Sometimes known as mist flower, this soft-wooded shrub from Mexico (ht 1.5m if pruned annually; it can get much taller - and gangly - if not cut back) has large velvety leaves and huge fluffy panicles of lilac blooms in early spring. It belongs to the Asteraceae family, though it looks very unlike a daisy. It is valuable in being shade tolerant. It can be a pretty background shrub to flowering Clivia and Abutilon, with their colours of yellows, oranges and red; and it is also a good companion to spring annuals which flower in shaded places such as Primula and cineraria (Pericallis hybrids) as well as bulbs such as snowflakes (Leucojum) and bluebells (Hyacinthoides).
It was often grown with azaleas in traditional Sydney gardens, with the lilac mist flower blending with the pinks, white, mauve and cerise of those shrubs. As pictured at left, it can look pretty grown nearby blossom trees in early spring. In summer, the leaves provide a dramatic touch in shaded gardens, mixing well with other tropical-looking leaves such as elephant's ears (Alocasia) and bird's nest ferns (Asplenium australasicum).
It should be cut back hard after flowering is over. It is quite frost tender so is not very suitable for cold regions. It has been recently renamed as Bartlettina sordida but as far as I can tell, this name has yet to catch on amongst home gardeners!