Tall Cineraria, Senecio stellata ‘Giovanna’s Select’
I’m not sure where I first saw this charming flower. Maybe in a fairytale picture book. That would seem right. Or maybe the flower was standing upright and proud at a notable botanical garden, poking its purple petaled face out from behind perfectly clipped boxwoods. Was it the Kew Gardens? All I know is that for years I searched for this flower so that I could bring it home to call my own.
I finally found an updated strain at Annie’s Annuals. This nursery specializes in hard-to-find flowers and plants, including native wildflowers and heirlooms. Annie’s grows and sells a strain of Senecio called ‘Giovanna’ that was selected by Jim Ottobre in Inverness, CA. This means my long search is over—and now everyone with a shady spot can enjoy it.
Please keep reading to learn more about this perky, purplish plant.
Also known as tall cineraria, this daisy-like flower in the Asteraceae family bursts forth from lush leaves with a colorful collection of vivid blues and purples from late March through June. Growing quite quickly to an impressive 3 feet, this plant, despite its dainty appearance, is quite undemanding and self sufficient. I have one client who has a shady garden and adores purple, so of course, I made sure to plant this lovely flower there. This same client has a medium sized dog who has the run of the garden, and somehow these flowers are coming out unscathed. I don’t think I have ever needed to stake it or offer it much support besides making sure it doesn’t get thirsty.
If you have a shady spot where you need some vertical interest and a burst of dramatic color, then this might be your flower. Interestingly, the colors might vary in your garden depending on the pH of your soil. You could experiment with adding different amendments to alter the hues, much like with hydrangeas. Also, I allow my flowers go to seed at the end of the season so that I can collect and scatter them in different spots. I have had great success with this flower reseeding itself, either with my help or mother nature doing the work. Deadhead the flowers routinely if you don’t want volunteer seedlings next season (though, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t). Oh, and the speedy little seedlings transplant well, too.
- Very attractive to butterflies and purple-loving people.
- Due to its height, it is great as a mid border plant in a bed.
- Perfect in a shady cottage-style garden or a woodland garden.
- Lovely companions are Ajuga and Alchemilla mollis at its feet. Also looks lovely paired with ferns, hydrangeas, and azaleas.
- Makes a surprisingly good cut flower.
Keep It Alive
- Plant in partial to full shade. Morning sun is the best.
- Cool and moist spots are preferred. Do not let this plant go bone dry or the whole plant will sadly droop and become limp.
- Hardy in USDA Zones 9-10. Where I live in Marin County, this plant is a perennial. Outside of this zone, treat it as an annual.
- Regularly prune spent flowers to prolong the blooms.
- Luckily this plant is not bothered by insects or diseases. And one gardener I know reports that deer leave it alone.