How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Strawflowers
Are you looking for beautiful, showy, and long-lasting flowers for your annual garden, raised bed, or container garden? Strawflowers are easy to grow and come in many bright and cheerful colors. In this article, gardening enthusiast Liessa Bowen will discuss the proper care and maintenance of these spectacular plants.
Strawflowers, also known as everlasting flowers or paper daisies, are native to Australia and commonplace in grasslands and meadows. They are short-lived perennials in USDA climate zones 8 through 10 but most commonly grown as an annual plant in the United States.
Strawflowers have a long bloom period, with abundant flowers from spring until the first frost. The flowers are stiff and paper-like. The colorful “petals” are actually modified leaves called bracts. The prominent central disk is typically yellow, with bract colors that include white, yellow, orange, red, and pink. There are pretty bi-color varieties available, too.
These flowers come in different sizes. Dwarf varieties stay around 12 inches tall, while most types are in the two to three-foot range. Tall varieties that grow to about five feet look great at the back of the flower bed. Strawflowers also attract pollinators and make an excellent addition to a butterfly, cutting, rock, or children’s garden.
Let’s dig into how to grow and care for strawflower plants.
Strawflower Plant Overview
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial, Annual
Native Area Australia
USDA Hardiness Zone 8 to 10
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Average, Well-drained
Water Dry, Medium
Plant Spacing 6 to 12 inches
Suggested Uses Cutting garden, Raised beds, Containers, Pollinator garden
Plant With Zinnia, Basil, Marigold, Sweet William, Flax
Bloom Season Mid-summer until frost
Flower Color White, Yellow, Orange, Red, Pink, Burgundy
Attracts Butterflies, Bees, Birds
Problems Downy mildew, Root rot, May require staking
Resistant To Deer
Height 1 to 5 feet
In their natural habitat, strawflowers grow in sunny fields and meadows and are often found dappled along hillsides in areas with dry to medium-moisture soil.
The flowering bracts are very colorful and showy. They appear as single blossoms at the end of taller flowering stems. The flowers each have large, prominent central disks that are typically yellow.
Strawflowers make wonderful, long-lasting cut flowers and sturdy dried flowers. But you certainly don’t have to cut them to enjoy them. They make a beautiful plant for your summer flower garden. Fortunately for those of us with deer roaming through our yards, they are also resistant to deer.
Strawflowers are readily available and easy to grow. This is a low-maintenance plant.
Strawflowers are easily grown from seed. You can also buy bedding plants at nurseries and garden centers in the springtime. If you grow strawflower hybrids and allow your plants to self-sow in the garden, the seedlings may not grow true-to-seed. You can’t predict how the offspring will look, but it’s fun to be surprised!
Fortunately, strawflower is not generally bothered by pests or diseases, although downy mildew may be an issue in warm, humid climates. Taller plants may benefit from staking if they start to fall over. Deadheading encourages plants to stay compact and produce more flowers.
You can acquire some beautiful varieties through seeds. Young bedding plants can be purchased at nurseries and garden centers. And if you already have access to a strawflower plant, it can also be propagated from stem cuttings.
Start the seeds in the spring after all danger of frost has passed. Surface sow them in fresh, moist soil and gently press them down to connect to the soil surface. Do not cover the strawflower seeds with soil; they need light to germinate. Keep the seeds moist and in a brightly lit area. Seedlings should germinate in about 7 to 10 days.
Keep your seedlings warm, bright, and slightly moist until they are several inches tall. Before transplanting them into your garden, harden them off for about a week beforehand. Take your plants outside each day, but bring them in at night. When the temperatures stay above about 60 degrees, you can transplant them outside. Strawflowers may also reseed themselves in warm climates, but they are not invasive.
You can propagate strawflowers from cuttings. If you have a short growing season, it’s best to take a cutting in spring or summer. You can, however, take a cutting in the fall before the first frost, root it inside over the winter, and transplant it outside the following spring.
As long as you have a warm and sunny location to grow your plant during winter, you can keep the cutting going throughout the winter and replant it outside in the spring. If this method works for you, you can keep taking cuttings to overwinter for many years.
To take a cutting, clip a fresh stem tip about 4 inches long. Remove any leaves from the lower two inches of the stem. Dip the lower stem into a rooting hormone and place it in moist soil.
Keep the soil moist but not wet, and keep your plant cutting in a protected but brightly lit location. The stem should start to develop new roots within a couple of weeks. When you see fresh leaf growth at the top of the cutting, you know your cutting was successful. Allow the roots to develop for several more weeks before transplanting outside.
When you have strawflower seedlings or young greenhouse-grown plants ready to transplant, wait until all danger of frost has passed before transplanting. Choose a cool, overcast day to transplant, which will help minimize plant shock. You only need your plant, a suitable location, and a transplanter tool or garden trowel.
Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil. Dig a hole just larger than the root mass of your potted plant. Gently remove the plant from its pot and set it into the hole.
Replace the soil around the roots to fill in gaps and carefully tamp down the soil around the plant. Then, water it in to help it adjust to its new location. Continue to keep your transplant moist for the first couple of weeks.
