Up to 3 feet
Light Full sun
Water Mild-average
Temperature 40-80°F
Humidity Low-average
Soil Well drained with compost
Fertilizer General every 2-4 weeks
Propagation Seeds or stems
Pests Root rot

The dusty miller plant hails 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 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.

Types of Dusty Miller Plant

Dusty Miller 'Cirrus'

Dusty Miller ‘Cirrus’ source

Cirrus – A good choice for ground cover in Zones 8a through 10a, with white, woolly leaves that make for great contrast.

Dusty Miller 'Silverdust'

Dusty Miller ‘Silverdust’ source

Silver Dust – The leaves are cut a bit more fine than Cirrus, and more silvery in shade. The shape of the fronds may remind you of large snowflakes. Definitely low maintenance and tolerant of drought.

Dusty Miller 'New Look'

Dusty Miller ‘New Look’ source

New Look – The fuller individual leaves of this 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'

Dusty Miller ‘Silver Lace’ source

Silver Lace – As the name 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 varieties include Ramparts, Silver Filigree, and White Diamond.

Dusty Miller Care

Dusty miller plants are so remarkably easy to care for, they almost take care of themselves. Here are a few tips to keep things growing smoothly.​

Planting

From Seed​

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.

Transplanting

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. To protect the roots, compact the soil with some water and add more soil as needed.​

Light

While they can tolerate low or partial light, they definitely love to bask in the sun. Let them have that centerstage 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 shade won’t hurt.

Water

Watering once a week in milder temperatures will be enough. Warmer temps (90s and higher) may require a dousing twice a week.

Soil

Well-drained soil is a must to prevent the root rot that might plague the dusty millers. A bit of space between plantings, about nine to 12 inches, will help, too.

Fertilizer

This step is a must as most soils are lacking in necessary nutrients for dusty millers. If you use water soluble fertilizer, a routine that includes application every two weeks should suffice. For the slow-release kind, once each growing season is fine.

Pruning​

You aren’t likely to need pruning. 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 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.

Propagation

You have several choices here: grow from seed, try root division, or stem 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 and perlite, cover with plastic, and set under bright light.​

Problems

I swear, this plant is resistant to almost anything: deer, fire, drought, shade. If root rot gets them, check that the soil is draining and that there is some space between the plants to allow some air circulation.

Here are a few bugs and fungi that may come from other plants in your garden.​

Pests

Aphids – If you see the leaves getting wrinkly, curled, stunted in growth, or even abandoning the stems entirely, check for these tiny suckers. A little insecticide should take care of them, though a bunch of hungry lady beetles could help in this department.

Diseases

Aster yellows – No known cure for this phytoplasma disease that can cause deformities. Get rid of any infected plants ASAP.

Powdery mildew – At least this one 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 fungicide for the spots. Want something a little more organic? Try spraying with milk and water at a 1:10 ratio or use potassium bicarbonate.​

FAQs​

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. Some have even been known to take over gardens if allowed to seed! If you live in one of the zones where they are sold as annuals, expect them to die but watch and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Q. Is dusty miller plant an annual or a perennial?

A. (Clearing throat and standing taller) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Oh, you’ve heard that one, huh? Well, in this case it’s very true. Most gardeners choose this plant for the loveliness and contrast of the fronds, not the flowers. Since the blooms suck the life out of the bush and aren’t in any way spectacular, most choose to sacrifice them for the good of the garden. You could always allow a few to flower and harvest the seeds for more plants later.

Well, if you were expecting more crime novel references, I’m sorry to have disappointed you. I hope that the knowledge you’ve gleaned about this super-easy landscaping favorite known as the “real” dusty miller has excited you enough to give them a try. Pair them with your favorite flowers and wow the neighbors with your yard.


Send me pictures and comments of your flower and dusty miller plant pairings, let me know how they’re working for you.

Share this article with your fellow gardeners, perhaps a budding beginner who wants an easy-to-care-for ground-cover delight.


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:


Kevin Espiritu
Founder

The dusty miller plant adds beautiful, silvery foliage to a garden and is easy to care for. Learn exactly how to grow it in this in-depth guide.
Did this article help you? Yes No
× How can we improve it?
× Thanks for your feedback!

