When you are well versed in the common plants used in gardens it is always exciting to come across one that you have never seen before. This was certainly the case for me when I started working as head gardener at Lincoln’s Inn in London.
I noticed this fantastic shrub that looked exotic but turned out to be hardy in pots and borders, and produced masses of bright-yellow flowers pretty much all year round, even some in the depths of winter.
It turned out to be Euryops chrysanthemoides, a half-hardy shrub in many parts of the UK but perfectly suited to a sheltered garden in central London, which is always about 2°C hotter than the surrounding counties. As well as being an attractive and versatile shrub, it also turned out to be easy to propagate so now we have this vigorous shrub in several different spots in the garden.
Euryops is actually quite a big genus — in the daisy family Asteraceae — of around 100 species. They mainly grow in South Africa but there are some further north, up to Arabia. There are only a few grown in the UK. Perhaps the most popular is E. pectinatus Award of Garden Merit (AGM), like all of them an evergreen shrub with yellow daisy flower heads. This one has deeply lobed, downy grey leaves.
The leaves on E. chrysanthemoides are similarly lobed to pectinatus, though it has fewer, broader lobes and instead of being grey and downy its leaves are mid-green and glabrous.
Both can grow quite large, to at least 1m, and have rich yellow flower heads on long, erect stalks.
E. acraeus AGM is a dwarf shrub suited to a rock garden or scree, while E. virgineus is a small shrub that produces many stems clothed in neat, glabrous green leaves and small yellow flowers in spring that give off a subtle honey-like fragrance.
The most important thing about Euryops is the climate. Most of the garden types are generally half-hardy, though E. acraeus AGM is pretty tough because it is an alpine plant. They can be grown in milder locations, sheltered gardens and do especially well in warm coastal areas. They are best given a warm, sunny position and well-drained soil. Make sure they do not dry out in pots, but even if they have wilted they still come back if well watered.
Once established they can grow quite vigorously and if they suffer a little dieback over winter they can have a light trim all over and come back brilliantly in late spring. This tends to be their best flowering period, though flowers will usually keep coming throughout the year.
For those not lucky enough to be able to grow them outdoors, grow them in pots, in the greenhouse or conservatory, in loam-based compost with added sharp sand. Water freely when in growth and keep just moist in winter.
What the specialists say
Graham Sykes, propagator, Trevena Cross Nurseries, Cornwall
"We grow several varieties of Euryops here in Cornwall and we find that they are great plants for coastal gardens.
"E. pectinatus is a great shrub and it flowers for most of the year here in our normally milder climate. We also grow E. virgineus. It’s a good, taller-growing plant but is not quite so hardy.
"E. tysonii is one of the toughest varieties and it also flowers well. Basically, as long as they have a good free-draining soil and full sun, then they are happy. But they will need protection from harder frosts in cold areas."
John Winterson, deputy buyer, RHS Plant Centres
"We only sell one species of Euryops — E. pectinatus AGM. This sells well when we can get it, especially when it is covered in its pretty yellow daisy flowers. It is great for milder locations or sheltered spots where it can grow quite vigorously. Its long flowering period makes it great value.
"Wisley Plant Centre sells this mainly from its A-Z shrub section, but if we have a flowering batch from the nursery then it will definitely be on a display table because it is a great impulse line. If I had yellow flowers in my garden then this would be one I would grow."
Species and varieties
E. abrotanifolius is an upright, densely leaved shrub that features finely divided thread-like foliage, giving the shrub a feathery appearance. Over time, its stems tend to be become bare lower down. Single bright-yellow daisy flowers are produced on long stalks. Considered an invasive weed in Australia. Height: 1-2m.
E. acraeus AGM (H4) is a rounded dwarf evergreen shrub that comes from the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa. It has narrow, intensely silvery/blue leaves and masses of bright-yellow daisies in late spring and early summer. Height and spread: 30cm.
E. chrysanthemoides is a half-hardy, upright, branching, evergreen shrub with finely-divided dark-green leaves and slender erect stems bearing masses of bright golden-yellow flowers from spring to autumn. Can be grown outside in coastal and mild parts of the UK. Height: 1.5m. Spread: 1.2m.
E. pectinatus AGM (H3) is an evergreen shrub with pinnately cut, grey hairy leaves and long-stalked yellow daisies that begin to flower in early summer and continue for months into winter if grown under glass. Height and spread: 1m.
E. speciosissimus (syn. E. athanasiae) is a tall shrub with finely divided foliage and bright-yellow flowers similar to those of E. pectinatus but with longer stems so that the flowers are held higher above the foliage. It is narrower and taller-growing than its relative, reaching heights of up to 3m in its ideal climate.
E. tenuissimus is a half-hardy shrub that has quite upright and non-branching stems, very fine linear needle-like leaves and large clusters of bright-yellow flowers late in the season. Reported to tolerate temperatures down to -7°C.
E. tysonii is a bushy, evergreen alpine with bright-green fine foliage. Resembles a glossy rosemary plant with slightly succulent stem tips and leaves. Produces sweetly scented bright-yellow daisy flowers in the autumn. Hardy. Height and spread: up to 1m.
E. virgineus, also known as the honey Euryops, is a small shrub that features tiny pectinate, mid-green leaves so densely packed along the stems that they look like needles. During spring, small softly scented yellow flowers are produced on slender stalks in the axils of the plants’ upper leaves. Height: 60cm-1m.
Thank you to Floramedia, which supplied the images for this article from its photo library