Butter daisy

Butter daisy, Melampodium divaricatum, is a low maintenance, reliable summer annual that blooms from May to frost.

Melampodium, or butter daisy, is a reliable, low maintenance summer annual.

This member of the aster family originated in the tropical regions of Central and South America. The prolific daisy-like yellow flowers bloom from May until frost and contrast well with the bright green foliage.

The leaves are opposite, slightly fuzzy and have smooth, wavy, or slightly toothed margins.

It is one of the easiest annuals to grow in well-drained soils and full sun. Once established, melampodium (Melampodium divaricatum) is drought tolerant and only requires watering if overly dry.

The cultivars will grow from 10 to 24 inches tall and spread 10 to 15 inches wide.

Butter daisy

The seeds form an interesting circular seed cluster and may be gathered when the flower petals begin to drop.

Ornamental features

The dainty flower petals range in color from lemon yellow to a golden-orange with dark orange-yellow centers. As the flowers are self-cleaning, no deadheading is required to remove spent blooms. The plants are self-branching, so no pinching is necessary. As the flowers fade, each stem branches to produce additional flowers.

The seeds are achenes, which are simple dry fruit that are similar to sunflower seeds and those of other members of the aster family.

An interesting circular seed cluster is formed after the flower petals have fallen.

For collection, allow the seeds to turn brown and dry on the plant, then remove and spread them out to dry. Separate the seeds from the flower heads and store in a cool, dry place.

Butter daisy

Melampodium contrasts well with other summer annuals, such as sun coleus.

How to grow

Seeds may be sown directly into the landscape after the danger of the last frost has passed. The soil temperatures should be 68 to 86 degrees, and the bed kept moist, but not wet, until germination.

Seedlings will appear in one to two weeks. Depending on the cultivar, thin the seedlings to a spacing of 10 to 15 inches apart. The flowers will bloom 55 to 60 days after sowing.

Seeds may also be started indoors 7 to 10 weeks prior to transplanting outdoors. Transplants also can be purchased from a nursery in order to establish a planting more quickly.

Melampodium produces many viable seeds and will easily self-sow in the landscape.

Landscape use

Melampodium is deer resistant; therefore, it is an excellent choice as a summer bedding plant where deer are a problem.

The flowers attract butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects. The seeds provide a food source for small songbirds, such as goldfinches.

Landscape use for this versatile annual is in borders, masses, cutting gardens and containers.

It contrasts well when planted in the landscape with many other summer annuals. The smaller varieties have a more compact growth habit and are excellent additions to mixed container combinations.

Butter daisy

Powdery mildew may become a problem during hot, humid summers. It is important to space the plants to allow for proper air circulation.

Problems

Overall, melampodium is a tough annual. There are no serious insect or disease problems.

It is susceptible to powdery mildew in hot, humid climates; therefore, it is important to space the plants properly to allow better air circulation to help prevent infection.

Cultivars

  • 'Derby' has golden yellow flowers and matures at 12 inches.
  • 'Jackpot Gold' gets 12 inches tall. The golden-orange flowers are 2 inches in diameter.
  • 'Lemon Delight' flowers are a beautiful lemon yellow. It will get 12 to 24 inches tall.
  • 'Medallion' is the tallest melampodium cultivar at 24-36 inches tall. The flowers are a golden yellow.
  • 'Million Gold' has bright yellow flowers and is a compact grower at 10 inches in height.
  • 'Showstar' is another tall grower that gets 14-24 inches tall with golden yellow flowers.

Barbara H. Smith is HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent at Clemson University.