What is the dusty miller plant? The botanical name Senecio cineraria, the plant originates from the arid regions of the Mediterranean. It is also known as silver ragwort or jacobaea maritima.
The scientific name is often either misspelled as “cenecio cineraria” or mistaken for centaurea cineraria.
Plants grow as an evergreen perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11, and as an annual bedding plant in the cooler zones.
This mound forming plant grows to 12 inches tall and is ideal choice for flower bed edging or companion planting.
The silvery grayish green color to nearly white foliage carries a soft felt-like texture. The shallow deeply notched cut leaves appear as fern fronds.
Although best known for its striking foliage, dusty miller produces loose clusters of one to one and a half inch mustard yellow flowers. Read on to learn more about dusty miller care and other useful information about this plant.
- How To Care For Dusty Miller Plants
- Fertilizing Dusty Miller Plants
- Does Mulching Work For Dusty Miller Plants?
- Dusty Miller Propagation And Pruning
- Insects And Diseases
- Uses For Dusty Miller
- Tips And Warning
- Dusty Miller Varieties
- Dusty Miller Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’
- Homeowner Growing& Maintenance Tips
- Interesting Notes
- Download Additional Information
- Great Companions
- Characteristics & Attributes
How To Care For Dusty Miller Plants
Grow Dusty Miller in full sun, but plants will also tolerate light shade or partial shade during the heat of the day.
Space plants at 9-12 inches apart in well-drained soil and water moderately until well established. They are drought tolerant, making them an excellent addition to annual garden containers
Dusty miller plants tolerate heat, poor soil conditions, and salt air. Plant in a hole roughly two times the width of the container.
A few recommended varieties to plant dusty miller with include Angelonia plants, bright petunia flowers or basil as well as ornamental grasses.
Fertilizing Dusty Miller Plants
Known as a light feeder dusty miller if applying too much fertilizer can lead to weak, leggy plants. They benefit from a light application of a general purpose, slow release fertilizer during early spring.
Sprinkle 2 to 3 teaspoons of dry fertilizer around each plant and water deeply to distribute fertilizer evenly around the roots.
Does Mulching Work For Dusty Miller Plants?
A layer of natural mulch helps prevent the growth of weeds. It also moderates the soil temperature and helps conserve moisture around the roots of plants.
Mulch also adds nutrients and improves soil drainage as it decomposes. Add a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch using natural materials such as pine needles, bark chips or composted leaves.
A layer of grass clippings also proves as a useful mulch. However, limit the layer to 1 to 2 inches to avoid heat build up.
Dusty Miller Propagation And Pruning
When performing dusty miller plant care, prune when they become leggy during the growing season.
Cut them back to half their size and the plant will quickly fill out again.
When growing a dusty miller perennial, cut plants back to 3 to 4 inches during early spring as new growth emerges. Most gardeners remove the flowers so as to divert energy to the foliage.
Dusty millers plants propagate easily from softwood cuttings taken during summer.
Start the tiny seeds of dusty miller indoors, ten weeks before the date of the last killing frost. The seeds need light to germinate. Therefore when planting do not cover them with soil.
Plant seeds on the surface of moistened soil and maintain a temperature of 65-75 degrees. Germination takes 10-15 days. After 20-25 days transplant germinated seedling into small pots.
Directly seed in flower gardens, sow two to three weeks before the last frost.
You may also like: Senecio Angel Wings (Senecio Candicans)
Insects And Diseases
Dusty miller plants find themselves resistant to most diseases and pests.
In case they do occur, treat plants early with organic garden safe neem oil or chemical fungicides.
Uses For Dusty Miller
Dusty Miller excels when planted as garden borders but also planted as individual specimens. The plant becomes the “Star of the Show” in a moonlight themed garden.
The branches air dry well for use in cut flower arrangements as an interesting ornamental component where it keeps its silver color even when dry.
Tips And Warning
Water thoroughly in the case of wilting. At the same time, do not over-water as this may lead to root rot. If planted in containers, make sure containers can drain properly.
Handle dusty miller with care:
- The sap it produces is toxic
- Sap can cause irritation to the skin and eyes
- Use gloves when pruning
- Ingesting leaves can cause liver damage.
