Vibrant pericallis brings seaside flora home

Vibrant pericallis brings seaside flora home

No, the name is not the newest dental disorder.  On the contrary Pericallis is one of the most vibrantly colored and long-lasting flowers around. I spotted this beauty in the plant area of a nearby box store last March and some of them went home with me.  They have recently called it a day because of the extreme heat but lasted for months with no problem.  

Some of us only know this plant as a flower sent out by florists in a bouquet, which may or may not last a week. The florists store the cut flowers at temps as low as 40 degrees for 7-10 days with no harm done, so they are popular and a big profit maker for the flower shops. I think of them in a totally different way-as a beauty in a semi-shady part of my yard.  

Pericallis is from the Greek “peri” which means “around” and “kallos” which means “beauty." You may know them by the name Cenarario or Senecio.  They are commonly called Senecio since the Latin word “senex” means old man. Odd, but the lovely Pericallis has a hairy base to its flower, which evidently reminds some folks of an old man.  

These flowers thrive on the cool ocean cliffs that overlook the Atlantic Ocean. Native to the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands, you can make them happy right here at home with adequate water and some shade. 

Pericallis is from the aster family that is immense, with more than 20,000 species.  According to Calyx Flowers' blog, aster is one of the most developed families of flowers.  “It was named a ‘compositae’ because the flowers are actually a composite of many individual flowers into one head.  Hence, when children pull one ‘petal’ off at a time, saying ‘he loves me, he loves me not’, they are actually removing a complete flower, not just a petal.”  

I had the best luck with my grouping of these lovelies from February through June.  I chose blue and pink but you can also find amethyst, ruby and coral.  They like temps above 50 degrees and below 85 degrees or so.  Since we are lucky enough to live in a mild region, they can often be grown outside as a perennial bedding plant.  Think of them as a tender perennial, which needs to be protected if temps fall below 32 degrees.  The Pericallis will re-seed itself each year and give you a naturalized look.  Love them in garden beds, window boxes and next to ferns and hostas.  

You can grow Pericallis from seeds by sowing the seeds in pots first.  Load the pots with soil loam and leaf mold and sand to truly make them happy, happy.  Plant in ground when larger and don’t let the new baby plant ever get completely dry.  Make sure they get fresh air and not too much sun.  Sounds like the best recipe for our general health, too.