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What is Leucanthemum?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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Leucanthemum is a medium sized genus of flowering plants placed in the daisy or aster family, Asteraceae. Many members of this genus are cultivated ornamentally under names like ox-eye daisy and shasta daisy. They are readily available from nurseries and garden supplies, and they can also be propagated from divisions of mature plants. Gardeners should be aware that some people with sensitive noses find the odor of some species in this genus unpleasant. A smell test may be advised before planting.

Members of this genus are perennials, growing in clumps and spreading via underground roots known as rhizomes. They produce tall stems that branch at the base and remain relatively simple above, with small, serrated leaves. The flowers are white with bright yellow centers and a classic daisy-like appearance. The smell of members of this genus has been described in a number of different ways, but some people find it reminiscent of latrines.

These plants are native to Africa, Asia, and Europe. They are distributed throughout climates like those found in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones four through 10, and grow in a variety of soil types. While medium, well-drained soil is preferred, the plants can also grow in wet conditions, as well as dry, rocky, or coarse soil. They tend to prefer full sun to partial shade and grow rapidly when they are established in an environment they like.

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Seeds from mature plants can be used for propagation of Leucanthemum species and seeds are sometimes used in wildflower mixes. For divisions, existing plants can be dug up and pulled apart before being replanted. Periodic divisions are recommended every few years to prevent crowding and keep the plants healthy. Leucanthemum can be grown as a massed planting or border, and pairs well with evergreen trees and shrubs to set off the bright white flowers. Mixing in flowers in other colors like red, orange, or purple can create a dramatic display.

Bees and butterflies are often interested in Leucanthemum and these plants can also be appealing to animals like deer. Gardeners interested in encouraging garden visitors can establish some Leucanthemum plants around the edges of the garden. Because they will spread over time, it is advisable to plant them in a spot with room to grow and to control the plants carefully by cutting, uprooting, or edging if they start to stray out of the area where they are desired.

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