What is Dusty Miller? (with picture)

Erica Stratton
Erica Stratton
The dusty miller's hardiness deters deer from eating it.
The dusty miller's hardiness deters deer from eating it.

The dusty miller is a shrub whose scientific name is Senecio cineraria. It is also known as "white ragwort." Depending on where it is grown, it can be a perennial evergreen shrub. It is often used as a decorative shrub in hot, dry climates because it is hardy and seldom eaten by deer.

When fully grown, a dusty miller is a small shrub which can be 2 feet (0.6 m) tall and 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm) wide. It does not have branches. Instead, it has stiff-stemmed leaves which can grow to be up to 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 cm) wide.

The dusty miller gets its name from the white, wooly hairs which cover its leaves. These give the leaves a silvery or white, dusty appearance, as if they've been covered in flour. The hairs can be easily rubbed off, revealing the gray green beneath.

The plant is native to the Mediterranean, and it grows well in very hot and dry climates. Many gardening guides say that it grows well in full sun or partial shade. Since it is a native to the desert, it can flourish just as well planted in normal or sandy soil as it does in rich soil.

Dusty millers do not flourish well in extremely wet climates. The soil must have good drainage, or the roots will start to rot. For this reason, gardeners have to be careful not to overwater this plant or plant it in a part of their garden where water tends to collect after rain.

The shrub can be propagated by seeds or by planting cuttings. The dusty miller produces small, daisy-like flowers. The flowers can be yellow, pink, white, purple or blue. Since the leaves are considered more aesthetic than the flowers, the buds will often be pinched off by gardeners to encourage leaf growth instead.

Due to their hardiness and white appearance, dusty millers are often used as decorative plants for lawns and gardens. Its white/silver leaves contrast with colored flowers and can be used as a border or as a chromatic bridge between two beds. They can also grow well in containers. Sometimes the leaves are used in flower arrangements. Once cut, the ends of the stems will need to be soaked in water immediately so that they will last.

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    • The dusty miller's hardiness deters deer from eating it.
      The dusty miller's hardiness deters deer from eating it.