I Can't Grow Gerberas
I can't grow Gerberas, and why not? They are from South Africa, a climate very similar to Southern California. To be precise, I can't grow Gerbera daisies that bloom. I have a couple of plants that are at least 5 years old, which grow and look good, but blooms--those perfect bursts of rayed saturated color--are few. A blast ofMiracle Gro Lawn Food, which is 36-6-6, (meaning a ton of Nitrogen) seems to produce a flower or two. However the results are never as impressive as the desire, which is passionate. What flower is more perfect, more symetrical, more color-saturated, more photogenic? If I could grow blooming Gerberas, I could gladly let all the roses go. (Well, okay, not really.)
Some internet research, always an iffy thing, turned up a page claiming Gerberas stop blooming above 70F. Their ideal temperature is below 70F and above 45F, a range we get here for a few weeks in spring, exactly when I get a few flowers from them. So maybe that page is reliable. Some people in cold climates report having good success growing them as houseplants, getting flowers from them all winter--if you think about it, indoors in cold climates probably yields temperatures right in the 50s and 60's, which may confirm the coolish temperature range. Of course crown rot and all that, but I can avoid crown rot easily here, and all the lizards keep the earwig population nearly zero, and the possums do the same for snails and slugs. Temperature however I can't control anymore than a lizard can.
The chapter about Gerberas in Holland in the book Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, where every Dutchman and Dutchwoman the author meets tells her to keep cut Gerberas in "no more than an inch" of water was quite amusing and I recommend the book, though it may intensify Gerbera Desire temporarily. You are forewarned.
Over time I've learned to resist Gerbera Desire, even when seeing them in their fresh perfection at the big-box stores. It remains a struggle, though knowing they stop blooming above 70F makes the struggle easier to manage. My backup plan for when it gets particularly difficult: cut flowers!
I was nearly unhinged when I spotted what were touted as "Garden Gerberas!" at Lowe's in April, but remained wary. One learns to be suspicious of plant names containing exclamation points fairly early in one's gardening life. Now that I look at a page for them here, I recall that the colors were not as intense and saturated as the florist varieties, which prevented a purchase. Saved by subtle coloring!