Melampodium [mel-am-POE-dee-um] is a genus of flowering plants from the Aster family Asteraceae and sub-family Asteroideae.
The bushy plants are summer annuals and perennials, known for their daisy-like flowers.
The plants are native to tropical and subtropical climates.
They are found in Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and North America in Southwestern United States, California, and Florida.
Some species are scattered across Mexico, Southwestern United States, Columbia, and Brazil.
The common name of the plant comes from the genus name.
Melampodium is derived from two Greek words melas and podion.
They mean “black” and “foot” respectively.
Combining the two, the plant is commonly known as blackfoots or blackfoot daisies.
This is a reference to the base of the stems and roots.
However, there are authorities claiming another origin of the genus name.
According to them, the name Melampodium comes from “Melampus”, which is a soothsayer from Greek mythology.
Melampodium Plant Care
Size & Growth
The growth habit of the Melampodium genus depends on the species.
Some species grow up to 3’ feet while there are some bred to produce smaller plants.
For instance, there are several cultivars of Melampodium leucanthum including ‘Showstar’ and ‘Million Gold”, which grow compactly.
Typically, the foliage of the genus varies from bright green to almost a green-grey color.
The opposite leaves are 1” – 2” inches long, oblong, and narrow.
Flowering and Fragrance
The flowers of blackfoot species are the reason for their popularity.
They produce solitary daisy-like flowers.
Terminal flower heads are usually 1” inch wide.
They bloom starting in spring, continuing until fall.
White or cream-colored flowers with dark orange centers are common.
Other species within the genus produce flowers in other colors as well.
For instance, Melampodium divaricatum and Melampodium paludosum (butter daisy) produce light yellow to golden yellow flowers with pale yellow centers.
The flowers have a sweet honey-like scent, attracting pollinators.
Light & Temperature
Native to tropical and subtropical climates, these plants are great for drylands.
They are more tolerant of warmer regions and last until winter.
Blackfoots are extremely tolerant of arid conditions but thrive under full sun.
Most species are hardy to USDA Hardiness zones 2 to 11, thriving in soil temperatures between 68° – 86° degrees Fahrenheit (20° – 30° C).
Watering and Feeding
Blackfoots are grown in dry soils but do prefer even moisture.
Provide enough water to keep the soil hydrated and avoid overwatering as they only need water if overly dry.
Similarly, they have a low-fertility requirement.
You don’t have to add fertilizer.
Soil & Transplanting
These plants are drought tolerant and prefer soils on the dry side.
They grow lush when planted on average, evenly moist soils with good drainage.
Even though dry soils are preferred, they should have good moisture retention.
Whether you’re transplanting seedlings started at home or ones you bought from a nursery, plant them directly in the landscape or pots once the last frost has passed.
Space plants 10” – 15” inches apart.
The plant may bloom within 55 to 60 days of being transplanted.
Grooming and Maintenance
Blackfoot species are low-maintenance.
There is no need for pruning and deadheading of flowers isn’t required.
Despite being heat tolerant, these plants tend to flop in the summer.
How to Propagate Blackfoot Daisies Plant
These plants may reseed and appear the next year in the same spots.
However, start them from seeds.
Collect the seeds once the fruits have dried on the plants.
Sow the seeds directly in the container or ground location you want them to grow at.
Do this once the danger of frost has passed.
If you want the flowers to bloom earlier, start the seeds indoors 6-8 weeks earlier.
Once the seedlings are long enough, move them outside after the last frost.
Blackfoot Daisies Plant Pest or Diseases
Besides an occasional susceptibility to powdery mildew, the plants are free from most diseases and pest problems.
If you notice leaf spots or other problems anywhere on the plant, consult a local botanical garden or nursery for advice.
Melampodium Plant Uses
The blackfoot genus is known for its showy flowers.
Based on the species you choose and whether it’s perennial or annual, there are many locations the flowers can liven up during bloom time.
Plant them in flower beds and borders with other flowering perennials or annuals to create seasonal interest.
They also look incredible in large containers or in pots hanging from porches.
Like other asters, blackfoot daisies make excellent cut flowers, much like the Zinnias.
The lower-growing species of blackfoots are better suited as ground covers or as a bedding plant among other flowering perennials/annuals.