Growing Starbright flannel flowers
General planting and care
Actinotus helianthi ‘Starbright’ commonly known as Flannel flowers are shallow rooted plants that require good drainage. They have relatively brittle stems and so require protection from strong winds to avoid branch breakage. They are gross feeders and have relatively high fertiliser requirements to help maintain vigour and respond well to tip pruning after the flowering period.
Older leaves on lower areas of the stems will naturally yellow then die off while they stay attached to the plant. They can be removed for aesthetic reasons during the cooler months of the year.
Flannel flowers can be grown in full sun or partial shade and tolerate light frost once established.
Planting bed and media
To achieve best results when field growing flannel flowers a pre-prepared well drained site of moderately acid soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is advised. This is best achieved by creating a raised garden bed filled with low phosphorus organic compost or planting mix. The addition of crushed sandstone and a native fertiliser is desirable.
Actinotus helianthi 'Starbright' make great potted plants and you will get good results using any commercially available premium grade potting mix suitable for natives.
All species of Actinotus are particularly sensitive to root disturbance and so this should be avoided during the transplantation process. When planting we recommended a spacing from 0.5 to 1.0 m.
If watering is required avoid wetting the foliage to minimise damage to the brittle stems and the possible introduction of fungal problems. Monitor watering needs during the warmer months of the year and while they can withstand long periods of dry when established, a tell tale sign of water stress in flannel flowers is when the leaves close or ‘clasp’ the stem prior to wilting.
Surprisingly, flannel flowers respond well to regular applications of fertiliser. For best results it is suggested that at the time of planting an application of a low phosphorous controlled release fertiliser with micronutrients is used. Supplemental applications of a complete liquid fertiliser at monthly intervals during the growing season will assist with plant health and vigour.
While mulching is not essential for good growth in flannel flowers, an organic mulch to a depth of 75 mm assists with moisture retention and temperature control in the root zone. Avoid contact with stems to minimise possible fungal problems.
Light pruning after flowering is recommended to help create a bushier plant with increased flowering sites for the following season. Please ensure that you do not prune to far back into the ‘woody’ stems as they do not reshoot. This can be followed by tip pruning in late summer if necessary. Persistent dead leaves can be hand removed to assist in fungal control.
Pests and diseases
When planted in garden beds Fusarium can become a major problem in poorly drained soils. Plants in well structured soils that can develop good root systems are less susceptible to Fusarium. Avoid planting out root-bound plants and minimise root disturbance.
Flannel flowers are quite susceptible to Botrytis during moist weather and should be monitored and treated with appropriate fungicide if necessary. Fungal problems can be minimised by avoiding foliage wetting during irrigation and by periodically removing dead leaves from lower areas of the stems to improve air circulation.
Flannel flowers may also be affected by leaf chewing caterpillars. Monitoring plants for evidence of insect frass should be carried out to avoid major pest infestation. Aphids, scale insects and mealy bug can also become a problem in crowded situations.
The Actinotus helianthi 'Starbright' Flannel Flowers are available for purchase in most good nurseries.