COMMON NAME: strawflower
SPECIES: H. bracteatum
DESCRIPTION: The blossoms are pomponlike, measure 2 1/2 inches across, and come in white and bright shades of yellow, red, pink, and orange. Plants grow about 2 to 3 feet tall, though dwarf varieties are available that are a mere 12 to 18 inches in height.
CULTIVATION: Choose a sunny, dry spot in the garden and sow seeds of strawflower in spring after the last frost.
Over 500 aromatic perennial species make up this genus native to Crete and Asia Minor.
The most outstanding thing about this plant is the way its flowers retain their color and shape for a very long time. Everlasting, another common name, refers to this characteristic. The species H. bracteatum, is called immortelle. Although grown most often as a dried flower, strawflowers also make good fresh cut flowers.
The plant contains chemicals that were at one time used in treating respiratory diseases, liver and gallbladder problems, rheumatism, and allergies.
The genus name is from two Greek words, helios, meaning “sun,” and chrysos, meaning “golden.”
Several species were used to make funeral wreaths and were grown extensively in Southern France for this reason.