So-called hardy gerbera.
Gardening Plant Hardiness Tender perennials

Is the Hardy Gerbera Really Hardy?

This plant was sold as a hardy gerbera. Many gardeners wouldn't agree. Photo: Piqsel

By Larry Hodgson

Question: I bought a hardy gerbera called Garvinea from a local big-box store. It bloomed quite nicely all summer, but do I need to do anything to help it through the winter? I live in hardiness zone 5.

Nadia Bernardo,

Anwer: How one defines hardiness in plants varies according to climate. If you live in Southern California, a Mexican fan palm (Washingtonia robusta, USDA hardiness zone 9) is hardy. It isn’t in North Pole, Alaska. 

Usually, in the gardening world, we start to talk about a plant being hardy when it can grow in USDA hardiness zone 6 (minimum temperature -10˚C/-23˚C). 

By that standard, calling a so-called hardy gerbera by that name is a gross exaggeration. It won’t take temperatures below 14˚F (-10˚C) … and even then, only for short periods. That would be hardiness zone 8. And it will be seriously damaged at that temperature. The coldest it can take without serious damage is 23˚F (-5˚C), and only if the cold lasted no more than a few hours. That would be zone 9: almost the subtropics.

If You Live in the South

Of course, if you define being hardy as tolerating a small amount of frost, yes, the label “hardy gerbera” would be appropriate. It can take temperatures just a bit below freezing. So, from a Californian or Floridian point of view, yes, you could say the plant is hardy. 

For most American and all Canadian gardeners, though, no, it won’t be hardy, unless…

Winter Protection Can Help… A Bit

Unless you protect it, that is. There are many reports of its surviving in zone 7 well mulched and covered with a frost protecting blanket.

In Zone 6 and Colder

It’s not going to be hardy in zone 5 where you live, unless you do something quite elaborate and not very environmentally friendly, like building a greenhouse over the plant and warming the soil with heating cables. In other words, by creating an artificial zone 8 climate in zone 5.

But you can bring it indoors and grow it on a sunny window ledge. Ideally in a cool room, from 50 to 60˚F (10 to 15˚C), keeping it just barely moist. That ought to get it through winter, then you can replant it outdoors next spring after all danger of frost has passed.

By my definition, and probably by yours, no, the so-called hardy gerbera isn’t hardy. It’s what I’d call a tender perennial: one not tolerant of cold. But it all depends on where you live and garden!

If your local box store (i.e., in hardiness zone 5) is selling this plant as a hardy gerbera, though, they’re ripping their clients off!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

3 comments on “Is the Hardy Gerbera Really Hardy?

  1. Breaded Iris will grow in zone 9, but will not bloom, or so I have been told.

  2. Yes, it is technically hardy here. However, without regularly grooming, it succumbs to mildew. They seem to perform better where they are not so hardy, and must be maintained as a potted plant.

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