Coming in a wide variety of glistening colors, strawflower is known for its everlasting blossoms. This tough Australian plant is often grown as an annual, but in warmer areas it can be grown as a perennial. Use strawflower among other garden perennials or even in containers for long-lasting color that requires little maintenance or care. The flowers themselves make great additions for dried floral arrangements, potpourri, and craft projects.
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While the common name of strawflower maybe doesn't paint a pretty picture, you will understand the name once you feel the coarse, straw-like flowers. The colorful petals of this plant aren't even petals at all, but modified leaves called bracts. These bracts serve to protect the tender flower parts within until they are ready to open and be pollinated, hence their coarse texture and resilient nature. The showy blossoms can often be found in a variety of colors, most commonly warm tones of yellow, orange, and red and sometimes shimmering pink and white. The flowers are held above narrow, green leaves that are often covered in dense hairs. These hairs protect the plant from drying out, making strawflower a suitable plant for dry growing conditions.
Strawflower Care Must-Knows
If you are planning on growing strawflower plants from seed, it is best to start a little earlier than usual. Generally, the ideal time is 6-8 weeks before the final frost date in your area. At this point seedlings can be placed outdoors in well-drained soil. Hailing from tough areas in Australia, they can occasionally be found growing in very dry areas, sometimes even in pure sand. In overly fertile soil, these plants can become overly lush and floppy. However, if planted in containers, they will appreciate occasional fertilizer to help encourage continuous blooms. When it comes to watering, it is best to keep plants on the drier side as too much moisture will lead to rot.
For the best and brightest colors and the most floriferous display, be sure to plant in full sun. This will also help to prevent flopping and weak stems, which is important when growing cut flower varieties since these types can become quite large. Because the blossoms on strawflowers often look good even when fading, deadheading is not necessary but can help encourage a fresh set of blooms. If left on the plant in warmer climates, the flowers will help reseed and encourage a new generation of plants. If you are planning on cutting strawflowers to dry and use in arrangements, simply cut stems and hang upside down to air dry.
Strawflower Companion Plants
Ageratum is such a little workhorse that nearly every garden should have some. This annual is an easy-to-grow, old-fashioned favorite that produces a steady show of colorful powder-puff like flowers from late spring through frost. It's also rarely bothered by pests, so you count on it to look good. Plus, it provides some of the truest blues you can find in flowers, a rare thing. Plant in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Plant in groups of a dozen or more for best show. Deadhead and fertilize regularly for best blooms.
If you love morning glories, try this low-growing cousin, which has even more gorgeous sky blue flowers. Like the morning glory that grows upward, this more earthbound beauty produces striking blue flowers all season long. And like its cousin, the flowers tend to close in the afternoon hours. In Zones 8-11, in the warmest part of the country, this tropical is a perennial; farther north, it's grown as an annual. Its spreading habit is perfect for spilling over baskets, window boxes, and other containers. Plant established plants outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Evolvulus likes rich, well-drained soil and needs just average water. It's somewhat drought-tolerant, so don't overwater.
With its intricate flowers and fine-texture foliage, nigella stands out in the garden. This delightful little annual blooms throughout the summer, and the seedpods are often used in dried-flower crafts. Nigella does best in full sun and well-drained soil. It often reseeds.