Mohave Bracteantha

 BRA Mohave Apricot 0001
Strawflower ‘Mohave Apricot’ is aglow in warm shades for fall

A Symbol of Autumn

Bracteantha is a mouthful but you’ll often hear this plant called by its common name, strawflower or everlasting daisy. It is a true symbol of autumn, and Blue Ribbon ‘Mohave Apricot’ is set aglow in warm fall shades of orange and gold.

Strawflowers truly seem to last forever—they are renowned for drying beautifully without losing their color or shape. This makes them popular for fall especially, when craft projects and holiday décor are in full swing.  For many, their first encounter with Bracteantha is in a dried arrangement or wreath.

BRA Mohave Red 0001
‘Mohave Red’—plants grow about a foot tall for low color over the garden

There is another side to the plant however—the fresh side. It’s simply a good garden plant for fall. We can thank its success as a dried flower for bringing young people into gardening. Bracteantha is a gateway plant, so to speak. By growing it out we can enjoy it both fresh and dried, so there is extra motivation with a double reward at the end.

BRA Mohave Orange 0003
‘Mohave Orange’—flowers sit above the foliage on stocky plants

In the Garden

Strawflowers have been around a long time but they haven’t been standing still, and the best breeding comes from Syngenta One in the Mohave series. These are among the biggest strawflowers on the market. Flowers sit above the foliage with little to no yellow leaves at the base of the plant, even if it is grown on the dry side.

 It helps that the plant comes from Australia, a continent that knows a thing or two about dry conditions. Mohaves actually grow best in hot summers and prefer full sun. They’re bred to be stocky in nature rather than lanky like the wild version, and they can handle part shade though they sacrifice a few flowers, and shade weakens the stems. Sandy, rocky soil is better than heavy soil but these plants can handle any type if it drains properly. Roots go down to a depth of about 10–12 inches. A shot of compost or fertilizer when planting helps a great deal.

BRA Mohave Yellow 0001
‘Mohave Yellow’—a weekly drink of water keeps the flowers fresh and perky

Flowers are drought-tolerant and resist irregular watering cycles, but they cannot handle extended drought. A weekly drink keeps the flowers fresh and perky; do not water when it has been rainy.

We like the basic nature of the Mohave plant. It grows only about a foot tall so it’s good for low color over the garden and in smaller pots when used alone. Plants are well branched at the stem for a bushy habit with lots of flowers, mounding up from the ground in the landscape. Grow it among bushes or other perennials for some fast fill-in color while you wait for the slower plants to bulk up for the season. Mohave selections also make great autumn feeding stations for pollinators.

BRA Mohave Orange 0002
A pollinator stops by for a visit on ‘Mohave Orange’

Craft of Décor

Botanical crafts are front and center when preparing for autumn décor projects. Seasoned designers will remember the strawflower as a beautiful addition to their work—this plant has been around awhile. Younger folks in the Maker community have rediscovered it as a useful floral component for arrangements.

Mohave flowers are durable when cut and dried. They are commonly combined into a wide range of traditional and millennial tasks. In containers their intense colors make them desirable as monochromatic basics, especially for matching pottery colors. In mixed containers they add bright dots of color in the filler areas of a composition.

BRA Mohave Orange 0001
Papery bracts dry beautifully, keeping their shape and color

Bracts are Key

What appear to be paper petals are actually bracts, modified leaves like the ones we find on Poinsettias. They are there to protect the flower’s tender parts until it opens, hence their coarse texture and resilient nature. These papery bracts are the reason a strawflower dries so easily.

Harvest the flowers when they are partially open—the blooms will continue to open even if they are cut off of the plant. It is better to collect them in the evening when they are free of dew. After drying, handle the flowers gently as the stems are hollow and become brittle. Some crafters remove the stems entirely and replace them with wire for easier handling. These crackly, straw-like blooms keep their shape and colors well, even without a glycerin preservative.