The strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteatum) is originally from Australia. It used to be called Helichrysum bracteatum but was transferred to the genus Xerochrysum when that genus was started in 1990. The strawflower is also known as the everlasting flower. Flowers are present from June to frost. The blooms range in color from yellow, orange, red, pink, to white.
The strawflower grows in zones eight to ten. It is a herbaceous perennial that grows from one to five feet tall and spreads six to eighteen inches. In the United States, it is generally grown as an annual.
The strawflower needs full sun for optimal growing conditions, but will tolerate partial shade. It grows best in well drained soil. It will not tolerate wet feet. The soil should be kept on the dry side and only watered when the soil is dry two inches below the surface of the soil.
The strawflower is usually purchased as a bedding plant because many of them are hybrids and will not grow true from seed. The starflower should be set out only after all danger of frost is gone. Dig up the soil to a depth of ten to twelve inches. Cover the tilled soil with three inches of compost and till in the compost so it is well mixed into the soil. Now, dig a hole as deep as the root ball on the plant and twice as wide. Gently place the plant in the hole and add the dirt you dug out of the hole. Water the plant in when it is planted. Make sure the plants are ten to twelve inches apart so that air can circulate. Otherwise you will have problems with fungus on your strawflower plant.
You can also purchase strawflower seeds that will produce the variety you buy. You will need to start the seed indoors five to six weeks before your last frost date. Sow the seeds in a tray filled with potting soil. Do not cover the seeds with soil as they need light to germinate. Water gently to insure the seeds make good contact with the soil. Place in a sunny location. When the seeds have two true leaves, thin them to one every ten to twelve inches. Plant the seedlings after all danger of frost has passed.
For the best results, you will need to harden off the seedlings before you plant them. You do this be setting them outside for two hours in a sunny, sheltered place. After the two hours have elapsed, bring the plants in. Every day for a week gradually lengthen the time you leave the plants out over the course of a week until they are out all day. At this point, you can plant them and they are less likely to die of transplant shock than plants that have not been hardened off.
Strawflower makes a nice cut flower and is commercially grown for that purpose. It also makes a nice dried flower that retains its shape and other attributes. It is sometimes called the everlasting flower because of this attribute.