Blackfoot daisy by Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller

Blackfoot Daisy, Melampodium leucanthum: White-flowering perennial for sun

Description: Blackfoot Daisy, Melampodium leucanthum, also called Plains Blackfoot Daisy, is a tough, drought-tolerant Texas native that can thrive in hot places. It grows 6 to 12 inches tall and up to two feet wide, with a bushy, mounded form. Its inch-long leaves are dark green with a tinge of gray. Its foliage may remain during a mild winter and may be cut back during this time to keep the plant compact. Blackfoot Daisy may be short-lived, but self-sows, with its progeny taking the place of the original plant.

Flowers and Seeds: Blackfoot Daisy's flowers appear as early as March in North Texas and continue in the summer and autumn. The one-inch blooms have 8-10 white petals with distinctive notches at their tips surrounding yellow centers. Blackfoot Daisy's flowers cover the plant in flowering season and have a honey-like scent. Its seeds are small and may be collected after flowering.

Planting sites: Blackfoot Daisy should be planted in sun to part shade and must have well-drained soil. It thrives in poor soil – improved soil and abundant moisture may shorten its lifespan. It would be better to “improve” the soil with crushed rocks in raised beds. Its stems are breakable, so it should not be planted where it may be subject to frequent foot traffic.

Watering Instructions: During long dry spells, Blackfoot Daisy may appreciate supplemental water, but it is not needed. Like many other native Texas plants, it will not tolerate “wet feet” and may rot over a wet winter.

Comments: Blackfoot Daisy is ideal for sunny rock gardens, borders, can be grown in containers and is a perfect species for xeriscaping. Its flowers closely resemble those of west Texas and desert southwest native Desert Zinnia, Zinnia acerosa, but Desert Zinnia's flowers have fewer, broader petals than those of Blackfoot Daisy. Blackfoot Daisy’s nectar attracts bees and butterflies and birds eat its seeds. It is said to be deer-resistant. Consider using Blackfoot Daisy instead of non-native Petunia, Begonia, or Periwinkle. Good companion plants for Blackfoot Daisy include other xeric species, especially those with shapes that complement the rounded form of Blackfoot Daisy. These include Zexmenia (Wedelia texana), Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea), milkweeds like Antelope Horn (Asclepias asperula), Gayfeather (Liatris mucronata), Sundrops (Calylophus berlandieri), Four-nerve Daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa) or grasses like Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).

Written by Dr. Becca Dickstein

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