Have you heard about dusty miller? Getting your hands on this hardy little plant is one of the best things you can do for your garden.
If your beds need some serious shaping up, then you should consider planting some dusty to shake things up a bit.
Once you do decide to take the plunge, you’ll need to learn everything you can about this wonderful bud. But don’t worry, we’re here to help out with that.
Read on to discover everything you need to know about dusty miller, including all the benefits it offers and how to care for it properly.
Why You Need a Little Dusty Miller in Your Life
Dusty miller is a grayish-silver plant with midsized leaves. The leaves are slightly fuzzy and take on a shimmer in the sun, giving a fairytale look to your garden. The plant grows 12 to 18 inches high, and can be planted throughout the United States.
The foliage is the main attraction with this plant, though it also produces flowers. The leaves create a gorgeous contrast of color and texture next to other plants, and the plant itself is easy to raise and maintain. This holds especially true during dry seasons, as it’s resistant to hot weather and drought.
That means you won’t have to worry when the water is scarce, because your dusty miller will withstand the heat. It will also withstand the frost, and some of the larger garden pests. Deer and rabbits avoid this plant like the plague, so it acts as the protector of the entire garden.
Where Can You Plant Dusty Miller?
You can plant dusty miller pretty much anywhere, but it works best in certain climates and soil types.
Dusty miller is quite versatile when it comes to planting. However, it works best in hot and dry places. In USDA hardiness zones eight through ten, this may return year after year as a perennial. Outside these zones, it is grown as an annual plant.
Loamy, sandy soils and acidic clay soils work best when planting dusty miller, though that doesn’t mean you can’t plant in other types of soil. In fact, it does well on rocky and poor soils as well.
The most important thing is that your soil is aerated properly, as this plant is more likely to be at risk for root rot in soils which are packed tightly and hold water.
This plant does best in the sun, but it will still grow in partly shaded areas. If grown in the shade, be prepared for a silvery color which is less intense. You’ll still get a good contrast, but the leaves will be duller and the plant will be smaller.
It’s a good idea to plant this around the edges of your garden. Its gorgeous foliage will draw the eyes of passerby, and it will also provide a nice protective border. Since deer and rabbits don’t like this plant, they will definitely avoid a garden surrounded by it.
Which Plants Go Best with Dusty Miller?
So, which plants grow well with dusty miller? There are several plants which work well with our silvery friend:
Wave petunias add a bright pop of color to any garden. Like dusty miller, they’re easy to grow and maintain. They stand out well against the silvery background of the dusty, and will draw all eyes to your garden.
Any ornamental grass which is grown in hot and dry conditions works well with dusty miller. An attractive and muted-color landscape can be created by pairing the two together.
This “summer snap dragon” plant with its salvia-like leaves is a natural pairing with dusty miller. Both are easy to grow, and the bright purple of the snap dragon will contrast well with the dusty.
How to Sow and Grow Dusty Miller
You can sow dusty miller directly in your garden or indoors, depending on where you live and what you prefer. Those living in colder climes may want to sow in a greenhouse because the season is more limited.
If sowing indoors, start the seeds 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost. Remember, this plant loves hot and dry conditions. That means you’ll need to keep the soil temperature between 65 and 75 degrees. The soil should be moist during this time, so mist it down.
After 2 or 3 weeks, the seedlings will start to grow. As soon as that happens, give them plenty of light —16 hours per day isn’t too much. 8 hours of darkness will be fine. When they begin to sprout the second set of leaves, you can begin to get them accustomed to the outdoors.
This process of outdoor adaptation, called hardening off, helps plants grow strong and tough. It entails putting them in outdoor conditions before actually planting them in the ground. Do this in a sheltered place, out of the hard wind and rains.
This will get them used to the outdoors before you commit to planting them. It’s imperative you do this if there may still be a frost around the corner. When you’re sure there is no chance of another frost, you can plant them outside.
Sowing outdoors is infinitely easier. If you live in a hotter region of the United States, this is probably the best method to use. Sow after the last frost, preferably in an area with full sun coverage.
Weed the area thoroughly before sowing. If you can, work a compost into the soil before planting to provide extra nutrients during the dusty miller’s formative period of life.
Cover the seedlings with ¼ of an inch of loose soil, and keep them moist. After two or three weeks, they’ll begin to emerge. It’s important to thin out the plants when they start coming to prevent crowding. This will cause weaker, smaller plants.
Water them intermittently before they emerge and during their first few weeks of life. If you choose to, you can apply a fertilizer after thinning. This will help them grow big and strong, but it isn’t necessary if the soil is already rich.
Techniques for Caring and Nurturing Dusty Miller
The ease of caring for this plant is part of its attraction. However, there are some things to keep in mind while growing your crop.
Since the plant grows best in hot, dry weather, you don’t need to water it that often. However, it is not a cactus, so it does require moisture to thrive. So, water it regularly, for long enough to saturate the roots.
Don’t water it again until the plant is completely dry and looks as though it’s beginning to wilt. This will ensure that you don’t overwater it, causing root rot or other fungal infections.
Be careful in your use of fertilizer with dusty miller. This is a naturally tough and vivacious plant, so you don’t need to over-fertilize. In fact, this will cause the plant to become weaker and it won’t grow as nicely.
The only time you should fertilize is in the early spring as the seedlings emerge. You can use a granular slow-release fertilizer for the best results, as this won’t over-fertilize and it will keep providing nutrients for a long time.
Mulching is another good idea. It helps prevent the growth of weeds and keeps the soil warm. Eventually, the mulch will promote aeration of the soil as well. You can use grass, bark chips, leaves, or another suitable mulch material.
Spread the mulch on, making sure it’s 2 or 3 inches thick. If you’re using cut grass as a mulch, don’t exceed 2 inches. Grass is thick, and it can trap heat and make the temperature skyrocket past what dusty miller will tolerate.
4. Pest Problems
Aside from root rot and fungal diseases, this plant is not known to be susceptible to many other pests. Depending on where you live, this could be different.
However, the fuzzy silver leaves are generally not attractive to animals. If you do have problems with pests, check out these gardening hacks to keep them away.
Pruning Your Dusty Miller to Perfection
Dusty miller is grown for the foliage. Its shiny leaves are what attracts our eyes and helps keep pests away. However, it does grow flowers once it reaches maturity.
The flowers are largely considered unattractive, and should be pruned back as soon as they appear. They steal energy away from the foliage, and pruning them helps keep the leaves strong.
You should also prune the leaves around midsummer. You can do this by shearing away the top 1/3 of the plant all at once, or by cutting away the long stems a little at a time. Though the latter means more work for you, it helps the plant keep an attractive appearance for longer.
Plant Dusty Miller for Contrast and Protection
Now that you know all about dusty miller, it’s time to take the plunge and plant some in your garden.
The possibilities with this plant are nearly endless, and it provides valuable protection as well as a beautiful backdrop.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and sow some seeds.