A Daisy with an Identity Crisis

Just in case I am ever, ever tempted to brag about my gardening knowledge I will remember the bright spring morning I was wandering around my garden. There was a succulent…what looked like what Mammaw called a “Live Forever” plant – a sedum.

“Funny, I don’t remember planting a sedum there,” I mumbled out loud.

Maybe I hadn’t had enough coffee; maybe my glasses weren’t clean; maybe I was tired…I really don’t have a good excuse, but give me a few minutes and I’ll make one up.

I shook my head in puzzlement and wandered away. I only realized later, much later – in early September that my “sedum” was actually a Montauk Daisy. I had bought three small plants the previous year, planted them and then pretty much forgot about them.

Montauk Daisy leaves do look like they could belong to a sedum – that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Of course, when each of their stems start forming a single, large bud in early fall, well that’s the dead give-away it’s not a sedum! Then, when it blooms, it looks like a Shasta daisy. I’m embarrassed.

The Montauk daisy has experienced another identity crisis – it’s had several scientific names: Chrysanthemum nipponicum, Leucantheum nipponicum and, lately, Nipponanthemum nipponicum. Whatever its name, this Japanese native has some very nice qualities, growing in Zones 5 to 9.

It does beautifully in my nasty clay soil, although most everything I’ve read says it wants well-drained soil. I certainly don’t worry about watering it during a dry spell; it’s supposed to want full sun, but does very well in part shade. It doesn’t seem to be invasive. Deer, rabbits and voles ignore it, and it blooms late season, about the time asters do, so it extends the food supply for our pollinator buddies. About the only thing I do to it is to pinch it back about one-third to one-half in early summer to promote fullness and more blooms.

Propagate this “wonder plant” by starting cuttings or just divide it like you would divide a hosta. Since it dies back every winter, you could tuck daffodil bulbs in front of it and maybe put a taller plant behind it…something like iris or Surprise Lilies, maybe. I’ve got two planted so they spill over a short block wall and I like that effect. How about planting one or three in a rock garden? It would be a perfect place for them.

Just don’t mistake them for a sedum!

Meet Dona Bergman

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