The striking, colorful gerber -- or gerbera -- daisy attracts attention wherever it is placed, whether in the garden or in the home. Fortunately, it is not toxic to cats, dogs or horses. So if the gerber daisy attracts your favorite feline, who then nibbles on the flower a bit, don't worry. She should not suffer any ill effects.
Be Sure it's a Gerber
Of course, you want to be sure what you have is, in fact, a gerber daisy. The plant is most easily identified by its showy flower, which comes in shades of orange, yellow, lavender, pink, white and red. The round flower ranges in size from 2 to 5 inches in diameter and has numerous thin, elongated petals. It may have a single row of petals or several rows. The round center is in a contrasting color ranging from yellow to brown to black. Pollen is visible around the center. Surrounding that are several fuzzy rows of small, tightly packed, tubular flowers that may be the same color as the flower, but are more often a contrasting color. The flowers' hollow stems contain no leaves and are about 12 to18 inches long. At the base of the stems is a mound of long, puffy, slightly fuzzy, lobe-edged leaves that taper to a point.
In addition to gerber and gerbera, the plant is also known as African daisy, Transvaal daisy, Barberton daisy and veldt daisy. It's named after Traug Gerber, a German naturalist from the 1700s.
Beware of similar looking or similarly named flowers that are poisonous to cats -- such as daisies.
Since so many beautiful flowering plants are toxic to cats, it's exciting for cat-loving gardeners to find a bright beauty that's cat friendly. For best results, plant gerbers in full or partial sun, 12 to 18 inches apart, with the crown of the roots at soil level. Allow the crown to dry out between waterings. Feed monthly with a fertilizer that contains iron and manganese. In climates where gerbers can grow year round, the crown will sink into the ground after a few years. Dig them up and replant, placing the crowns at soil level again. This is a good time to separate the overgrown roots into smaller plants as well.
When bringing cut gerbers inside, place them in a vase with nonfluoridated water, as fluoride can cause their petal tips to discolor. Keep the vase filled with fresh water to help keep the thirsty stems from drooping.
Common Poisonous Plants
Plenty of plants of many varieties are toxic to cats. Common plants that could cause serious harm and even death to a cat are:
- Autumn crocus
- Sago palm
- English ivy
- Most members of the lily family
- Sometimes only parts of the plant are poisonous -- such as the bulbs of tulips and narcissus.
Before bringing home a new plant, check its toxicity to cats on a list of poisonous plants such as one posted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.