Deb Babcock: Oxeye versus Shasta - One's good, other's bad

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

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Shasta daisies make a nice addition to Routt County gardens and tend to fare well in our extreme climate.

For charm and affability in the garden, nothing tops a fresh white daisy surrounded by deep green foliage. With so many varieties of daisy to choose from, which is best for your mountain garden?

CJ Mucklow and his staff at the Routt County Cooperative Extension Service Office have been fielding calls this summer from local gardeners confused about which daisies they may grow in their gardens. There are some daisies, such as oxeye, that you do not want in your garden. Fortunately, there are others, such as Shasta, that you might want to consider tucking into a special spot.

Oxeye daisies ((Leucanthemum vulgare - formerly classified as Chrysanthemum leucanthemum var. pinnatifidum) are a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) featuring a white flower with a yellow center. They are rapidly becoming a nuisance weed in Routt County.

Unfortunately, they can still be found in some wildflower mixes sold in the state and are sometimes transplanted into the garden as an ornamental. They are classified as a noxious weed for the state of Colorado (and Wyoming) because of the rapidly spreading root system that crowds out native plants. The seeds escape into the surrounding meadows and roadsides, eventually taking over large tracts of land. You can help prevent the spread of this weed by eradicating it from your garden and replacing it with a less invasive plant.

The oxeye daisy looks like some asters and is often confused with the ornamental Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum,) also known as Chrysanthemum maximum, which is a taller plant with larger flowers and a toothed whole leaf. The oxeye daisy leaf is quite different with deep lobes.

The Shasta daisy is a nice alternative to oxeye daisies. It also features a white sunflower bloom with a bright yellow center, and has nicer foliage that stays green all season long. This drought-tolerant plant behaves itself in the garden, only spreading within its clump. It also is a great, long-lasting cut flower. The famous horticulturist Luther Burbank introduced Shasta daisies as a hybrid named after Mount Shasta in California in 1890.

A USDA Zone 4 9 plant, the Shasta daisy is a great bird, bee and butterfly attractor but is not attractive to deer. It can take the heat of our late summer days and may be planted in full to partial sun. The plant should be dug up and divided every three years or so to maintain its vigor. Once established, it needs minimal water.

Other alternative plants to the oxeye daisy include native daisies (Erigeron spp), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata).

To learn more about Colorado's Noxious Weed Management Program, contact the Routt County Cooperative Extension Service Office for a brochure, or log on to www.colostate.edu/Depts/SoilCrop/extension/CEPEP/noxious.htm.

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service Office in Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail gardeners@co.routt.co.us.

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