Flambe plant shines with 2021 Pantone color choices of the year
Some headlines call it "Pandemic Gray," but you will see it opens the door to one of the toughest, persevering and award-winning plants of all time, Flambe Yellow chrysocephalum.
Flambe Yellow gives you both Pantone colors on one plant. Silver gray leaves and stems partnered with yellow button flowers that are produced nonstop all growing season. It has won 85 awards from Florida, Georgia to Texas, Delaware to Penn State and Cornell. There aren’t too many plants that can match this trophy case.
Known botanically as Chrysocephalum apiculatum, Flambe is from Tasmania and Australia and has the common name strawflower, though it does not resemble the large selections we call Bracteantha. It was selected as a Mississippi Medallion Award Winner while I was a horticulture specialist with Mississippi State University.
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 F.
In our Mississippi State University trials, it 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 with explicit drainage, but the rest of us will enjoy it as an annual, and one that is of exceptional value.
The Flambe chrysocepalum is available in orange and yellow. The Flambe Yellow has silver-gray leaves while the Flambe 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 yellow Flambe Yellow with cool colors like Whirlwind Blue scaevola, and this year's new Whirlwind Starlight scaevola, which just also happen to be from Australia. The Artist Blue ageratum creates a dazzling complementary partnership with its deep blue violet flowers.
For a taller, blue-flowered companion, combine it with salvias like Rockin Blue Suede Shoes, Rockin Playin the Blues, and the trendy Unplugged So Blue.
Another stunning partnership would be to partner Flambe with Truffula Pink gomphrena, the hottest pollinator plant in the country. It produces iridescent hot pink balls that look like small exploding fireworks. Its toughness and longevity will match perfectly with Flambe Yellow.
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.
Most would have thought that when Pantone picked gray and yellow, it would have been difficult to carry the scheme to the flower border, or mixed containers but the award winning Flambe Yellow strawflower makes it wonderfully easy and beautiful.
Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterThe GardenGuy.