PREFERRED SOIL pH: Adaptable
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Loam
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: Tidy mound of airy foliage and violet, white, pink, or yellow daisy flowers; for beds, edging, rock garden, pots
SEASON OF INTEREST: Summer to fall
FAVORITES: Blue 'Ultra', blue or white 'Bravo', pink 'Strawberry Mousse', yellow 'Lemon Mist'
QUIRKS: Dislikes humid, moist growing conditions
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Verbena, coreopsis, portulaca, sweet potato vine
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Partial shade with sandy, well-drained soil and good air circulation
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: May rot in warm, humid conditions; aphids
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Good
SOURCE: Bedding plants, seeds
DIMENSIONS: 1 ft (0.3 m) tall, 1 ft (0.3 m) wide
Brachycome in the Landscape
Brachycome, or Swan River daisy, is a care-free annual that forms a cloud of soft color. Dozens of beautiful, dainty, 1 in (2.5 cm) flowers appear all at one time, most often in a light violet hue, each with a canary yellow center rimmed in white. The cheerful little pinwheels form at the ends of the stalks and are held above pale green, feathery foliage, which creates a delicate interplay of texture and shape in the garden.
The cool flower color makes brachycome a pretty companion to any plant with pink, purple, violet, white, or yellow flowers.The plant is a handsome complement to verbena and coreopsis and forms an interesting contrast with the broad leaves of sweet potato vine. Its tidy, mounding growth habit is welcome toward the front of the border or as an edging. Brachycome is also a good choice for filling in around tall, leggy plants and carpeting bare spots. In a container or window box, brachycome sends its short, sprawling stems cascading downward over the rim, showering flowers that are 6-8 in (15.2-20.3 cm) in diameter over the sides.
This flexible plant tolerates either sun or partial shade but demands excellent drainage. It hates to be waterlogged, making brachycome ideal for rocky, sandy soil, where water can pass through quickly. And if you have a windy location -- perhaps on an exposed porch or balcony or beside an open field, a lake, or the ocean -- brachycome will hold up well where many other plants would perish. It is often enlisted to tuck into crevices in stone walls or fill cracks between flagstones in walkways.
This little daisy thrives in containers, but only if the pot is equipped with fast-draining soil and a generous drainage hole. Rainy or humid weather can wreak havoc with this native of Australia, which is adapted to sparse rainfall and dry air. It does not fare well in hot, humid summers, but it performs admirably in cooler or drier climates.
Making a Good Plant Better
Although brachycome has stepped into stardom only recently, new varieties are appearing every year. 'Ultra' and 'Bravo' are particularly floriferous, tidy, compact versions. As an expansion of the color range, 'Bravo' is also available with white petals that bear the ever-present yellow center. 'Strawberry Mousse' adds pink to the brachycome spectrum and has broader leaves than other varieties. 'Lemon Mist' does not form the tight mound of closely held flowers that the violet-flowered brachycome boasts, but is clad in a generous quantity of dainty yellow blossoms.
Increasing the Bounty
For best results, purchase bedding plants in spring. You can also sow seeds indoors 6-10 weeks before the last frost, but take note that seed-sown plants need a lot of time to mature enough to bloom. Seeds require light to germinate, so sprinkle seeds on the surface of a moistened commercial seed-starting medium. Moisten the seeds with a mister immediately after sowing, and then mist them lightly each day until they have germinated.
Set the container on a sunny windowsill or under fluorescent lights at warm room temperatures. To encourage branching, cut off the growing tips of the seedlings when they are 5 in (13 cm) tall, transplant them into small pots, 2 in (5.1 cm) in diameter, and grow them on a sunny windowsill where there is low humidity.
The seedlings can be planted outdoors when evening temperatures remain above 50°F (10°C) in a sunny, well-drained location.
A Trouble-Free Plant
Brachycome is not a plant that's prone to problems, if you provide the dry, well-drained conditions that it prefers. However, the plants quickly rot when the atmosphere is very humid, or the soil is soggy.
Small, pear-shaped, sap-sucking insects called aphids can occasionally be a problem. To control aphids, knock them off plants with a strong stream of water from a hose or apply insecticidal soap according to the package directions. Apply insecticidal soap on an overcast day or late in the afternoon to avoid sunburning the foliage, which causes leaves to develop brown, crisp spots and edges.