Blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) is a shockingly hardy performer for drought-tolerant gardens. Native to northern New Mexico, Arizona, and the southern Great Plains, it thrives in hot, dry, rocky soils where other ornamentals are hard-pressed to survive.
The Latin name originates from Greek words melas and pod, meaning “black” and “foot”, respectively. Leucos means “white”, while anthos means “flower”. It’s a straightforward derivation: small bracts on the white flowers do look like little feet, and they turn black at the end of the growth cycle.
Admittedly, as you walk past containers of Blackfoot daisy at the nursery you may not be impressed. Don’t let their understated foliage fool you! Once planted, they produce abundant blooms for an extended season, typically March – November.
Their extraordinary heat tolerance makes these plants well suited for brightening up areas that receive high, reflected heat. Mass plantings are particularly pretty, with each small bush spreading eventually to two feet across and remaining low, about six inches tall.
Cheerful, petite flowers are approximately 1-inch wide. White-petaled with deep yellow centers, they produce a soft honey-like fragrance as they soak up the sun. Sweet but not overpowering, the smell is delightful for a deck or patio container and appeals to butterflies, birds, and native pollinators as well.
Dark green leaves are narrow and about 2 inches long, consistent with other species in the aster family. The contrast between dark foliage and brilliant flowers makes M. leucanthum an easy companion to a wide variety of companion plantings, from agave and succulents to colorful bloomers like plains zinnia (Zinnia grandiflora).
Soil and Water Requirements for Blackfoot Daisy
While its delicate appearance may tempt you to provide rich soil, frequent water, and fertilizer, there is consistent proof that the short-term gain of abundant blossoms will end in premature death of the plants.
To succeed, its care in your garden should mimic the hot, dry conditions of its home in the wild. Full sun, sandy/rocky soil, and gravel mulch with excellent drainage is preferable.
Water lightly and infrequently. A pleasing, mounded ground cover with plenty of bright flowers will be your reward.
If your mature plants begin to thin out, a simple pruning in late winter will help restore a compact growth habit. Cut out dead branches beneath (up to half the plant) to maintain a rounded shape.
Plant Features and Uses
- Ornamental, fragrant
- Long bloom time
- Deer- and rabbit-resistant
- Reseeds profusely
- Attracts butterflies
- Drought tolerant
- Suitable for mass planting in containers, beds, and rock gardens
- Companion plantings: Penstemon (beard-tongues), cactus and succulents, Lantana, Victoria blue sage
Low-water gardens are by no means the exclusive domain of gravel and mulch! You may be surprised by the wide variety of plant textures, colors, shapes, and sizes that are readily available to complement your home. To learn more about sustainable, low-water landscaping, call (510) 632-1522 and speak to one of our landscaping design specialists today.
Evergreen Nursery is your neighborhood expert resource for native and drought-tolerant plant materials, organic gardening products, and eco-conscious landscape design insights. We invite you to shop our large selection of plants, or take one of our free workshops to learn more about successful sustainable gardening practices in the Bay area.