Xerochrysum bracteatum, (Helichrysum bracteatum), (Bracteantha bracteata)
The cheerful, long-lasting golden flowers of this Australian icon are probably our best-known wildflowers. They are flowering madly in grasslands and road verges, all around our district, at present - and will go on doing so right through to autumn. They are easy to grow from seed, collected at this time of year and planted in March or April. Some plants will persist into a second year, but for garden purposes they are best grown as annuals.
Xerochrysums (by various names - the nursery trade hasn’t kept up with the botanists’ name changes) are sold in nurseries. These are cultivars, developed for the generous size of their flowers and shorter, more compact plants, and are usually perennial. There are also some multi-coloured annual forms, easily available in punnets (with names like “Bright Bikini”). They are the result of breeding done in Germany in the early 19th century, where they were crossed with African relatives of the Australian plant.
Our local natives, however, are easy to establish in our local gardens, and are bright and pretty.
Cutting flowers for use in vases only prompts the plants to produce more of them. It is a particularly good practice early in the season, as pruning the young plants makes them bushier. They have a tendency to get leggy in late summer. Planting them together with low-growing plants, produces an attractive result.
Paper daisies make very good cut flowers. Put fresh into vases, they last well over a week even in air conditioning. They are also suitable for drying, either by being wired as soon as they are cut, or by being hung upside down by their stalks, which will dry stiff and straight. Newly-opened young flowers are the best for floristry of all kinds.
Like all daisies, this species attracts butterflies to gardens. The adults of all kinds come for their nectar, and the painted lady butterfly (Vanessa kershawi) can breed on them.