Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Growing paper daisies

Australian Botanic Garden paper daisy display

One of the most popular features at Australian Botanic Garden during spring is the vibrantly coloured paper daisy beds at Lakeside and the Connections Garden. Most of the annual species we currently use originate from Western Australia. With some attention to soil preparation and fertilising there is a good range of species and cultivars that are very responsive to cultivation and which are very rewarding for the home gardener. You will find helpful information here on the paper daisies that have proven to be successful at the Australian Botanic Garden over a number of years.

Natural habitat

The paper daisies that you see flowering at the Australian Botanic Garden during our Wildflower Festival are native to Western Australia, where they carpet huge expanses of some parts of the countryside in spring.

History

William Dampier collected the first Australian daisy, a Brachyscome, in 1699 from Shark Bay in Western Australia. Many Australian daisies were introduced into cultivation in Europe before the middle of the 19th century, although they were not grown in Australian gardens at that time. They were very popular in the colony from the 1860s until the turn of the century.

Research

Bracteantha bracteata (previously known as Helichrysum bracteatum) is believed to be the first Australian daisy to have been cultivated and the first of our native plants to be hybridised. German horticulturists hybridised it and released it to European gardeners in the 1850s. Within a decade, many different forms were listed in colonial catalogues.

Cultivation techniques

Paper daisies are best grown when you follow the natural growth cycle, which starts with direct sowing in autumn as the soil cools down. Plants will grow slowly through the winter months, developing a strong root system, and flower prolifically in spring. Direct seeding with paper daisies gives you the opportunity to create informal drifts of Australian colour in your garden.

Soil mix

  • You will get best results with a good proportion of washed river sand and well rotted compost.
  • The soil must be free of weeds, with adequate weed control preferably taking place during the month prior to planting.

Sowing the seeds

  • Paper daisy seeds are very lightweight, so avoid windy days.
  • Mix each seed batch separately with half a bucket of normal sand/compost potting mix for each square metre of garden bed. Work on a rate of 3 grams of seed per square metre. This rate can be reduced if pure seed is purchased. Brachyscomes are sown at a rate of 1 gram per square metre.
  • Broadcast the seed/soil mix evenly across the surface of the prepared bed. The soil mix will help keep the seed from drying out.
  • Seed can also be direct sown into tubs for a colourful spring display.

Water and fertiliser

  • Keep the soil surface moist until germination commences (normally after one week) and apply snail bait or similar control.
  • When plants reach a height of 10-15 cm apply a general purpose liquid fertiliser, such as ‘Aquasol’ or ‘Thrive’ at three-weekly intervals.

Flowering

The flower display is usually September through to November depending on sowing time.

What are the best types to grow?

Here are some good types of paper daisies to grow in the home garden. You can also dry the flowers and use them in dried flower arrangements.

Rosy Everlastings

Rhodanthe chlorocephala subsp. rosea ‘Rosy Everlasting’
(formerly Helipterum roseum)

This daisy is native to south-western Western Australia, usually growing inland from the coast on sandy soils. It is a very popular daisy for cultivation - both in gardens and as a cut flower crop - and reaches a height of around 50 cm. The flowers are small, star-like, deep pink fading to white, with a yellow or black centre.

Sunrays

Rhodanthe manglesii  ‘Mangles Everlasting’ or ‘Silver Bells’
(formerly Helipterum manglesii)

This is an attractive Western Australian species that occurs from Kalbarri to the Stirling Range and inland to Coolgardie in open woodland on loamy soils. It was introduced into cultivation in England in 1833 by Captain James Mangles. It is easy to grow and has attractive blue-green foliage. The silvery weeping buds produce beautiful pink or white nodding bell-like paper daisies that have a silky appearance. Sunrays reach a height of around 50 cm.

More types to grow

Showy Everlastings

Schoenia filifolia subsp. subulifolia ‘Showy Everlasting’
(formerly Helichrysum subulifolium)

This spectacular vivid yellow paper daisy from south-western Western Australia is found in coastal and hinterland areas from Geraldton to south of Perth. It is superb when planted in massed displays and makes an excellent cut flower with contrasting dark green narrow foliage. 

Brachyscomes

Low-growing Swan River Daisies (Brachyscome iberidifolia) have dark purple flowers that slowly fade to white - they give the garden a soft dappled look.

Brachyscome iberidifolia ‘Swan River Daisy’

This daisy is native to Western Australia where it grows along watercourses, in swampy areas or chalky hills around Perth. It will grow in both sandy and clay soils, and reach a height of around 20 cm. It is easy to grow and ideal for borders and tubs. Flowers in massed plantings have a range of colours including white, pink, mauve and blue, which will continue from spring to early summer. Selected colour forms of the Swan River Daisy are also available, such as ‘Summer Skies’ and ‘Bravo Mixed’.

Bracteantha bracteata ‘Golden Everlasting’

An extremely variable and widespread plant usually with bright golden yellow flowers. Excellent long lasting cut flowers. Perennial varieties such as ‘Diamond Head’, ‘Dargan Hill Monarch’ and ‘Golden Bowerbird’ are also worth growing.

Do you want to create your own Western Australian wildflower garden next spring? The seeds of these and other species of wildflowers are available at our Visitor Centre.
 

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Paper daisies

paper daisies

Australian Botanic Garden

Australian Botanic Garden