Cineraria saxifraga with its delicate foliage and bright
yellow flowers, is a rewarding and versatile plant for the garden.
It is a soft perennial shrublet with a spreading rounded bushy habit
and reaches a height of 20 - 30 cm and has a spread of about 40
cm. It has attractive light green hairless leaves. Each one is quite
small (1-2 cm x 1-1.5 cm) broadly triangular to almost semi-circular
in shape and palmately-veined and -lobed (i.e. the veins originate
at the same point at the base of the leaf).
During spring and autumn the little bushes are speckled with masses
of small bright yellow daisies. Flowers are also produced here and
there during summer, but the peak seasons are during spring and
autumn. The seeds are very small, black in colour, and a flattened
oblong in shape with a tuft of fluffy whitish hairs at one end (the
pappus). They are very light in weight and are dispersed by the
Although they share a common name, Cineraria saxifraga,
the wild cineraria, does not look much like the brightly and variously
coloured annuals or biennials that are also called cineraria or
florist's cineraria. These cinerarias are in actual fact hybrids
based on Pericallis cruenta and Pericallis lanata,
both natives of the Canary Islands, and both having undergone name
changes from Cineraria to Senecio to Pericallis,
as the botanists try to bring taxonomic order to the huge and diverse
Cineraria saxifraga occurs naturally from Swellendam in
the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape, where it usually grows on
rocky slopes in the shade.
Cineraria is a genus of herbs and subshrubs that consists
of approximately fifty species and occurs throughout Africa. Only
two species are known to occur outside Africa, one with a distribution
that extends into Yemen and one that occurs in Madagascar. The centre
of diversification is southern Africa where at least forty (80%)
of the currently described species can be found. The genus name
Cineraria means grey or ash-coloured from the Latin cinerarius
and refers to the leaf colour of the first known species. The species
name saxifraga means of the rocks in Latin and alludes to
this species preference for a rocky habitat. Cineraria belongs
in the Asteraceae (daisy family), a huge family of some 1535 genera
and 25 000 species spread all over the world and absent only from
Antarctica, and is placed in the tribe Senecioneae.
Growing Cineraria saxifraga
saxifraga is fast-growing and very easy to grow. It does best
in well-drained, well-composted soil in semi-shade to full sun.
A plant in a sunny situation will be more compact than one in a
shadier spot. It needs regular watering until established, after
which it will survive quite happily on much less. It is suitable
for inland and coastal gardens and can withstand light frost (zone
10: -1 to 4°C / 20 to 30°F) although it is better suited to frost-free
gardens (zone 11: above 4°C / 40°F).
With its neat rounded shape, Cineraria saxifraga makes an
excellent edging plant. It is also an attractive addition to the
mixed border and the rockery, a good ground-cover in semi-shade
and it will drape over terraced walls. It also makes an excellent
container plant suitable for window boxes and hanging baskets. Plants
do not require pruning, but can be cut back where necessary. They
will last for a number of years, but may become a bit woody and
scruffy with age. At Kirstenbosch, to keep them looking at their
best, we replace them with young plants every four to five years.
Cineraria saxifraga is propagated by means of cuttings or
seed, or rooted runners can be removed from an established plant.
A new plant produced from a cutting or a runner will take about
three months to reach a good size.
Cuttings can be taken during spring, summer or autumn. It is very
easy to root, and although best results are obtained using the nursery
facilities, i.e. dipping the cut ends into a suitable rooting hormone
powder and planting them in a well aerated medium e.g. equal parts
of milled bark and polystyrene and then placing them over bottom
heat of ±23°C under intermittent mist, rooting will also
occur if the cuttings are placed in a cool spot and kept moist.
Seed can be sown in autumn in frost free climates, or in spring
and early summer.
- Cron, G.V. & Balkwil, K., 1997, Cineraria cyanomontana and
C. argillacea, two new montane endemics from South Africa, South
African Journal of Botany, Volume 63 (6): 400-402
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J., 2000, Cape Plants, A Conspectus
of the Cape Flora of South Africa, NBI, Pretoria & Missouri
Botanical Garden Press, Missouri
- Leistner, O.A. (ed.), 2000, Seed plants of southern Africa:
families and genera, Strelitzia 10., National Botanical Institute,
- Jackson, W.P.U., 1990, Origins and Meanings of Names of South
African Plant Genera, U.C.T. Printing Dept., Cape Town.
Authors: Ebrahim Lawrence & Alice Notten
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden