The Iconic Flannel Flowers of Australia

November 25, 2021 4 min read

The delicate Actinotus helianthi, also known as flannel flower, is a delightful Australian native that derives it's name from it's soft, wool-like texture.

 It grows along the south and western slopes of NSW and reaches as far north as Narrabri in the central west, as well as southeast Queensland. There are around 20 species in the genus "Actinotus",19 of which are endemic to Australia,with one species even reaching New Zealand. 

Common name: Flannel flowers (or Federation Stars™)

Botanic name: Actinotis helianthi ‘Starbright’ and ‘Parkes Star’ 

australian native flannel flower

 Why Are They Considered Iconic?

On the original Federation celebrations held in Sydney's Centennial Park in 1901, the official invitation featured the flannel flower (Actinotus helianthi), which represented New South Wales. It was used in special displays, bouquets, and in paintings throughout the year 2001.

Two new flannel flower varieties were specially developed at Mt. Annan Botanic Gardens for the Federation celebrations. Those varieties are known as 'Federation Stars' and they served as a floral emblem of New South Wales for the Federation Centenary (1901-2001).

Flannel flowers are also the emblem of the Sydney Bush Walkers' club established in 1927.

The plant has achieved an iconic status, especially in Sydney, and has been used continuously for a long time in imagery, printing, and art. Known for its adaptability and endurance in extreme weather and landscapes, the flannel flower also serves as a national symbol for mental health awareness in Australia. 

Popularity in the flower industry

 The flannel flower has come to symbolize elegance, beauty, and purity and is highly valued for many festivals and religious ceremonies. Cut flowers are used for both ornamental garden displays and sales in the flower industry.

                   flannel flower tablecloth

  The Flannel flower tablecloth

                      flannel flower table linen

                       The Flannel foliage table napkins

 The White Flannel Flower 

 The more common species known as the " Actinotus Helianthi ",or the "white flannel flower", is generally a herbaceous shrub that grows from 50 centimetres to 1.5 meters tall. The plant has clusters of creamy-white flowers with green tips and soft grey-green leaves, and a unique soft velvety appearance due to the presence of fine white hairs ;hence the name.

  The scientific name of the flannel flower, "Actinotus helianthi" originated from a Greek word, meaning ‘sunbeam’ or ‘spoke of the wheel’ which refers to the shape of petal-like bracts around the flowers in the centre.

 The Flannel Flower, despite its daisy-like appearance, belongs to the Apiaceae family, which includes carrots, celery, dill, and parsley. The flowers appear in spring and summer (September to December) and are followed by fluffy seeds in a globular head.



 1) Planting

 Flannel Flowers grow best in a well-drained site with moderately acidic soil that has a pH from 5.5 to 6.5. Using organic compost, coarse sand, or native planting mix, you can set up a raised garden bed that is low in phosphorus. You can also add a native fertiliser to the mix.

 Actinotus helianthi varieties, such as 'Star bright,' make excellent potted plants, and any commercially available premium-grade native potting mix will work well for them.

 2) Transplanting

 During transplantation, root disturbance should be avoided in all Actinotus species. In general, we recommend planting 10 to 15 inches apart. They can also be sown from the seeds, but the germination rate is usually low.

 Water the plant but avoid sopping the foliage so as not to damage the brittle stems and leaves or introduce fungal problems. Even if they can withstand long periods of dry cool months, wilting is a tell-tale sign of water stress, as the leaves fold back against the stem before wilting. 

 3) Fertiliser & Mulching

 Flannel flowers are used to growing in low-nutrient, shallow soils. However, they respond surprisingly well to the regular application of fertiliser. The best results are achieved by planting with low-phosphorus-controlled release fertilisers with micronutrients. During the growing season, adding liquid fertiliser to the soil at monthly intervals can also assist with plant health and vigour. 


"Actinotus forsythii" also known as the "Pink flannel flowers", bloom once or twice in a lifetime only in the Blue Mountains ,and are an exquisite display of renewal and hope after tragedy.

 While not endangered, Actinotus forsythii is rare. The flowers, also known as bushfire ephemerals, grow in eastern Australia a require a specific set of conditions to germinate: a year after a bushfire followed by rainfall.

  This year, the wildflowers were in bloom in areas recently burned in bushfires, from the Katoomba to Lithgow region and north to Newnes.

 pink flannel flowers


The rainfall in the crater region has created ideal conditions for these special flowers to bloom. Their delicate white and pink flannel flowers represent more than what can be seen. It is a reminder that something good may come from pain and that there is hope for new beginnings.

Do you love flannel flowers too ? Have them growing in your homes or have pictures of them growing in the bush?  Please share the love below. 


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