One of the biggest show stoppers of the fall is Copper Canyon Daisy, Tagetes lemmonii. A little orangier than lemon, but radiant like the fruit none-the-less. Copper canyon daisy takes its common name from its home range in Mexico, around the Copper Canyon. This profusion of daisies is an herbaceous perennial. This means most of its above ground parts are non-woody and therefore usually freeze in Austin area winters. Being a trustworthy perennial from a dry mountainous area, it dutifully returns from the roots year after year. This plant also layers well. Layering is the term for reproduction by roots sprouted from branches. The long thin weak stems will stretch out then fall to the ground. Were the branch touches the soil it will root, thus creating a whole new plant.
Copper canyon daisy has been a new mainstay of the drought resistant garden in Texas. This plant should be found in nearly every nursery center west of Columbus, Texas. It certainly has had no problem adapting to the central Texas climate or soil. This perennial likes to live in well drained soil and can survive on very little water. The best time to plant this perennial is early spring if you can find it. Plant up until April so it can get a good start in the ground to grow through summer. It will bloom best with nearly full day sun. With anything less than 6 hours of sun, it will be thin leaved, and sparsely flowered. Copper canyon daisy grows rapidly after the last frost and then flowers are borne on the ends of the branches in early fall until the first freeze. The bush can be trimmed as needed up until about August. It is not wise to trim later due to the flowers being on the outer edge of the plant. Cut the plant back to the ground after it freezes in winter.
Copper canyon daisy is an important color perennial for deer resistant gardens. What deters the deer from eating this plant is its extreme pungent aroma. Most people either like the smell or can’t stand it. It is not subtle at all! While deer have lowered their standards of browsing choice due to the drought and over population, there are no reports of them eating copper canyon daisy as yet. Remember the deer avoidance rule of thumb: either stinky or stickery, they stay away from. Use copper canyon daisy as a shield to protect plants that may be marginally attractive to deer. The harsh aroma of the foliage will overpower any other plants around and hopefully the deer will not find your special items.
Pictured here, copper canyon daisy is with Mexican Bush Sage, Salvia leucantha. A partner in hardiness, this sage is also an herbaceous perennial. It can be a little more sensitive to cold, if the temperatures are too cold, the roots can be damaged. Mexican Bush sage also grows completely after the last frost to produce flowers in the summer. Sometimes it starts blooming mid summer, sometimes later. It is usually blooming before the copper canyon daisy. Cut this one back to the ground too in winter after it freezes.
Both Mexican bush sage and copper canyon daisy have quite long lasting blooms. This makes them dependable fall bloomers in the landscape. It also means they are good long lived nectar sources for insects. The foliage of copper canyon daisy can be used as a seasoning in cooking or in teas. Mix the foliage with that of Mexican Mint Marigold, Tagetes lucida, and your other favorite herbs for regionally flavored meat or dip seasoning.
©2009 Ginger Hudson