We're always looking to improve our articles to help you become an even better gardener.

While you're here, why not follow us on Facebook and YouTube? Facebook YouTube
244 Shares

16 thoughts on “Dusty Miller Plant: Care, Types, and Growing Tips”

    • In a Mediterranean-type climate, dusty miller can overwinter outdoors if mulched heavily to keep the root system warm. But if you don’t live in a Mediterranean-type climate, I definitely recommend bringing it indoors to overwinter.

      Start by trimming the plant down to about 6″ tall. Then, carefully dig it up, being sure not to damage the roots. Plant it in fresh potting soil in a pot that’s about twice the size of its root ball. You may want to thoroughly check the foliage to make sure it doesn’t have any pests before bringing it indoors, as well.

      Once indoors, make sure it’s in a location where it gets good sun every day. A south-facing window is usually the best for most of us in the US, as it guarantees consistent sun during our winter months. If necessary, you can supplement with a grow light.

      In the early spring, gradually acclimate the plant to being outdoors again. Start by putting it out in the sun for an hour or two, and over time increase its outdoor time, bringing it in at night. Once temperatures are consistently above freezing (preferably above 40 degrees at night), it can be replanted outdoors.

  1. Hi Kevin.
    Thank you for all this info I just love dusty miller it looks so nice and gives a lovely show for all flowers. After reading a few comments about planting Ineed to cut back mine they are lovely and bush but getting to big. Can you give me some tips on how to do this, without killing them.
    Thank You
    Nancy

    • The way I’d do it is to remove any diseased or damaged leaves first, that way you’re getting rid of plant matter that’s probably not helping the plant out much in the first place. Then I’d prune off the growing tip, similar to how I do in my “How to Prune Basil” video on YouTube. This will cause it to be bushier instead of growing vertically more and give you some extra space. I’d also consider taking off a few side branches to cut down on the bushiness as well!

  2. I am using regular potting soil, just like my Grandmother did, nothing special, no peat moss or anything. The funny thing is that the bottom levees are going yellow/brown meaning I’m not watering them enough and yet the tops just droop like they are too heavy and I’m giving them too much water (from my recent research). I know the soil is draining because within two days there soil feels dry(ish) up to three inches. Am I waiting them too much on day one and the soil is draining too fast by day two?

  3. I have a black thumb when it comes to plants that aren’t weeds out roses and I bought this plant because it is a great abstract to my roses, with the bonuses of an easy to grow and drought tolerance (I live in Southern California). The problem I am having is that they look like they are wilting. I planted them two weeks ago from containers. I do as my Grandmother would do and stick my finger in the soil to see if they need watering and only water when it’s dry(ish). What am I doing wrong?!?

  4. Hi Kevin, I appreciate your post on Dusty Miller – and in understandable English. I’m new to gardening and I love this plant so last year I bought 5 Silver Dust for my garden. Since I live in zone 5 (Southern Maine), I was not expecting the plants to survive but being hopeful, I cut the plants back in late October to about 3 inches above ground. What a pleasure it was to see 4 of the plants survived our winter and are doing very well. Would you suggest I follow the same routine this year? Thanks for any advise you can offer.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Rosary! I’m so glad to hear that your Dusty Miller survived a Zone 5 winter! If that worked for you, I’d suggest doing the same thing this year 🙂

  5. Thank you for this article! I googled for dusty miller and found your article on the 6th or 7th link… all the other ones were written in weird english that makes me think gardeners are either too nerdy or simply can’t write. So I appreciate this article! I just planted some dusty millers in my garden next to some african marigold and a lot of portulacas.
    One thing I am noticing though is that some of my dusty millers are losing their “dust” at the bottom of the plant. I do have them quite close to the sprinklers… you think it’s the water blowing their dust off, or ir something else going on?

    Thank you!!

  6. i bought a dusty miller which is named silver dust according to this website
    but the nursery from where i bought it–they said that this plant non-flowering.

    and also the leaves of my silver dust are fiute small about a centimeter each leaf
    the plant is slowly wilting although we kept it in full sunh as well as in partial sunlight

    please help

Leave a Comment