How to Sow and Plant Dusty Miller Annuals
Dusty Miller may be grown from seed sown early indoors and transplanted outside after frost, or sown directly in the garden after frost.
Sowing Dusty Miller Seed Indoors:
- Sow indoors 4-6 weeks before last expected heavy spring frost
- Sow evenly and thinly and cover with ½ inch of seed starting formula
- Keep the soil moist at 65-75 degrees F
- Seedlings emerge in 10-21 days
- As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
- Thin to one seedling per cell when they have two sets of leaves.
- Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
- Before planting in the garden, dusty miller seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding. Space seedlings 8-10 inches apart in the garden.
Sowing Dusty Miller Directly in the Garden:
- Sow in full sun and well-drained soil after all danger of frost.
- Prepare the soil by removing weeds and working organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
- Most plants respond well to soils amended with organic matter. Compost is a wonderful form of organic matter with a good balance of nutrients and an ideal pH level, it can be added to your planting area at any time. If compost is not available, top dress the soil after planting with 1-2 inches of organic mulch, which will begin to breakdown into compost. After the growing season, a soil test will indicate what soil amendments are needed for the following season.
- Sow thinly and evenly and cover with ¼ inch of fine soil.
- Firm lightly and keep evenly moist.
- Seedlings emerge in 10-21 days depending on the soil and weather conditions.
- Thin to stand about 6 inches apart when seedlings are 1-2 inches high.
Directly Sowing Seeds Quick Start Guide
How to Grow
- Keep weeds under control during the dusty miller growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
- Mulches can also be used to help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For annuals, an organic mulch of shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
- Dusty Miller plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It's best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- Until the plants become established, some protective measures from extreme winds and direct, hot sunlight may be necessary. Good air movement is also important for Dusty Millers.
- After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer, as higher rates may encourage root rots.
- Monitor dusty miller plants for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
- Dusty miller makes an excellent edging, border, rock garden, or container plant.
- Use the cut foliage for contrast in fresh flower arrangements.
- Plants are drought resistant.
Common Disease Problems
Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots of seedlings as well as mature roots. Burpee Recommends: Pull up and discard infected plants. Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.
Dusty Miller FAQs
Is dusty miller deer resistant? Yes, the plants are toxic and deer usually avoid them.
Is dusty miller good for containers? Yes, it’s a great plant for contrasting color and texture in a container.
Does dusty miller bloom? Yes it produces small yellow daisies in the summer, but many gardeners remove them to keep the focus on the finely textured foliage.
Is dusty miller an annual or perennial? It is a tender perennial that most gardeners grow as an annual.