What is Brachyscome?

Anna Harrison

Brachyscome, or Swan River daisy, is a group of 65 flowering annuals in the Asteraceae family. The small daisy-like flowers bloom in shades of pink, lavender, yellow and white, and sit atop foliage that is sparse and feather-like. These spindly plants look best when grown in masses and will bloom continuously if the dead flowers are promptly removed. Most varieties of brachyscome grow from 12 inches to 18 inches (about 30 cm to 47 cm) tall.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

This plant, also frequently spelled Brachycome, grows wild in Australia and New Zealand, where it is known as cut leaf daisy, but it is grown throughout the United States and Europe as a garden plant. It is tolerant of many growing conditions, including sandy desert soil. This plant is not fond of wet soil, preferring to be allowed to dry out between watering. It does not like hot sun and would rather have at least a little shade, where the temperature is on the cool side. Strong winds can damage this delicate plant, so it should be grown in a sheltered spot.

When grown in the garden, brachyscome looks best filling in bare spots around larger annuals and perennials. They complement verbena, geraniums, pansies and salvia. The plant also works well in hanging planters and window boxes, where they will form a rounded mass of flowers and spill over the sides of these containers, continuing to bloom until frost.

This plant is a tender annual, which means it will not tolerate cold weather. It does not do not do well when kept indoors during winter, so it is best to buy or grow new plants each spring. They are easy to grow from seed, though the seedlings grow slowly and should be started at least 10 weeks before they will be moved outdoors. The seeds need light to sprout, so they should be sprinkled on top of the soil, not buried. Brachyscome is difficult to propagate by cuttings, but large clusters of plants can be easily divided.

Though there are many varieties, just a few are well known and widely available. The most common of these is Brachyscome iberidifolia. It blooms in the full range of colors, with flowers that resemble tiny asters. This plant has a tendency to spread, making it a good ground cover. Unlike other brachyscome, this variety will grow near water, and lives in swamps in Australia, as well as on edges of creeks and rivers.

There are just two other common varieties of Swan River daisy, Brachyscome multifida and Brachyscome ciliaris. While each of these varies slightly in height, flower size and prominence of foliage, there is really not much difference between them. All are easy to grow, long lasting and do well in gardens.

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