Strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteatum) is also known as everlasting flower, immortelle and paper daisy. Strawflower plants have an upright habit and branching flower stems topped with many-petalled blooms to 8cm across. Hardy annuals, strawflowers bloom abundantly from summer into autumn, in shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, purple and white. The naturally dry texture of the blooms makes them an excellent choice as cut flowers to use fresh, or in dried arrangements that will last for years. Strawflower grows quickly and easily from seed and lasts for one growing season only.
How to grow strawflower
Strawflower originates from Australia and therefore needs well-drained soil and plenty of sun to thrive in the UK. It’s easy to grow from seed either sown directly where it is to flower outside, or in modular trays under cover. Alternatively, buy strawflower as ready-grown seedlings or plug plants in spring. Once established, strawflowers need little care apart from watering if grown in pots. When flowering has finished, pull up and add to the compost heap.
Where to grow strawflower
Strawflower needs a sunny site and reasonably fertile, well-drained soil. Grow in borders, in groups or patches to fill bare spaces between long-lived shrubs and perennials, or plant with other sun-loving hardy annuals for a colourful summer display. You could also grow strawflower in a cutting garden specifically for harvesting.
Grow compact free-flowering varieties in pots, in peat-free multi-purpose potting compost mixed with a quarter by volume of coarse grit or perlite to aid drainage.
How to plant strawflower
Either sow seed direct in the ground in mid to late spring to bloom later in the season or start off seeds under cover in early spring for flowers mid-summer onwards.
To sow direct, lightly cultivate weed-free soil and use a hoe or trowel to take out a shallow drill 1cm deep. Water the drill, sow the seed sparingly, cover with a fine layer of soil, and keep moist until seed germinates. Thin the seedlings to 15cm apart.
Sow under cover in modular trays using multi-purpose compost with added perlite to create good drainage. Sow several seeds to each cell, cover with a little perlite, and thin to leave one seedling per cell. Grow on until well established, hardening off before planting out in late spring.
Plant strawflower in mid to late spring, first acclimatising plants to the outside (hardening off) for a couple of weeks by leaving them out during the day and taking them in at night. Space plants 23-30cm apart. Water in well and then keep watered for several weeks until established.
How to care for strawflower
Strawflowers sown directly in the ground need little attention. Thin seedlings until plants are spaced 23-30cm cm apart. In exposed sites, put in supports, such as twiggy hazel stems (pea sticks) or canes and string, for tall-growing varieties.
Direct-sown plants have good resilience to drought and should cope without additional water in all but extreme dry spells. Pot-grown plants need regular watering throughout to keep the compost evenly moist but take care not to overwater.
How to propagate strawflower
Ripe seed can be saved and kept dry for sowing the following spring, although named varieties are unlikely to come true from saved seed. Strawflowers may self-seed, although wet and cold UK winters often result in low survival rates.
How to harvest strawflower as a cut flower
To use strawflower as a fresh cut flower, simply cut whole stems as required, preferably early in the morning when the plants are holding a lot of water.
How to dry strawflowers
To dry strawflower for using in dried flower arrangements, cut stems as above, ideally just before the flowers open fully to achieve the best colour and quality – the flowers will open fully during the drying process. Strip off some of the foliage lower down the stem and then tie the stems into small bunches and hang them upside down in a cool, dark, well-ventilated spot. Leave them in place for around three weeks, by which time the stems will feel dry. Be careful when handling dried strawflower stems as they become brittle in the drying process.
Pests and diseases
Strawflower is usually free of pests and diseases as long as it’s grown in the right conditions. If too wet, plants may suffer from downy mildew disease, which can cause growth to rot and die.
Advice on buying strawflower
- Strawflower has undergone several changes of botanical name. The correct name is Xerochrysum bracteatum but it’s also sold as its former names Bracteantha bracteata and Helichrysum bracteatum
- You can buy mixed or single-colour strawflower seeds. Some suppliers sell strawflower as plug plants