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Montauk Daisies

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My picture shows a fall on montauk daisy. Leaves may be marred by brown spots.

If you keep your plant cut back during the summer, it will shine brightest in fall. Unhappily, the normally splendid foliage may be marred by brown spots.

David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of Montauk Daisies:

By using the botanical names of plants and establishing a logical plant taxonomy we try to avoid confusion when referencing plants. In botanical nomenclature, Montauk daisy is considered to be Nipponanthemum nipponicum. Unfortunately, in this case, taxonomists required three tries to "get it right," since the plant was formerly listed under the Leucanthemum genus, and before that was classified as a Chrysanthemum (think "mums").

Hopefully, the botanical experts stick with their classification this time, since gardeners could certainly profit from having a clear, consistent way to refer to this plant. For the common plant name, "Montauk daisy" isn't any more helpful; it competes with "Nippon daisy" for status as the everyday moniker. The latter is probably a more descriptive label, technically speaking (see below).

Plant Type:

Montauk daisies are herbaceous perennials.

Characteristics of Montauk Daisies:

Displaying white flowers with yellow centers, the bloom of these perennials conforms to the classic daisy look, as represented in shasta daisies and similar plants. Initial bloom time will depend on how you handle pruning (see below) and can range from mid-summer to late-summer. More importantly, the plant will flower until well into fall. Both its flowers and its leaves can withstand frost. The leaves will eventually yellow after the first frost, but this change in color does not mar their appearance. Freezing temperatures will, however, turn the leaves brown and ruin the flowers.

But the flowers only begin to tell the story. The leaves of this tough perennial are just as important as the blooms. The dark green foliage is shiny to the eye and leathery to the touch.

Montauk daisy can grow to be as tall as about 3 feet (with a similar spread), but again, the particular pruning regimen you adopt will impact eventual height.

Planting Zones for Montauk Daisies:

As you might have guessed from a Latin name such as Nipponanthemum nipponicum, this perennial is indigenous to Japan, as well as being a plant of China. In North America, grow it in planting zones 5 to 9.

Sun and Soil Requirements:

Grow this perennial in full sun. Soil can be just average in fertility, as long as it is very well-drained.

Uses in Landscaping:

I would recommend using this perennial in spacious rock gardens and in xeriscaping. It is showy enough in autumn to serve as a specimen plant for that particular season. But if you have your heart set on the latter treatment, trim the plant in summer to keep it from getting too leggy.

Montauk daisy also makes for a good cut flower.

Wildlife Attracted by Montauk Daisies, Pest Issues:

Use Montauk daisy as a plant to attract butterflies. It will also draw bees.

Its record on pest issues is commendable, as well. Montauk daisy is:

Care for Montauk Daisies:

Gardeners typically trim this perennial in spring or the first half of summer to encourage it to remain more compact. You'll be glad you did when it enters its blooming season, because the flowers will then be displayed on an overall more attractive plant. To keep it attractive, remove the dead brown or yellow leaves that will inevitably pop up along the lower parts of the stems.

These brown and yellow leaves are unsightly, but they do not represent a health problem: their time has simply come. What may be of greater concern are the brown spots that will often develop on the otherwise healthy, green leaves (see picture above). These are caused by the fourlined plant bug (Poecilocapsus lineatus). According to the University of Minnesota (UMN) extension, it's better simply to tolerate these brown spots if the problem doesn't become overwhelming; more serious cases may call for an insecticide, but UMN notes that "insecticidal soap is a less toxic option."

Deadhead the plants both for cosmetic purposes and to generate maximal flowering.

Divide plants in spring if the clumps become too congested.

Outstanding Features of Montauk Daisies:

To begin, some plants are more "tolerant" than others. Montauk daisy is one of those plants. In addition to the fact that it tolerates deer and rabbits (see above), it is:

That's a lot of toleration.

What else do I like about Montauk daisy? I enjoy its succulent-like leaves, but I downright adore the fact that it's a late-blooming plant. I have more flowers than I know what to do with in spring and summer. But to be able to count, year after year, on pretty fall flowers makes it much easier to achieve continuous sequence of bloom in my landscaping.

The details about a plant can hold considerable significance, too. By "details" I'm referring to appreciating small things about the way a particular plant grows. These details might fly under the radar with casual gardeners but will be noticed by true plant geeks. In the case of Montauk daisy, I like the way the flower buds evolve into blooms. At first, the buds appear clustered tightly together on the flower stalk, just barely poking out of the foliage. But as the flower stalk pushes further and further up, the buds start to peel off from one another. By the time the flowers are fully open, they all claim their rightful place as separate entities. It's the type of drama you can only appreciate if you pay regular attention to your garden -- but well worth that extra attention.

Origin of the Common Names:

While one common name for the plant acknowledges its Oriental origins ("Nippon"), the other is based on the fact that it has become a naturalized plant on Long Island, New York (U.S.), as mentioned, for example, on Scott Guiser's blog. To be more specific, this flower has apparently become so intimately associated with the town at the Eastern tip of the island, Montauk, that the name "Montauk daisy" started coming into common usage at some point -- and stuck.

Although "Nippon" is a more descriptive common name -- in the sense that it tells you where the plant truly comes from -- I prefer "Montauk daisy." Why? Because the latter should serve as both a warning and an inspiration:

How does it serve as a warning? Well, consider what the soil must be like in a place like Montauk, famous for its beaches and its lighthouse. Sandy, right? That should remind you to furnish this perennial with fast-draining soil.

The thought of Montauk's sandy shore should also serve to inspire you. If you're a seashore lover (regardless of whether you live on the coast or inland), why not employ the plant in a beach-themed landscape? Erecting a lighthouse ornament and complementing it with plants such as Montauk daisy may be a lot cheaper for you than traveling to Long Island.


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