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Shasta Daisy Guide

Martha Stewart Living, March 2004

Shasta History
The story of the Shasta daisy is the story of Luther Burbank. Reared on a farm in Massachusetts, he became a market gardener at 19, discovered and sold a blight-resistant potato, and moved to Santa Rosa, California, where he deemed the soil and climate perfect for growing almost anything. As he experimented, Burbank never forgot New England's lovely ox-eye daisy, L. vulgare, a "weed," accidentally brought by early European settlers, that had naturalized itself.

Burbank envisioned a perfected ox-eye: taller, with a sturdier stem and larger flower that would show off its pure-white petals and summery golden eye. He started with ox-eye daisies grown from seed gathered back East, and let the bees do the pollinating. Next, he manually crossed the best of these plants' offspring with the larger-flowered English field daisy, L. maximum. The resulting hybrids were then crossed with the Portuguese field daisy, L. lacustre. And to regain the snowy-white petal that had been lost along the way, the following generation was pollinated with the bright-white Montauk, or Nippon daisy, Nipponanthemum nipponicum. Presto: the Shasta.

Burbank publicly released the Shasta daisy (which was originally classified as a Chrysanthemum) in 1901, and soon followed that with other selections: 'California,' 'Westralia,' and cold-hardy 'Alaska.' Since then, many other breeders have extended and re-imagined the classic Shasta form: a flat-headed single flower, two to three inches in diameter, with pure-white petals and a golden eye, rising two to two and a half feet above dark-green, toothy foliage. Today dozens of named cultivars are available. Can a classic be greatly improved? Perhaps not, but in the garden, nuance is everything.

Shasta Daisy Glossary

Shasta daisies pair pure- or creamy-white petals with a yellow center; they vary in both size and complexity.

1. 'Crazy Daisy'
24 to 28 inches tall; 2- to 4-inch double flower; simple or quilled creamy petals.

2. 'Chiffon'
48 inches tall; 2- to 3-inch double flower; frilly "cut" creamy petals; long blooming.

3. 'Aglaia'
28 inches tall; very sturdy stem; 3- to 4-inch double flower; frilly white petals.

4. 'Little Miss Muffet'
12 inches tall; 2- to 3-inch semidouble flower; pure-white petals.

5. 'Summer Snowball'
28 inches tall; 2- to 3-inch fully double flower; creamy-white petals.

6. 'Silver Prince'
36 inches tall; very sturdy stem; 3- to 4-inch single flower; pure-white petals.

7. 'Alaska'
up to 36 inches tall; 4- inch single flower; pure-white petals.

8. 'Becky'
24 to 36 inches tall; 3- to 4-inch single flower; white petals; late and long flowering; very heat-tolerant.

9. 'Chuck's Delight'
36 inches tall; 4-inch fully double flower; frilly pure-white petals.

10. 'Esther Read'
15 inches tall; 3-inch double flower; pure-white petals; early, long-blooming flowers.

11. 'Marconi'
36 inches tall; 2- to 5-inch double flower; pure-white petals.

12. 'Brent's Choice'
36 inches tall; 4- to 5-inch single flower; pure-white fringed petals.

Growing Shasta Daisies
The care of Shasta daisies is simple, whether you grow them in a small garden bed or in crop rows, as Luther Burbank did at Gold Ridge Experiment Farm, in Sebastapol, California.

  • Shastas prefer full sun and well-drained soil that doesn't stay wet all winter

  • Keep them deadheaded to increase the bloom.

  • Usually short-lived perennials for Zones 5 to 9, Shasta daisies will remain vigorous if you divide the plants every two or three years. These cultural conditions apply to all varieties of Leucanthemum x superbum developed by Burbank and many other plant breeders.

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