Cineraria plants are tender perennials that produce pretty flowers resembling large daisies. They hail from the Canary Islands and originally had gray-green foliage, which was seen as undesirable, so many hybrids and new varieties of cineraria have been developed, which benefit from lush green foliage.
The different varieties vary in size, with many dwarf varieties existing, which are ideal for use as bedding plants. They can reach heights of up to 5 feet, but the most commonly sold cinerarias are compact species.
Cineraria plants are short-lived in most regions, because they are not frost-hardy, and are usually discarded once the flowers fade, though they can also be kept as flowering houseplants. They are easy-care plants and will reward the grower with plentiful delightful blooms so long as their soil is kept moist.
Cineraria plant Overview
|Scientific Name||Pericallis cruenta/ Senecio cruentus/ Cineraria cruentus/ Pericallis x hybrida|
|Type||Perennial or annual flowering plant|
|Common Names||Cineraria, purple-leaved groundsel, bug plant|
|Height||Up to 5 feet|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets and humans|
|Light||Partial to full shade|
|Watering||Maintain even moisture|
|Pests||Slugs, aphids, leaf miners|
Caring for Your Cineraria Plant
Cineraria plants are quite thirsty and will grow most successfully in soil that is kept consistently moist. Note, though, that moist does not mean soggy. Overwatering your cineraria to the point that the soil becomes soggy or waterlogged will lead to the demise of the plant, as its roots will rot in these conditions, and it will then be unable to take in any moisture at all.
To maintain moist soil, the most effective thing to do is simply to check the condition of the soil before you water it. Dip a finger into the soil, and if it is already moist then you can hold off on watering for another day or two. If the soil is starting to dry out or has already dried out on the top, then it is time to add some water.
While the cineraria plant doesn't like to be overwatered, it also doesn't like to be underwatered. It will not tolerate periods of drought, and care should be taken to prevent the soil from completely drying out between waterings (Iowa State University and Outreach).
Cineraria plants need a balanced soil environment that is well-draining, but which will also hold onto some moisture. Rich soil with a high content of organic matter, such as compost, will work best, as this type of soil drains well but is also able to retain a good amount of moisture and hold it around the plant's roots.
The type of soil you grow your cineraria in will have a big impact on how well you can meet its watering needs. A heavy and poorly draining soil will usually lead to the plant's roots being surrounded by too much moisture, leading to root rot, while a gritty soil that drains too quickly won't allow the roots the time they need to soak up an adequate amount of water.
The plant prefers slightly acidic soil, but will typically grow well in any well-draining, fertile soil.
Cineraria plants which are kept outside prefer a position of partial to full shade. It is unusual for a flowering plant to be such a shade lover, so take advantage of this trait by planting it in a darker corner of your garden, which would benefit from being brightened up with the plant's vibrant blooms. When grown outdoors, cineraria plants can tolerate some sunlight, but ideally, this would be in the morning when the sun's rays are not at their most intense.
Shade during the heat of the afternoon will be most appropriate for this plant. If you are keeping cineraria as a houseplant, a position that receives bright but indirect light would be ideal. It doesn't need a huge amount of light to survive indoors, but it will struggle to thrive in the shade as a houseplant.
Cineraria plants are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9, 10, and 11. They prefer cool temperatures overheat, but are not frost hardy. Inside these hardiness zones, the flowers can be grown as annuals, and if the conditions are right, they will bloom for most of the year.
Outside of these hardiness zones, they are grown as short-lived perennials, and once the frost arrives, the plants will quickly die and need to be discarded. They will not survive if nighttime temperatures dip much below 35° F, and will perform best if daytime temperatures range between 55 and 65° F. At this temperature level, cineraria plants will bloom for a long period. If temperatures exceed 80° F, the plants will cease blooming.
They can be kept as houseplants in average room temperature, but if possible, keep them in one of the cooler rooms in your home, as too much warmth will cause the blooms to suffer. Always keep cineraria plants away from any heating vents or cold draughts.
These plants enjoy high humidity, which outdoors is not easy to control, but by keeping their soil consistently moist, you will be elevating the humidity level slightly, as the air around the plant will be moist while some of the moisture evaporates from the soil.
If your cineraria plants are kept indoors, they will need additional measures to have their humidity levels increased. The air inside homes tends to be quite dry, especially over the cooler months, because heating systems dry the air out. Misting plants with water is often an easy solution for this, but it is not advisable for cineraria plants as misting will damage the flowers. Instead, you can use an electric humidifier or a pebble tray.
To create your own humidity pebble tray, simply spread a layer of pebbles or gravel on a tray or dish, then sit your plant pot on top of it. Add water to the pebbles, and as the water evaporates, it will increase humidity around the plant. Remember to continually top up the water to maintain high humidity.
When using a pebble tray, the advice is usually to ensure the water level does not reach the base of the plant pot, as it can get sucked up through the drainage holes and cause the soggy soil and overwatering. However, in this instance, some gardeners recommend allowing the water level of a pebble tray to reach the plant pots base as it will help to maintain a moist root ball, which is a core requirement of the cineraria plant.
Most cinerarias are grown from seed, though they can be propagated from stem cuttings any time during summer. These plants also reseed easily, so if you already have some growing in your garden, you simply need to allow the flowers to die back and turn to seed, and you will likely see some new cinerarias appear the following year. To prevent self-seeding, you should deadhead the flowers as soon as they fade.
To grow these plants from seed, they can be sown outdoors or indoors, depending on your preference. To sow directly outside, lay the seeds on top of the soil in late summer or early fall, and ensure the soil remains moist. The seeds need light to germinate, so do not bury them or cover them over with additional soil.
To sow inside, sprinkle the seeds on a seed tray of moist potting soil. For plants that bloom in time for Valentine's day, you should sow your seeds in early September. For Easter blooms, seeds should be sown in the middle of October. Ensure your seed tray is kept at a temperature of around 70° F for two weeks, by which time the seeds will have germinated.
Four weeks later, select the strongest seedlings and transplant them to pots of at least 2 inches in size. They can remain in these pots until their root systems become crowded, at which point they can be transferred to 5-inch pots. A few weeks after transplanting, move the plants to a bright but cool position, ideally of around 50° F. These conditions are required to induce blooming.
Once buds appear, move the plants to an area with more warmth, ideally around 65° F. Once the last frost has passed, and outside temperatures are stable, your cineraria plants can be moved back outside.
Cineraria plants produce daisy-like flowers that stand in clusters on tall stems above their lush foliage. On larger cineraria plants, the blooms will measure up to 5 inches across, though they will be smaller in dwarf species. In milder climates, they can bloom for much of the year, but in cooler regions will typically flower in the summertime.
Many varieties of cineraria have been developed, so that you can now purchase them with almost any color of flower, including red, blue, white, and the most popular purple. Cineraria flowers are not available in yellow, however, as horticulturalists have been unable to find a hybrid that produces the flowers in yellow.