Emilia Javanica, Tassel Flower & Irish Poet

Feb 4, 2017 | Love This!

Imagine: Sandra loved pastels, so naturally when she planted a flower garden, those are the colors she chose. She bought annuals and perennials that were lavender, pink and white. True blue blossoms were hard to find, but the hydrangeas in the back of her flowerbed provided enough of that to suit her. But somehow, the garden just didn’t have much magic. It was pretty, yes…but it wasn’t beautiful.

“It isn’t a WOW garden,” she explained to her friend Amy. Sandra sat on a stool in her friend’s kitchen and sipped a glass of wine while Amy cooked. “Well,” Amy responded, “maybe you need to be less rigid about your color palette. If I’m cooking a dish that is tasty but not delicious, I know I need to use just a little contrasting spice or herb. That’s why so many recipes call for a dash of cayenne pepper.”

The next summer, everyone commented that Sandra’s garden was so beautiful. “It’s absolutely gorgeous,” Amy said as they strolled through in August.

“That’s because I took your advice and added a bit of contrast,” Sandra smiled. See those tiny bright tassel flowers? They make it all come alive. They’re a dash of cayenne pepper for my garden.”

Just a touch of orange or red can make a pastel combination sing.

 Name: Emilia javanica aka tassel flower, lady’s paintbrush or Irish poet.

Type of Plant:  Tender annual for sun and part-sun. This plant is thin, and combines well with other annuals or perennials. Easy to grow from seed.

Why I love this: I love Emilia javanica because it is small, sweet, and bright. It’s the dash of orange or red that pastels need to come alive. Think of Monet’s paintings…there was always a touch of bright color in those pastel water lilies, right?

This is an easy plant to grow and once you learn to recognize the foliage you’ll notice that it self-seeds and appears every year without any work on your part. Grow it once and enjoy the nodding tassel flowers in years to come. Emilia is a great cut flower, and the bees love it too.

And in response to a question about identification, who wouldn’t love to be able to say, “That bright dash of brilliance? Oh, that’s Irish poet.”

A Word to the Wise: You’ll have to grow this plant from seed. And know that it’s very slender in stem and foliage, so it works best when combined with other flowering plants…pastel or not!

Look how beautifully the Emilia works with lime green. Here it dots the air above a Margarita sweet potato vine.

Tassel flower doesn’t just blend with pastels and greens – it’s perfect for weaving into other annuals as well. Since it’s a good cutting flower, it is perfect in with zinnias and other six-pack annuals.

And the bees love this plant as much as I do. Why isn’t everyone growing it?

A touch of WOW! for your flower garden? You Can Grow That!


  1. Marcia

    Ha! Just got my seeds of tassel flower this week. Will have plants at Soares this spring

    • CL Fornari

      YAY! The benefit of being a grower/retailer – you can offer things that no other garden centers will have.


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