Silver ragwort, Dusty miller
Hardy annual, Perennial
6 to 18 inches
7 to 10
Toxic to human and pets
Dusty Miller is beautiful silver foliage with small yellow blooms and is often used as a background plant for low-growing plants. Its unique silvery color and texture make it an attractive companion plant for many flowers in the garden and an exciting addition to your landscape. The most silvery and furry plant, growing dusty Miller helps your garden remain attractive through the summer heat and tolerate winter frost. Its drought tolerance and adaptability allow it to survive during the hottest months of summer and make it an excellent plant for an xeriscape garden.
Growing dusty Miller is easy. Below, we will share everything you need to know about growing dusty Miller in your garden. We will share all the tips and tricks, from how much water to when to fertilize it.
Full sun to partial shade
Well-drained, sandy or loamy soil
USDA Zones 8-10
What Is a Dusty Miller Plant?
Dusty Miller, scientifically known as Jacobaea maritima (formerly Senecio cineraria), is a popular ornamental plant known for its distinctive silvery foliage. It is primarily grown for its attractive leaves rather than its flowers. The leaves are deeply lobed, with a fuzzy, silvery-white to grayish appearance that gives the plant its "dusty" or "miller" appearance.
Dusty Miller plants are often used in landscaping and gardening for their ability to add contrast and texture to gardens and flower beds. The majority of individuals buy Dusty Miller as bedding plants, but it is also possible to cultivate them from seeds or cuttings. They are frequently used as border plants, in containers, or as filler in floral arrangements. Dusty Miller plants are known for their drought tolerance and ability to thrive in sunny or partially shaded locations with well-draining soil.
While Dusty Miller is grown primarily for its foliage, it can produce small, inconspicuous yellow flowers. Dusty Miller flower blooms in late spring to early summer. However, many gardeners prefer to remove these flowers to encourage the plant to focus its energy on producing more foliage.
Dusty Miller is a great companion plant for other plants such as zinnias, pentas, or salvia, or it can be planted alone as a border. This plant is not only a beautiful, long-lasting addition to your garden, but dusty miller care and maintenance are super easy. When it is grown in USDA hardiness zone 7-10, it is often grown as a herbaceous perennial. But in certain locations, it can be grown as an annual.
Dusty Miller Growing And Care Guide
Grow dusty Miller in full sunlight condition so it remains compact. Ideally, it should be exposed to full or partial shade, where it can receive at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
Providing some afternoon shade in areas with intense summer heat can prevent the foliage from scorching. Insufficient light can lead to leggy growth and reduced leaf vibrancy. This adaptable plant can tolerate various light conditions. Still, ample sunlight is essential for its trademark silvery-gray foliage to truly shine and maintain its compact form, making it a standout addition to gardens and containers alike.
Dusty Miller thrives in well-draining soil, emphasizing quality over quantity when it comes to moisture. The key to success lies in soil with good drainage to prevent root rot. A slightly acidic to neutral soil pH range is ideal, typically between 6.0 and 7.0. While it's not overly picky about soil type, sandy or loamy soils work exceptionally well for Dusty Miller. These plants appreciate soil that dries out between waterings, as they exhibit drought tolerance once established. Amending heavy or clay soils with organic matter can improve drainage and overall soil quality, promoting healthier growth and vibrant silver-gray foliage.
Initially, Dusty Miller necessitates regular watering after planting to aid root development. However, as the plant matures and establishes itself, it becomes notably drought-tolerant, endearing it to gardeners. These hardy plants demand minimal watering once they've settled in. Their silvery hue, attributed to the fuzzy soft hair on their leaves, adds aesthetic charm and aids in standing tall during dry spells, emphasizing their remarkable ability to thrive with limited water resources. This drought resilience makes Dusty Miller an appealing choice for water-conscious gardeners, both for its beauty and sustainability in landscaping.
Mature plants, in particular, thrive with occasional deep watering, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. This encourages robust root development while preventing the risk of root rot associated with constant moisture. Dusty Miller's striking silver-gray foliage remains attractive even during dry spells. Its adaptability to arid conditions and capacity to conserve water make it an excellent choice for water-wise gardening, adding both beauty and sustainability to garden landscapes.
And like other native plants from Mediterranean climates, just one inch of watering weekly is enough to keep dusty Miller growing strong. By adding a layer of organic mulch, the dusty miller plant will need even less watering.
Temperature And Humidity
Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima) is well-suited to temperate climates and exhibits a preference for moderate temperatures. It thrives in temperatures ranging from 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C) during the day and slightly cooler temperatures at night. This plant is not frost-tolerant, and temperatures below 50°F (10°C) can damage its foliage.
Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima) is relatively adaptable when it comes to humidity levels, making it well-suited for a range of environments. These hardy plants can tolerate varying humidity levels, from low to moderately high. They don't have specific humidity requirements, which makes them versatile choices for both dry and humid climates. While they can thrive in different humidity conditions, ensuring good air circulation around the plants, especially in high humidity, is essential to prevent potential issues like fungal diseases.
