Weed or volunteer in your WNY garden: daisy fleabane

daisy fleabane in Amherst NY backyard
Here’s a view of the top of the daisy fleabane plants at the end of June. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
closeup of flowers on daisy fleabane in Amherst NY
Closeup of daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus). Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Sometimes we get plants that just show up in our gardens. If we want to keep those plants, we call them volunteers. If we don’t want those plants in our garden, they’re weeds.

An interesting plant arrived in one of my garden beds this spring. I didn’t know what it was and wasn’t sure whether it was going to be a volunteer or a weed.

It grew about five feet tall and got pretty little daisy-like flowers. It’s been blooming for about two months.

It was a fun plant, but I still wasn’t sure if I should keep it. Was it going to get out of control?

If you’re in this situation, you should do what I did: contact the Master Gardeners in your county.

I talked with Margaret Raupp and Lyn Chimera, both Master Gardeners in Erie County.

I learned it’s a daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus), a very common native flower in the aster family. If you look at the flower, you may notice how it resembles the purple asters that bloom in autumn.

The plants in my garden are nearly as tall as I am, but you may have seen other Erigeron species that are shorter, such as Erigeron pulchellus, which grows only 18 inches tall.

Erigeron annuus grows as an annual or sometimes as a biennial. (In the first year a biennial grows stems and leaves, then comes back and flowers the second year.)

Is this plant a keeper?

“I love it because it’s a great cut flower,” Chimera said. “The more you cut it, the more it blooms down the stem.”

tall daisy fleabane in Amherst garden bed
These daisy fleabane plants are about five feet tall. They’re in an inconvenient spot; they lean a bit into the walkway. The plants have been blooming for about two months. Some of the blooms at the tops are spent, but more are budding lower down. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Ooh! I wish I had done that this year.

But Raupp isn’t as big a fan of Erigeron.

“This pops up in my garden all the time.” Raupp said, referring to a shorter species. “I usually pull it out or it would be everywhere. It is very sweet though.

“If someone is embracing the wildflower/meadow look in their garden, this would fit in. In the approximately 30 acres that we maintain as meadow this plant is a player.”

I have just a suburban yard. Should I keep my Erigeron annuus?

“It is not hard to pull out,” Raupp said.

That was encouraging.

“The daisy fleabane never comes up where I want it,” Chimera said.

Hmm. Now I’m hesitant.

“I used to transplant the seedlings to make a nice clump,” Chimera said. “Now I just let it pop up wherever it wants and pull the ones I don’t want.”

She does try to encourage the daisy fleabane to grow where she’d like it.

“I cut the seed heads in the fall and place them where I want them but they still have a mind of their own!” she said.

I will try to get this interesting, native plant to grow and bloom elsewhere in my yard.

Bonus tip: Mullein, Queen Anne’s lace, pokeweed and lesser celandine. Find out if these are volunteers, weeds or invasive plants in this article.

Readers: Do you welcome daisy fleabane or other plants in your landscape? Why or why not? Please leave a comment.

13 Comments on “Weed or volunteer in your WNY garden: daisy fleabane

  1. I love my wild fleabane (I get both the purple and the white tall ones)! It comes up in some shasta daisys in my backyard. I am not from the region so when I moved here I was constantly asking my hubby not to pull up something until I see if I want to keep it or not. It was a good way to learn about natives. However, one year, a clump of sweet williams appeared!! Not native I think but a bird must have visited from a nearby garden. Bonus! πŸ™‚

  2. I found both daisies and black-eyed susans volunteering in my english garden this year. I liked them, but not the location that they chose. They were forcing out some of the plants I had chosen for that spot, so we moved them to the more casual areas along the fence. They look perfect in these wilder sections, & I’m glad for the extra flares of color.

  3. Hi Maxine, I had a sea of daisies in my gardens this year and it was wonderful! I cut some of them back after they finished flowering and they flowered again.

  4. I love the fleabane. The pink ones are actually a different variety called Philadelphia Fleabane. My pink ones died out this year, failed to appear. So I will be in the fields looking for some of their seeds.

  5. I allow a few daisy fleabanes to grow in my garden, depending on where they come up. I had a pretty pink one this year.

  6. Black eye susans were very enthusiastic volunteers in our garden this year. They brightened up the yard and lasted long and beautifully as indoor bouquets. However the wild daisies that found their way into the gardens last year ran rampant and I made sure to nip them in their buds this year. If they had only held up better throughout last summer perhaps I might have been less ruthless in nipping.

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