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Australian Daisies

Betty Rymer

The flower of a daisy is really a collection of individual flowers. The head of flowers is surrounded by bracts which are stiff and papery and often coloured. The tip of the stem flattens and enlarges to accommodate these flowers and bracts. The centres are a mass of small tubular florets, each tiny tube made up of live fused petals and usually possess both male parts - stamens, and female parts - stigma, style and ovary.

Many daisies have flower heads that are not papery. The bracts are green and leaf-like and the flower head has florets of two types. These non papery daisies often have yellow centres made up of tubular florets and a coloured row of florets (often incorrectly called petals) that are soft to touch. Look carefully at these ligulate florets and you may find the tip of the coloured part has five teeth indicating it is made up of five fused petals. (Ed. For further information on the structure of the daisy flower, see the Australian Daisy Page')

It is probably true to say that daisies are best appreciated if they are group planted. I am sure there is a daisy for almost every situation. What about Australian native daisies? There are many but probably the best known are those that dry well and are used for floral decoration - the helichrysums and the helipterums. Like many other plants a lot of these have had a name change.

Xerochrysum bracteatum

Formerly Helichrysum bracteatum and Bracteantha bracteata.

Originally the yellow paper daisy - now available in a range of colours having been hybridised in Europe. German hybridists crossed it with a South African Helichrysum in 1850's to produce this range of colour forms.

Many cultivars are now available, mostly yellow cream or white. Some suggestions:

  • Dargon Hill Monarch - perennial 0.5-lm, silvery foliage and large yellow flowers 5-8cm across.
  • Diamond Head - perennial, 20 x 60cm, a compact cushion, yellow flowers 3cm across. Can be short lived but cuttings strike easily.
  • Cockatoo - perennial 1 x lm, pale lemon or cream flowers 7cm across, often short lived but cutting strike easily.
  • Princess of Wales - perennial 60 x 60cm, very floriferous, yellow flowers 5-6cm across.
Some Australian daisies
Xerochrysum bracteatum
Rhodanthe chlorocephala ssp rosea
Rhodanthe chlorocephala
ssp rosea
Rhodanthe manglesii
Chrysocephalum apiculatum
Photos: Australian Daisy Study Group, Brian Walters

Rhodanthe cholorcephala subsp. rosea

Previously Helipterum roseum.

This is one of the best daisies to grow. The colour varies from deep pink to white with black or yellow centres. Seed germinates in 7-21 days. It is a very good cut flower which dries and wires well so is very good for floral arrangements.

Rhodanthe manglesii

Previously Helipterum manglesii.

This is an annual easily grown from seed and germinating in 7-14 days. It has wiry stems and nodding flower heads in pinks and white. Plant them close together for support. It is probably too untidy to grow in a pot but a small form known as 'Silver Bells' is suitable for pot culture. Dry the flowers by hanging upside down as the stems are too narrow to wire.

All of these daisies are loved by snails and aphids. Seed is best sown in the autumn for spring flowering. Sow in patches in full sun where they will remain. I find it often helps to cover the seed with a fine layer of sandy loam and a piece of sacking or paper which is kept wet until the seeds germinate. Then remove the cover.

Chrysocephalum apiculatum - Yellow buttons

Formerly Helichrysum apiculatum.

This is a very variable and complex group and depends on its source of origin. All types produce loose clusters of flower heads, colour ranging from lemon yellow to deep golden orange. The leaves may be grey green and covered with white hairs or green above and white woolly below. Prune to stimulate more flowers or the stem can be cut for dried flowers, It flowers best in the sun.

Ozothamnus diosmifolius

Formerly Helichrysum diosmifolium.

This is an erect shrub to 2 metres or more, having large clusters of flower heads. It is common in the Sydney area. It is pure white in bud change in to creamy white as the flower opens. A plnk form is sometimes seen. Pick when in bud to dry. It is useful as a filler. It will grow in sun or shade in most soils. Propagate from cutting or seed. It was grown in Europe in the 19th Century.

Olearia phlogopappa- Alpine daisy bush

This is a shrub to 2 m with a profusion of flower heads. The colour varies from pure white through shades of mauve or bright pink with yellow centres. They will grow in sun or shade but appreciate some water in hot weather. Tip prune to keep the shrub tidy. Propagate from cuttings.

Some Australian daisies
Ozothamnus diosmifolius - pink
Ozothamnus diosmifolius
Pink form
Olearia phlogopappa - white
Olearia phlogopappa
White form
Olearia phlogopappa - mauve
Olearia phlogopappa
Mauve form
Brachyscome formosa
Photos: Australian Daisy Study Group, Ivan Margitta, Jeff Irons, Brian Walters

The Brachyscomes

Brachyscome multifida is probably the most well known of this group. It is a daisy with mauve ligulate florets and yellow tubular florets. A number of colour forms have been developed by the nursery trade (eg. 'Break 'o Day'.

B.multifida is a very adaptable species which likes a bit of water in dry, hot weather. Prune to encourage new growth and prevent a straggly plant. It is an extremely good ground cover or border plant.

Brachyscome iberidifolia (Swan River Daisy) is a colourful annual. There are many colour forms and it will grow in sun or shade. It was found in the collection of Australian plants of Baron Von Hugel collected in the Swan River area in 1837. Many named hybrids have been produced in Europe such as 'Purple King' or 'Little Blue Star'. Seed of B.iberidifolia 'Purple Splendour' can be bought here. They have deep purple flower heads with black or yellow centres and are good for hanging baskets or in the garden and will self seed.

Brachyscome segmentosa (Lord Howe Island Daisy) is a 40 cm tall daisy with large white flowers to 4 cm across. It likes a sunny position with part shade in summer and moderately moist soil. Prune to prevent it becoming leggy. It will layer itself or can be propagated by cuttings, division or seed.

Brachyscome formosa was first collected in the Pillaga Scrub and has been sold as 'Pillaga Posy' or 'Rosy Morn'. It has large cerise flowers 3 cm in diameter, and tends to disappear in dry weather and pop up again when the rains come. It needs root protection and likes to get its roots under rocks and grows best in light shade where it remains cool and undisturbed. Propagate from cuttings.

From 'Calgaroo', newsletter of the Parramatta and Hills Distici Group of the Australian Plants Society (NSW), August 1999.

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