Dusty Miller is relatively low-maintenance when it comes to fertilization. These hardy plants don't require heavy feeding. In fact, excessive fertilization can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of their signature silver-gray leaves. It's best to apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer sparingly in the early spring when the plant is actively growing.
A general-purpose, granular fertilizer with equal proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (e.g., 10-10-10) works well. Over-fertilization can result in leggy growth and diminished leaf quality. Dusty Miller's minimal fertilization needs make it an easy and hassle-free choice for gardeners looking for low-maintenance ornamental plants.
Propagating dusty Miller can be done through several methods, including seeds, cuttings, or division:
Propagation from Seed
- Dusty Miller can be grown from seeds, which are readily available at garden centers and online. Here's how to propagate it from seeds:
- Start seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks before your area's last expected frost date.
- Fill a seed tray or small pots with a well-draining potting mix.
- Sprinkle the seeds on the soil's surface and lightly press them down.
- Mist the soil to moisten it, and cover the tray or pots with plastic wrap or a clear plastic lid to create a greenhouse effect.
- Place the tray or pots in a warm, well-lit location (but not in direct sunlight).
- Once the seedlings have grown a few inches tall and have several leaves, transplant them into individual pots or your garden when the weather is suitable.
Propagation from Cuttings
- Propagating dusty Miller from cuttings is a common method, as it ensures that the new plant will have the same characteristics as the parent plant.
- Take cuttings from the healthy, mature stems of the dusty miller plant during the growing season.
- Cut a stem section that is 3-4 inches long, just below a leaf node.
- Remove the lower leaves from the cutting to expose the node.
- Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone (optional but can enhance rooting), and then plant it in a well-draining potting mix.
- Water the cutting and cover it with a plastic bag or a plastic dome to maintain humidity.
- Place the cutting in indirect sunlight.
- After a few weeks, the cutting should develop roots. Once it has established roots, you can transplant it into your garden or a larger pot.
Propagation by Division
- Divide mature dusty miller plants every few years to rejuvenate them and create new plants.
- Choose a mature dusty miller plant that has become overgrown or less vigorous.
- Dig up the entire plant carefully, trying not to damage the roots.
- Use a sharp knife or garden spade to divide the plant into smaller sections, ensuring each section has roots and stems.
- Replant the divided sections in a prepared garden bed or containers and water them thoroughly.
Dusty miller plants are low maintenance and don't need pruning unless the plant becomes leggy. If the small yellow flowers detract from the plants, you can shear off them as they appear. If you wish the plant to self-seed, leave a few flowers to bloom.
Common pests and disease
Watch out for slugs in flower beds that receive frequent watering as they enjoy snacking dusty miller crops. To get rid of them, physically remove pests off the plant or utilize beer traps. Dusty Miller's silver lace leaves are resistant to deer, making the plant an excellent choice for areas where grazing wildlife may be an issue in the landscape.
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that can affect dusty Miller, creating a white, powdery substance on the leaves. It thrives in humid conditions and can be prevented by ensuring good air circulation around the plants and avoiding overhead watering. Fungicidal sprays may be necessary if an infection occurs.
Root rot is a disease caused by overly wet or waterlogged soil conditions. It can lead to the rotting of the plant's roots and a decline in overall health. To prevent root rot, make sure the soil is well-draining, and avoid overwatering your Dusty Miller.
Rust is another fungal disease that can affect Dusty Miller. It appears as small, rusty-orange spots on the leaves. To manage rust, remove and dispose of affected leaves and consider using a fungicide if the problem persists.
Leaf spot diseases, caused by various fungi, can lead to dark spots or lesions on Dusty Miller's leaves. Proper sanitation, good air circulation, and fungicidal treatments can help control leaf spots.
Varieties Of Dusty Miller
One way to identify the varieties of the dusty Miller is through how dissected the foliage is. Certain varieties are extremely lacy and fine, while others are slightly lobed. Here are three common varieties:
Cirrus (Senecio cineraria 'Cirrus')
'Cirrus' has broad leaves with scalloping on the edges and emerge white in spring and then turn silver throughout the season. It features small clusters of yellow daisy flowers from early to late summer. This is a relatively low-maintenance plant that does not need pruning.
Silverado (Senecio cineraria 'Silverado')
'Silverado' has neat and compact fern-like foliage, which is very popular in many gardens. Ideal for containers and edges because they will grow 10 to 12 inches tall and wide. The tiny yellow flowers will emerge in spring and summer.
Silver Lace (Senecio cineraria 'Silver Lace')
'Silver Lace' has very fine foliage that remains silver in color throughout the season. No flowers nor fruit are ornamentally significant. It adds a delicate and intricate texture to gardens and arrangements.