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Flambe Chrysocephalum is 2009 Medallion Winner
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
As you shop your local garden center this spring, keep your eyes open for the 2009 Mississippi Medallion award-winning Flambé chrysocephalum. It has the ability to make itself at home in your garden, and it is one of the toughest plants you will grow.
The Mississippi Medallion award program began in 1996 when it recognized New Gold lantana and Blue Daze evolvulus. This year’s award went to Flambé for its stalwart performance in Mississippi’s extreme heat.
Known botanically as Chrysocephalum apiculatum, Flambé is from Tasmania and Australia. It has proven to be a winner in Mississippi State University trials and has captured honors from New York to Florida and Minnesota to Texas, as well as most states in between. It has the common name of strawflower, but it really doesn’t resemble the large selections we now call Bracteantha.
You might wonder what’s so special about a plant with a name that is difficult to pronounce. The answer is nonstop blooms on a plant that is drought tolerant, heat tolerant and frost tolerant to around 30 degrees.
In MSU trials it has bloomed with its small button-like flowers of orange or yellow from May right up until hard freezes in November or December. Gardeners is zones 9 and 10 may find it returns in the spring as a perennial, but the rest of us will enjoy it as an annual, and one of particularly good value.
The Flambé chrysocepalum is available in orange and yellow. The Flambé Yellow has silver-gray leaves while the Flambé Orange has olive-green foliage. The plants are trailing, reaching about 8 to 15 inches tall. This trailing habit means they are wonderful in mixed containers.
Combine the hot-colored orange and yellow Flambé with cool colors. In our trials, we partnered it with Melongolly Blue scoparia for a dazzling complementary color scheme. We have also grown it with another rock-solid plant from Australia, the scaevola or fan flower.
A trendy combination would be to partner Flambé with Joey, another plant from Australia. Joey looks to be the hottest plant in the country this growing season. It produces bottlebrush-like plumes that are 4 inches long and iridescent lavender and pink. Joey’s plumes literally glow when backlit by the sun.
For a taller, blue-flowered companion, combine it with salvias like Victoria Blue or the taller Mystic Spires Blue.
With its drought-tolerant nature, do pay attention and avoid overwatering. Make sure it has good drainage, sun and fertile soil, and you will find easy success. If you are plagued with tight, compacted clay, then loosen the soil with 3 to 4 inches of organic matter or plant on raised beds.
Though drought tolerant and ruggedly persevering, it is a good idea to apply a layer of mulch to conserve moisture and deter weeds.
You’ll find maintenance easy because there is no deadheading required. The spent flowers are quickly covered by new growth and more colorful blossoms.