Like many members of the sunflower family, Cowpen Daisy, Verbesina encelioides, germinates easily from seed. Sometimes called Butter Daisy or Golden Crownbeard, Cowpen Daisy is sometimes included in native seed mixes, but it’s almost impossible to find the seeds for sale on their own.
A sprouting Cowpen Daisy seed. Photo by Drake White
Native American Seed in Junction, Texas, stocks the reliable bloomer, offering a packet that will cover 20 square feet for $6. The good news is that once you sow San Antonio’s unofficial pollinator plant for 2019, you’ll likely never have to buy seeds or plants again. (Is this why nurseries don’t offer it?)
Cowpen daisy forms prolific seed heads. Photo by Monika Maeckle
Cowpen Daisy forms prolific seed heads after flowering. Each head contains about 75 seeds. They dry out in early winter and if not consumed by wildlife, drop to the ground and rest for a while. In early spring, they sprout a green carpet that’s easy to thin, if you choose.
George Cates, chief seed wrangler at Native American Seed, offers this advice: “Throw the seed on disturbed ground, walk away.” Truly, it’s that easy, according to Cates. For a general tutorial on growing natives from seed, check out How to Grow Native Seed, assembled by the professional seed purveyors.
General broadcasting of seed might not necessarily fit for a home garden. Many of us have particular plants in specific places and don’t want them crowded out. Or, we may not want the new Cowpen Daisy seedling to be overshadowed by more established foliage. Heavy mulching can also deter sprouting.
Thus, another way to get this plant in your yard is to plant the seeds in trays or pots and grow them to the seedling stage. Once they’re big enough to fight for sunshine on their own, transplant them to the yard.
That’s what I do. With the help of a makeshift growhouse fashioned from an old shower curtain, my Cowpen Daisies sprouted in about 10 days.
Makeshift growhouse: old shower curtain serves as seedlings’ winter blanket. Photo by Monika Maeckle
A plastic shower curtain served as their winter blanket. I laid it on the ground, loaded seed trays with potting soil and Cowpen Daisy seeds, taking care to tuck the seeds about a quarter-inch below the soil surface. A good watering followed. After propping several sticks around the edges of the trays to prevent the plastic shower curtain from from smothering the seeds and soil, I folded the shower curtain onto itself, and VOILA! A makeshift growhouse. Ugly, for sure. But it works.
The plants in the photos below were started as seeds on January 8. By February 12 they were thriving.