The strawflower is a member of the daisy family. This bright and cheerful plant produces flowers with a papery, straw-like texture that gives the flower its name. Yellow is the traditional color for the flower, but nurseries produce many other colors, including purple, white and pink. Some varieties of strawflower are quite tall, while other dwarf varieties stay low to the ground. The strawflower dries extremely easily, making this a favorite plant for gardeners who enjoy turning their hard work into wreathes and winter crafts. Growing strawflowers is easy, as long as you remember to provide the plant with ample water. While the strawflower is native to the dry climate of Australia, it will not tolerate dry garden conditions.
If you live in growing Zones 10 through 11, the strawflowers you plant will return year after year. In all other zones, the plants will likely die back during the cold winter months and you'll have to buy new plants or seeds the following year. If you're unsure what growing zone you live in, ask your local gardening center for assistance. To grow strawflowers from seeds, sprinkle seeds on top of a growing medium. Do not cover the seeds; they need light in order to grow. Mist the seeds with warm water, and place your seed pots in a sunny, warm location, such as an east-facing window or the top of your refrigerator. Mist the seeds with water once or twice per day. As you're waiting for your seeds to sprout, prepare your flowerbed. Strawflowers require a significant amount of sunlight to grow. Choose a location that has bright sun, all day long.
Prepare your strawflower bed by digging 2 to 3 inches into the dirt and mixing in dried manure. This will help nourish your new plants. Once your seedlings are several inches tall and the ground outside is 55 degrees F or warmer, plant your strawflowers outside, spacing each plant 18 inches apart. If this seedling step seems too labor-intensive, you can purchase strawflower plants from most garden centers and nurseries. Remember to plant these plants 18 inches apart, and place the entire root ball beneath the ground.
During the growing season, your plants will require very little intervention from you. Water the plants once per week. You may need to provide water more frequently during hot, dry days. Provide water directly to the roots of your plant by utilizing a drip tube system. Drip tubs are garden hoses that contain small holes in them that leak, rather than spray, water. This allows you to provide water without drenching the leaves and flowers with water. Since strawflowers are prone to mildew and other diseases caused by too much water, this step is quite important. Sprinkle a general-purpose fertilizer around the base of your plants once per month, and dig the fertilizer in with your garden rake.
Strawflowers can grow up to 3 feet tall, depending on the variety. As the plants grow, you may need to tie them to stakes to ensure that the heavy blooms don't hang or drag in the soil. You may also encase the plants in tomato cages, to keep them upright. Your flowers will bloom from spring until autumn. Dwarf varieties of strawflower make an attractive, low-growing border for flowerbeds and walkways. Strawflowers can also survive in container gardens, as long as you remember to water the plants frequently. Clay pots can leach water out of the soil, and leave your flowers thirsty and wilting.
If you're planning to use your strawflowers for flower arrangements, you'll need to help your plant grow fewer, but taller, flowers. As the plant grows, pinch back side blossoms to encourage the plant to grow just one large, central blossom. Right before the bloom has fully flowered, cut the flower as close to the ground as you can. Tie a string to the stem of your plant and hang it upside down in a dark, cool location. Don't crowd your drying flowers together. Strawflowers need ample airflow in order to dry quickly and completely. Allow the flowers to dry for at least two months before you use them in an arrangement. You won't need to spray them with a preservative or gloss, as the flowers themselves will keep indefinitely with no intervention from you. While the strawflower has no scent while growing, some experts suggest that the subtle scent of dried strawflowers can repel moths.