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.
Plants grow as an evergreen perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11, and as an annual bedding plant in the cooler zones.
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
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.
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.
Pruning And Propagating Dusty Miller
Prune dusty miller plants when they become leggy during the growing season. Cut them back to half their size and the plant will quickly fill out again.
When grown as a 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 miller 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.
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 Dusty Miller– this variety with 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.