Strawflowers are well known by crafters and florists for their unusually high quality as dried flowers. The petals on each strawflower are like stiff paper, and they unfold from the centre to form concentric rings in bright colours. Officially a tender perennial, most gardeners treat them as annuals and simply sow fresh seed each year. Give them an early start indoors, or direct sow strawflower seeds in regions with long summers.
Xerochrysum bracteatum (also widely listed as Helichrysum bracteautum and even Bracteantha bracteata).
Season & Zone
Exposure: Full sun
Direct sow mid-April, but only in regions with long summers. Otherwise, sow indoors 6 – 8 weeks before last frost. Optimal soil temperature for germination: 18-21°C (65-70°F). Seeds should sprout in 5-20 days.
Sow seeds on the surface of the soil, as they need light to germinate. Water from below or use a mister to avoid disturbing the seeds. Space 30-45cm (12-18″) apart, and only transplant once the night time temperatures are consistently above 10°C (50°F).
Strawflower seeds are particularly uniform, so they tend to all be in bloom at once from summer to late fall. Cut flowers as needed for arrangements and drying, and deadhead any spent flowers. Doing a second sowing, two to three weeks after the first, will produce a longer bloom time.
Cornflowers are attractive to butterflies and pollinators of all kinds. They attract predatory hoverflies. Plant them any place where aphids are a nuisance.
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