Currently one of the most popular types of daisy, Leucanthemum maximum (lew-KANTH-ih-mum MAKS-ih-mum) is a showy member of the Asteraceae family.
It is best known by the common names Shasta daisy and chrysanthemum maximum/max chrysanthemum.
However, the scientific name isn’t totally accurate, and not just because Leucanthemum was formerly considered part of the Chrysanthemum genus (hence two of its nicknames).
Shasta daisies are actually a hybrid created in the 1800s of Leucanthemum x superbum by American botanist Luther Burbank.
He began by crossing Leucanthemum maximum and Leucanthemum vulgare, then adding in Leucanthemum lacustre and finally Nipponanthemum nipponicum.
The resulting plant was named after the snowy peaks of Mount Shasta.
However, due to its popularity among other members of the progenitor genus, this hybrid continues to be referred to as simply Leucanthemum maximum in botanical circles.
Two Shasta daisy cultivars particularly shine and are most likely to grace your garden.
In 2003, Leucanthemum ‘Becky’ won the Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of the Year award.
More recently, the 2006 cultivar ‘Leumayel’ (aka Broadway Lights) has become perhaps the most popular variant to date and thus earns the bulk of our attention here.
This herbaceous perennial is native to France and Spain, but has become popular worldwide (and not just because its progenitor plants came from three different continents).
The extensive use of Shasta daisies in the United States and UK garden settings has resulted in it being considered naturalized in both nations.
It’s prized for its generally low maintenance quality, season-long, showy flowers and ability to attract wildlife to your gardens, such as birds and butterflies.
Caring For Shasta Daisies
Size & Growth
The Shasta daisy has a mature height of 2′-3′ feet tall and a spread of 1.5′ to 2’ feet wide, while its Broadway Lights cultivar tends to be slightly smaller.
Its foliage consists of lance-shaped, medium to dark green coarse-toothed leaves measuring 2″ to 4 ¾” inches long and ¼ to ⅞” inches wide.
The basal leaves of Shasta daisies measure 2″ to 2 3/8” inches long and ⅝ to 1” inches wide.
The inflorescence boasts ray flowers measuring ¾ to 1 ⅛” inches in diameter.
Flowering and Fragrance
As a whole, the Shasta daisy is well-known for its large white flowers with bright yellow centers.
However, Broadway Lights puts on an additional display sure to please.
Its initial blooms are yellow, which fade to cream and eventually mature into the traditional white.
These three shades will often mingle mid-season, adding even more color and variety.
The Shasta daisy tends to bloom from June through August.
However, a secondary bloom may occur in late summer lasting into early autumn.
These tend to be less showy than the normal bloom time and coincide with the seed ripening from the regular bloom cycle.
One interesting note about Shasta daisies is the ability to force off-season blooming.
This is especially true of Broadway Lights.
Shasta daisy actually benefits from cold treatments, which create earlier and fuller bloom cycles.
By cold treating small containers of Shasta daisies in a controlled environment, you may achieve blooms at any point of the year with fair reliability.
Begin by placing the containers in an environment with the temperature set to between 30° and 40° degrees Fahrenheit (-1° to 4° C).
Allow Shasta daisy plants to hibernate for at least six weeks.
Upon removing from hibernation, the plants should be placed in an area where they’ll receive 16 hours of light per day through direct sunlight, photoperiodic lighting, or a combination of both.
This extra light further encourages a prolific bloom period.
The ambient temperature should be set between 60° and 72° degrees Fahrenheit (15° – 22° C), resulting in flowers in ten to six weeks, respectively.
While higher temperatures produce blooms faster in Shasta daisies, lower temperatures result in more robust blooms while maintaining a more compact plant size.
Light & Temperature
Shasta daisy requires full sun, although it can tolerate light shade during the hottest points of summer days.
It thrives in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9.
Interestingly, some growers are able to grow these daisies as an annual in zones 9 to 10.
Watering and Feeding
These flowering plants grow best in moist, well-drained soil.
They’re able to withstand periods of drought, but their growth might become stunted as a result.
Oversaturated water may lead to root rot, and will prove fatal during winter months.
You may use either controlled-release or water-soluble fertilizer, however, water-soluble mixtures should include between 100 and 150 parts per million of nitrogen.
Controlled-release fertilizers should be added prior to planting for the best results.
Soil & Transplanting
Shasta can handle a wide range of soils, from clay to sandy or loamy, preferring a neutral or alkaline pH.
The soil needs to be well-drained to prevent disease.
Bark and peat-based growing mixes may be used, so long as proper drainage is maintained.
Seedlings may be transplanted into quart to gallon-sized containers.
Pinching two weeks after the transplant will encourage branching.
Grooming And Maintenance
Most of the maintenance involved in Shasta care revolves around promoting vigorous growth.
Dividing clumps every two to three years as needed and pruning stems the basal leaves once the flowers have gone will help extend the plant’s lifespan.
Additionally, clipping any spent flower heads will result if further blooms.
How To Propagate Max Chrysanthemum
Shasta plants are self-fertile, being hermaphroditic in nature.
They’re naturally pollinated by a range of bees, beetles, butterflies, flies, and moths.
They may also be propagated by division, with the clump parts being moved to their own containers or plots.
NOTE: Unlike most variants of Shasta daisy, Broadway Lights is a PPAF (plant patent applied for) cultivar and therefore may not be legally propagated without a license.
Leucanthemum Maximum Main Pest or Disease Problems
Leucanthemum is deer and rabbit tolerant.
Its ability to handle dry soil also makes it naturally drought tolerant.
However, this latter factor means it’s more susceptible to:
When not maintained, the plant becomes vulnerable to a handful of other diseases, including:
A host of insect pests also find Shasta to be an attractive target.
- Foliar nematodes
- Leaf miners
- Slugs snails
- Spider mites
Suggested Shasta Daisy Uses
The flowers of Shasta daisies are natural draws for wildlife, especially birds and butterflies.
As a result, they make an attractive, long-lasting addition to borders and full sun cutting gardens.
They’re also perfect for planting along water features, as they grow naturally along streams and in meadows.
Shasta is also a popular container plant, providing an attractive accent to both indoor and outdoor settings.
The cut flowers are widely used for decorative purposes.