Dusty Miller Varieties
Silver Dust Plants – The dusty miller silver dust variety has finely cut silvery-white foliage grows 12-18 inches tall. Often planted with annuals in flower beds and containers. It’s also used in xeriscapes.
Silver Lace – This moderately dwarf variety growing 6 to 8 inches in height, with finely cut lacy silver foliage and compact growth maintains a rounded shape. A very delicate looking variety.
Cirrus – A bolder looking variety with wider and less finely cut leaves. Grows to 6 to 8 inches tall and used as a ground cover.
Dusty miller is a commonly used as an annual bedding plant.
Dusty miller is the common name of several plants with grey or silver leaves. The one commonly used as an annual bedding plant is actually a perennial subshrub native to the Mediterranean. It has been classified as Senecio cineraria, but some taxonomists now regard it as Jacobaea maritima. It is typically grown for its ornamental foliage. Although most references state that it is a tender perennial hardy only in zones 7 or 8-10, I have two plants that have survived two consecutive winters on the edge of zone 4 and 5 and I have read other reports of it surviving zone 4 winters. It is more likely a half-hardy perennial, with some types that are more cold tolerant than others.
The leaves are covered with fine hairs giving a felted or wooly appearance, which changes when wet (R).
The leaves of this herbaceous species are covered with fine matted hairs, giving them a felted or woolly, silver or white appearance. When wet the underlying green leaf becomes more visible, and the white color is not as intense when grown in the shade. Coloration can also vary with the cultivar. The 2-6 inch long leaves are arranged alternately or spirally along the stiff, hairy stems. The simple leaves are lance shaped and variously indented or
Some cultivars have highly dissected leaves.
cut with numerous lobes, many times appearing pinnately compound. Cultivars vary tremendously in the amount of dissection from just slightly sinute to an almost lace-like appearance, offering a wide range of medium to fine textures.
Many cultivars offer a fine texture to contrast with other plants.
Plants can grow up to 2 feet tall and as wide, but rarely achieve that stature when grown as an annual. When grown as an annual it normally forms a rounded mound 8-15 inches tall.
After the first year dusty miller will bloom, producing yellow or cream composite flowers in terminal clusters. The ray flowers are highly reduced and the flowers are not particularly ornamental. Some cultivars do not flower and many gardeners prefer to remove any flowers as they can detract from the foliage. Seeds are produced in cylindrical achenes.
Buds (L) and flowers (R) of blooming dusty miller (CL).
Dusty miller is heat and drought tolerant.
Being of Mediterranean origin, dusty miller is heat and drought tolerant and does best in full sun. It will it become leggy when grown in shade. Although it performs best in moist, well-drained, moderately rich soils, it is tolerant of poor soils. It will last past the first frost, but the leaves die back when temperatures are consistently below freezing. Plants that survive the winter will die back to the crowns, and vigorous new growth will emerge in late spring, so the dead foliage should be cut back in fall or late winter. Most people purchase dusty miller as bedding plants, but they can also be grown from seed or cuttings. Take tip cuttings from semi-hard wood in the summer. This plant has few pests and is not favored by deer.
Dusty miller as an accent in a container planting.
Dusty miller is a great complimentary foliage plant for flowering annuals in sunny sites. Use it as an accent plant in containers, as an edging, in borders or mixed plantings as a contrast for darker flowers or foliage. It combines well with other annuals, especially those that bloom in shades of pink, magenta, or violet. Or mix it with other foliage plants, such as the deep purple Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) for season-long color and contrast. They are also good in “moon gardens” as their foliage reflects moonlight.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Dusty Miller Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’
Dusty Miller is grown primarily for its stunning, silver-gray foliage. It is a great addition to a colorful container garden, makes a nice edging for borders and is good to use as a bridge between two clashing colors. Dusty Miller has finely divided leaflets and white daisy flowers about 1.5” in diameter. Set them into the garden once the soil has warmed. They can be grown as perennials in zones 9-10 and an annual as well. Foliage looks great in cut arrangements.
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Characteristics & Attributes
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| Critter Resistance
| Foliage Color
| Season of Interest (Flowering)
| Soil Moisture Preference