Montauk Daisies, Nipponanthemum nipponicum
(Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 16, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Tongue-twisting Latin name
That sure is a tongue-twister, Nipponanthemum nipponicum. Until a few years ago the Latin name for this plant was Chrysanthemum nipponicum. I also found it referred to as Leucanthemum nipponicum. Those pesky botanists! Their recent rearrangements of plant genera haven't helped us common folk in our quest to learn about plants. But I needed to understand the Latin name system to find out more about Montauk daisies. (Simply researching "daisies" or even "oxeye daisies" would have gotten me nowhere. Some common names are just way too common.*) Curiously, the tag that came with the plant states that it is native to the area around the Montauk Lighthouse in the state of New York. I wasn't able to confirm that with my research. Even reading through the official Montauk Point Lighthouse website told me nothing to back up that claim of origin.
Fall-blooming, deer-resisting, butterfly attracting
As its current Latin name suggests, this daisy originated in Japan (Nippon). The plant is native to the island's coastal areas. During spring and summer, stems grow from the hardy roots into a 2-foot tall, bushy "subshrub." Being a coastal native is a good hint that Montauk daisies like well-drained sites with full sun. They are rated for growing in zones 6 to 10, which means that most temperate zone gardeners can enjoy this flower. Happily, I have read that deer and rabbits are not fond of Nipponicum but that butterflies are. Montauk daisy will spend most of the growing season as a pleasant leafy filler in your annual or perennial flowerbeds. Foliage is deep green, with a slightly leathery texture. The three-inch leaves are toothed and oblong, reminding you of its Shasta daisy and chrysanthemum cousins. In early fall, dozens of classic white, yellow-centered blooms open and dress the plant until hard frost.
Landscape use and care
Montauk daisies begin greening the flower bed a month or two before you can plant your summer annuals. Crocuses, pansies, daffodils or early tulips could be tucked around the plant to take advantage of space later to be shaded by the growing stems. In late spring, place short summer bloomers, like wax begonias, petunias, or marigolds, in front of Montauk daisies. Add height and more summer color behind the daisies with tall flowers like zinnias, cleome, or cosmos. A tall grass like switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) or the grass-like leaves and midsummer blooms of daylilies would lend a nice contrast in foliage.
Once planted in well draining soil and full sun, Montauk daisies will not ask for care during the summer. Winter will damage the exposed parts, so you'll trim all stems in early spring and allow the many fresh buds at the base to develop. Gardening on a budget? Consider buying a smaller number of pots this year. You can divide those plants in subsequent early springs later on by digging up the woody base, cutting it apart and replanting.
Sources for Montauk daisies
I found my Montauk daisies in six-inch pots at one of those big home-improvement warehouse type stores last fall; they may be available at your local nursery or garden center. Dave's Garden Plantfiles led me to mail-order sources for this plant. It may not be a widely-known plant at this time; could it be an old favorite enjoying a recent revival in interest? I'm looking forward to seeing Nipponanthemum nipponicum in full bloom for the first time this year.
Can't wait for fall blooms? Maybe you should read this recent article about Shasta daisies by darius.
Click here to read comments about this plant by Dave's Garden subscribers.
Ox-Eye Daisies are another classic choice, and here's an article by critterologist about them.
*Daisy can be used to refer to any of a large number of plants with similarly-structured flowers. Dave's Garden Plantfiles shows 682 results for a search of the term "daisy".
Fell, Derek. Encyclopedia of Hardy Plants. Buffalo, Firefly Books, 2007
Ellis, Barbara W. Taylor's Guide to Perennials. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 2000
Pictures were taken by the author. Thumnail shows my first Montauk bloom on September 23, 2008.