Mexican fleabane? It’s prettier than it sounds!

July 24th, 2015 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Erigeron 'Profusion' mingles with lavender and catmint in a sunny border.

It looks a little like a lawn daisy, but don’t let that put you off. Erigeron karvinskianus, rather unappealingly also called the Mexican fleabane, is a wonderful plant that challenges as the plant to give you the longest flowering season for the least effort. Sound interesting? It should.

You’d think it was a twiggy little shrub for much of the summer but in fact it’s a perennial with stiff and wiry stems, with small bright green leaves and with up to five flowers in each little cluster. “Its flowers are of so many shades, from white to crimson according to their age, that a flowering mass is always pretty,” wrote the great plantsman E. A. Bowles in his classic book My Garden In Summer.

In fact, to be a little more precise, each bright yellow eye has up to eighty slender petals around it. They open white with a faint blush and then as they mature they become increasingly dark, eventually maturing to reddish purple. Each plant produces so many flowers at a time that you’ll see every stage from light to dark all at once. The effect is simply delightful.

Erigeron karvinskianus 'Profusion'Originating in Mexico, Erigeron karvinskianus a plant that’s happy in dry sunny conditions – which also helps prevent it becoming too straggly. It’s superb in the cracks in the patio paving or steps, it soon takes hold in the crevices of walls. In gravelly situations it nestles around lavenders and sage and cistus and rosemary and neatly hides their bare stems. You’ll now find it growing wild all across southern England where it’s escaped from gardens.

Interestingly, in spite of the fact that some plants have twice as many chromosomes as others, there’s remarkably little variation – wherever they come from they all look the same. ‘Profusion’ looks pretty much the same as all the others. And they all look lovely. And young plants should flower two or three months after sowing the seed.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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