How to Grow
Strawflower needs full sun to partial shade. Plants grow best in full sun, with at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. They will also perform well in partial shade, although they may flower less profusely.
Plants should get about 1 inch of water each week. In dry climates, add some mulch to help retain soil moisture.
Do some supplemental watering during periods of drought. Don’t allow the roots to stay wet or soggy, but also don’t allow them to stay dry for too long, or your plant will start to wilt.
The soil should be loose, fine-textured, and well-drained. Average-quality soil is fine, although plants will also do well in nutrient-rich soil.
Soil pH should be slightly acidic, with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Avoid heavy clay soils with poor drainage.
Climate and Temperature
These flowers are sensitive to frost. While they may tolerate a light frost, they will die with prolonged freezing temperatures. Strawflower prefers a warm climate with relatively low humidity.
You probably won’t need to add any extra fertilizer during the growing season. However, if your soil is poor quality, your flowers could likely benefit from a mid-season boost.
Apply some general-purpose flower garden fertilizer to help keep your flowers blooming with vigor. Follow the directions on whichever product you choose.
If you keep the flowers deadheaded, you reduce self-seeding, encourage your plants to grow bushier, and help keep them more compact. Taller plants may need to be staked to keep them from falling over, but they are typically trouble-free.
‘Bright Bikini’ is a compact plant that grows to about 1 foot tall. The flowers are about 2 inches across and brightly colored in red, orange, yellow, and pink shades.
‘Cockatoo’ has pale yellow flowers with traces of white. The plants are mid-sized, growing 1 to 3 feet tall. These plants are attractive and grown in clumps along garden borders or walkways.
‘Diamond Head’ has cheerful yellow bracts with dark yellow-orange centers. These plants are very compact, staying less than 6 inches tall.
This would be an excellent variety for a rock garden or container garden. This will be a perfect choice if you need to fill a spot with a tiny plant.
‘Kimberly Sunset’ stays compact, growing 12 to 18 inches tall. The flowers have white to pinkish-salmon-colored bracts with rich orange centers. Try growing this variety as a showy accent plant in your pollinator garden.
‘Kingsize’ is, as the name implies, has large double flowers that can reach three inches across. The plants grow to three feet or taller. ‘Kingsize’ has flowers in an array of bright and cheerful colors. This would be an excellent choice for cutting and using in a summer floral bouquet.
‘Tom Thumb’ offers a colorful assortment of smaller plants, reaching a maximum of about 15 inches tall. The flowers are also small and compact, making them an excellent choice if you want them for dried flowers.
Strawflower will attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators throughout the blooming period. Seed-eating birds will also come to investigate the flowers. Deer don’t generally bother strawflower plants, although hungry rabbits may nibble on the foliage.
Pests and Diseases
You can grow these plants without worrying about significant pest or disease issues.
Strawflower does not like to have wet feet. It does appreciate some regular soil moisture but will succumb to fungal rots if left in soggy soil. Root rot initially affects waterlogged roots, but by the time you see the symptoms, it may be too late to save your plant. Watch out for limp and mushy stems and leaves.
Root rot is easily prevented in a few simple steps. Make sure your soil is well-drained. If you are growing plants in containers, ensure the containers have suitable drainage holes on the bottom.
Downy mildew is a fungus-like disease that will cause the leaves to have a yellowed, blotchy appearance. Severely affected leaves will turn yellow or brown and eventually wither and die. Downy mildew is associated with persistent wet conditions and is more common in warm, humid environments.
To help prevent downy mildew, keep some space between susceptible plants to improve air circulation. If you water your plants with a hose or sprinkler, try to keep the water off the foliage. Use a watering wand instead to help direct the water at the base of the plant rather than splashing extra water on the leaves.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are strawflowers invasive?
You shouldn’t have to worry about strawflower taking over your garden. They will re-seed in warmer climates, so you may do some seedling thinning each spring. You can also deadhead spent flowers to keep them from going to seed.
How long will cut or dried strawflowers last?
Strawflowers make excellent long-lasting cut flowers. If you keep them in a vase of water with other flowers, they may outlast all other flowers in the vase, looking fresh for up to 2 weeks. If you want to cut strawflowers and keep them as dried flowers, try this: Cut a long stem section with the flower attached just before the flower has completely opened. Hang the stems, singly or in bunches, upside down to help them dry evenly and straight. The flowers will continue to open fully as they dry. Dried strawflowers will retain their colors and can last for years.
What exactly is a flower bract?
The attractive petal-like structure that makes up the strawflower’s flower is a uniquely specialized type of plant part. These are not actual petals but rather a modified leaf called a bract. Several other familiar flowers also are composed of bracts. For example, the flowering dogwood tree’s showy white petals are bracts.
These beautiful plants are easy to grow and low-maintenance. They are enjoyable to grow in containers and raised beds or anywhere they have plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil. You (and the butterflies) can appreciate their colorful blooms throughout the summer months. If you like dried flowers, cut some and bring them inside to enjoy them year-round!