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Gardening 101: Billy Buttons

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Gardening 101: Billy Buttons

April 4, 2022

Billy Buttons, Craspedia globosa

I am a little (actually, a lot) obsessed with this plant. I not only grow it in my own garden, but I also dry the flowers to display them in vintage vases around my house. This is one of those plants that looks so quirky and Dr Seuss-like that you assume there’s no way they can exist in real life. But lucky you, you can grow this attention-grabbing flower at home and have countless cuties for floral displays.

Please keep reading to learn how to grow this curious-looking cut flower:

A packet of 40 Plant Good Seeds&#8\2\17; Craspedia seeds is \$3.99.
Above: A packet of 40 Plant Good Seeds’ Craspedia seeds is $3.99.

Hailing from New Zealand and Australia and a member of the sunflower family Asteraceae, this undemanding plant goes by many amusing names: Drumstick flower,  Sun Ball, Billy Buttons, or my teenage son’s favorite, Billy Balls.

Hardy in USDA Zones 9-12 and grown as an annual elsewhere, easy-going Billy Buttons gifts you spring through fall with perfectly round 1-inch-wide bright mustard-yellow globes resembling tiny tennis balls on a stick. The charming blooms sit atop long 24-inch silvery stems covered in woolly hairs emerging from narrow, silvery leaves. This tender perennial is a florist’s favorite as it is cheerful and extremely long-lasting as a cut flower.

If the stars have aligned, you can find starts at your local nursery. However, if they are unavailable, you can grow Billy Buttons from seed. Start your plants in pots indoors during springtime and then transplant into your garden after the danger of frost has passed and your baby plant has two sets of true leaves. (Note: true leaves are the second set of leaves after seed leaves.)

Cheat Sheet

Above: To create your own pencil-straight flowers, harvest when the balls are evenly yellow and then hang them upside side to dry for two weeks until ready to use. A Bundle of 25 Dried Craspedia Billy Buttons is $28 at Afloral.
  • Adds texture, sunny brightness, and verticality.
  • It’s the perfect long-lasting cut flower used fresh or dry in arrangements.
  • Add to a cutting garden, cottage-themed border, or tucked into containers.
  • A wonderful pollinator-attracting plant.

Keep It Alive

Above: Photograph by Benjamin Ranyard, from Brit Style: Flower Farming on Wheels.
  • Plant in a sunny spot with at least 6 hours of sun so that the stems won’t lean and flop over. Pro Tip: Prepare to stake them if needed.
  • This tough plant tolerates most soil types as long as it is not acidic. Well-draining soil is best.
  • Regular summer water when young is much appreciated but then it becomes relatively drought tolerant once established.
  • Luckily this plant is not a heavy feeder so you can forgo this step and just apply a layer of nutritious compost around its base.
  • Can be afflicted by voracious slugs and snails. Pick off offenders if needed.

For similar flowers, see:

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