Plant Profiles Native Australian Annuals

Annuals have a life cycle which is completed within one year. Although there are not a great many Australian native annuals which are grown in cultivation, the range is increasing and with the water restrictions currently in place in almost every area in Australia, it makes sense to plant natives which are compatible with the conditions in your area. Good drainage is important, particularly for those species which come from relatively dry, sandy regions.

Actinotus helianthi or Flannel Flower is a herbaceous plant with soft, grey-green foliage. The texture is similar to that of flannel hence the name. It may continue growing for several years and is grown as a cut flower for the commercial market. It has daisy-like flowers to 8cm diameter. The soft white to cream bracts are tipped with grey-green. The centre of the flower is yellow. The flowering season is mainly from August to February. The flannel flower frequently self-seeds.

Another attractive flannel flower is the Western Australia native Actintous superbus or    Western Flannel Flower. The flowering season is from September to February and the white to cream flowers may grow to 5cm diameter. It does best in semi-shade in a well-drained position. The bracts are quite hairy. It is generally easily germinated from seed and is suitable as a container plant.

Brachyscome iberidifolia or Swan River Daisy flowers mainly from September to February. The daisy flower heads may be white, blue or purple with yellow centres. It is fairly widely grown both in Australia and Europe. It can be frost-tender and should be cultivated as a summer annual.

Coming across a patch of Clianthus formosus or Sturt’s Desert Pea in the middle of an inhospitable desert is enough to make you think you are hallucinating. The spectacular, large pea-flowers are a brilliant deep red, normally with black. Sturt’s Desert Pea is the floral emblem of South Australia. It must have a warm, well-drained situation and should be treated as an annual in cultivation. It is frost tolerant.

The Helipterum genus has a number of annuals. They are often grouped under the generic ‘everlasting’. Helipterum albicans is an annual or perennial with yellow to white papery flowers of around 3cm diameter. The main flowering season is from November to February. It has a wide distribution through eastern Australia. It likes a sunny position and is frost-hardy. Helipterum albicans can be grown from seed or cuttings.

Another pretty Helipterum is Helipterum humboldtianum, native to Western Australia. The leaves have wavy edges. Clusters of yellow, everlasting flowers are produced mainly from September to January.

Helipterum roseum is also native to Western Australia. It is a very popular species and will commonly self-seed in a garden. The showy flowers are pink or white and produced mainly during August to January. It is an excellent specimen for cutting and drying.

The attractive Swainsonia maccullochiana or Ashburton Pea is also endemic to Western Australia. It has ferny, pinnate leaves and heads of rose-pink pea-flowers mainly from November to February. It likes a sunny, well-drained position.

Another everlasting with toothed lower leaves is Waitzia acuminata. The papery flower heads are produced on branched stems. The flowers are usually a golden-yellow but can be pink or white. The main flowering season is from September to December. It has a wide natural distribution.

Trachymene caerulea, also known as Rottnest Daisy or Blue Lace Flower  produces delicate blue flowers in soft heads of up to 6cm diameter. The flowers form on the tips of branching stems. The main flowering period is from September to January. This annual requires protection from frost when young. Early pruning will encourage bushy growth and more flowers.

This list is not exhaustive by any means but gives a range of attractive Australian native annuals, all of which are worthy of a place in Australian gardens. They are hardy, water-wise and suited to the conditions.