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Well, it depends on who you ask, and what they define as a daisy and a weed! Some people love daisies in their gardens and others see them as a lawn pest. The term “daisy” is used to refer to many different species in the Asteraceae family, but not all these plants are thuggish and invasive.
Daisies are weeds if they grow in undesirable places, such as in the middle of a formal lawn. But in an English cottage garden, daisies are flowers. Many daisy species are fast-growing and behave like weeds, but gardeners can harness these qualities to create beautiful, large-scale floral displays.
One could say that a daisy’s beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This article highlights the particularly invasive varieties of daisy, how to get rid of them, and less vigorous types you can grow.
Weeds vs Flowers
All weeds are flowers, but not all flowers are weeds. There is a very vague distinction between what is a weed and what is a flower because these terms are rather subjective.
A weed is just a flower that is growing in the wrong place. If we go by this definition, then any plant can be a weed.
Weeds are generally plants that grow vigorously and produce many seeds. Thistle, for example. But many flowers are equally vigorous and set just as many seeds. Calendula, for example.
The difference between weeds and flowers all comes down to the intent of the gardener. Flowers are intentionally planted, and weeds naturally come up.
Why Are Daisies Considered Weeds?
Daisies can grow is almost any conditions and spread aggressively, competing with intentionally cultivated plants, like turf grass, for light, water, space, and nutrients. This is why they are often considered weeds in lawns and farmed fields.
Invasive daisies can also harm indigenous flora by stealing resources away from native species. Herbivores do not find them tasty, so nothing eats them.
Daisies have two ways that they spread – via trailing underground runners called rhizomes, and by dispersing their seeds.
They produce a large number of seeds, and many have a fluffy part attached to the seed to help them travel further distances in the wind.
This is what makes daisies such invasive plants and why they are often considered weeds.
However, not all daisies behave like weeds or are considered invasive. Many varieties are grown intentionally. They are a key element in the cottage garden aesthetic.
Many Daisies Are Desirable Flowers
There are so many gorgeous types of daisies that are just the opposite of what we think of as weeds.
The following members of the Asteraceae, or daisy, family are beloved garden flowers:
- Gerbera daisy
- Black-eyed Susan
- Purple coneflower
- Gloriosa daisies
Highly Invasive Daisy Weeds
Then there are other daisy flowers that are not so desirable, at least when they are coming up all over the lawn and amongst your carefully planned flower beds.
The most problematic daisy species are:
- English daisy – Bellis perennis
- Oxeye daisy – Chrysanthemum leucanthemum
Daisies Are Illegal in Some States
The Oxeye Daisy is native to Europe but because of its vigorous nature has spread to every state in the US. It probably hitched a ride from across the pond on crop sacks brought by ships.
Because it is extremely invasive and considered a threat to native species and agriculture, it has been prohibited to buy or plant its seeds in your garden in the following states:
- West Virginia
Alternatives to Oxeye Daisy
If you love the cheerful yellow and white look of Oxeye daisies but live in a state where they have been banned, there are other species you can plant.
Shasta daisies are a fabulous alternative. They are less invasive, especially if you dead head the flowers before they set seed, and the flower heads are larger and showier than traditional English or oxeye daisies.
It is a hybrid cultivar that was developed in California by crossing the Oxeye daisy with other species. They are named after the white snowy peak of Mount Shasta.
How to Deal with a Daisy Infestation
If your lawn is infested with daisies, the best approach is to pull as much of it as possible out by hand, roots, and all, and then to mow the lawn regularly. Daisies mostly have shallow roots (except for dandelion) and are thus easy to pull.
If the daisies do not have a chance to flower and set seed, they will not spread. Mowing the daisies will also flatten them, increasing their leaf surface area, so you can apply a herbicide with greater effect.
Using a herbicide is optional. Many organic gardeners will not use toxic chemicals, due to the terrible environmental impacts. However, there are some organic herbicides that have natural active ingredients like limonene, cinnamon oil, clove oil, and acetic acid.
A healthy, well-maintained lawn should be able to outcompete daisies. If you feed the grass, water, and mow it often, you should have no problems suppressing these lawn weeds.
Organic Herbicides to Control Daisies
The following organic products can be used to control daisy infestations in lawns. All the products are non-selective contact herbicides, so take care not to get any on the grass.
They are all biodegradable and do not harm the environment.
- Matran® EC – the active ingredient is clove leaf oil.
- Weed Zap® – clove oil and cinnamon oil are the active ingredients.
- Weed Pharm – acetic acid (vinegar) is the active ingredient.
- GreenMatch® EX – the active ingredient is lemongrass oil.
- Burnout® – relies on citric acid and clove oil.
Some Daisies Are Beneficial Weeds
While some daisies are invasive weeds, others are considered beneficial weeds because they play an important role in the ecosystem.
Dandelions, which are a type of daisy, are beneficial weeds.
They are good for the soil because the wide-growing roots loosen and aerate it, helping to reduce erosion. The long tap roots draw micronutrients like calcium up from deep in the soil, helping other plants.
Due to their abundance, they are a vital source of pollen for bees. A small act of kindness we can do for bees is allowing the dandelions on our lawn to flower.
Consider a Wildflower Meadow Instead of a Lawn
Water-wise gardening is gaining popularity, and with this we are seeing more and more people getting rid of their lawns.
Lawns require regular watering, mowing and consistent weeding to keep them free of daisies and other turf weeds. All that effort and resources for…a flat bit of grass?
Wildflower meadows are becoming more popular as a lawn alternative. Not only are they great for insects, like butterflies and bees, but they have much lower water requirements that grass, especially if you grow an indigenous mix of wildflowers.
“Weeds” can look spectacular in the right context.
Daisies can be weeds if they grow where they are not wanted, but they can also be beautiful garden flowers. The same plant species can be considered both a weed and a flower.
The term daisy does not refer to a single species, rather to a wide variety of plants with daisy-like flowers. There are many different daisies to choose from, and many species are not invasive.