717 Bracteantha bracteataCommon Names: strawflower, everlasting daisy, golden everlasting Family: Asteraceae (aster/daisy Family)
Strawflower is an upright, warm-weather annual or short lived perennial with daisy-like flowerheads in yellow, pink, bronze, cream, purple or white. Strawflower has thin, lance shaped, grayish green leaves up to 5 in (12.7 cm) long, and sandpapery, hollow, branching stems that may reach 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) in height. From late spring until fall, strawflower bears flowerheads about 2 in (5.1 cm) across singly or in few-flowered clusters on the ends of the branches. What look like ray flowers or petals are actually bracts (modified leaves) surrounding the central corolla. The bracts are papery with a straw-like, crackly texture, hence the common name. The corolla is like the disc of more typical daisies, composed of many tiny florets. There are no ray florets at all.
The wild form of strawflower has golden-yellow bracts and a yellow or brownish corolla within, but gardeners have developed strains with many other colors. 'Dargon Hill Monarch' has golden-yellow flowerheads to 3 in (7.6 cm) across. It and 'Diamond Head' are shrubby and perennial in mild winter areas. The Monstrosum Series are annuals with double flowers in red, orange, pink or white. They get about 3 ft (0.9 m) tall. The Bright Bikinis Series of annuals also have 3 in (7.6 cm) double flowers but are dwarf, reaching only about a foot in height. There are many other cultivars in the trade, some of which may prove, upon further study, to be distinct species.
Strawflower is native to eastern Australia where it grows in sandy and gravelly soils in scrub and open rangeland.
CultureStrawflower does best in areas with long, hot summers. The taller cultivars may require staking. Light: Full sun. Moisture: Strawflower needs moist, but very well drained soil. Water when soil becomes dry. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. The perennial strawflowers can tolerate light to moderate frosts. Most of the available cultivars, however, are annuals and replanted from seed each spring. Even the perennial forms usually live only 2 or 3 years. Propagation: Strawflower is propagated by seed. In Zones 8 and 9, sow in place after the last frost in spring. In cooler Zones, start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost, and set out carefully when soils reach about 55ºF (12.8ºC). In Zones 10 and higher, sow in fall for early spring blooming. Do not cover the seeds, as they need light to germinate. The perennial cultivars also can be started from tip cuttings taken in spring or summer.
Use strawflower in annual beds and borders. Low growing cultivars are used as edging and in patio containers and window boxes. The taller and bushier forms go nicely in mixed borders and in the cut flower garden. Strawflowers tolerate sandy and gravelly soils, but they do need frequent watering. They will rot in clayey soils.
Strawflower is the everlasting flower of choice for dried floral arrangements. The papery bracts dry beautifully without losing their color or shape, and they last indefinitely. The pompon-like bracts of the double flowered cultivars are especially desirable in arrangements. To grow for cut or dried flowers, pinch off side shoots to encourage larger (but fewer) blooms. Cut stems just as flowerheads begin to open and hang upside-down in a warm airy place to dry.
Steve Christman 6/20/00; updated 11/23/03, 3/24/04