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Bachelor's Buttons - Cornflowers

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Bachelor's Buttons - Cornflowers

The Heirloom Blue Bachelor's Button Flower

Photo © flickr user Echoforsberg

Overview:

Gardeners looking for a true blue color in a flower can’t go wrong with the old-fashioned bachelor’s button. These fully double annual flowers look like miniature carnations, only they’re much easier to grow. In fact, they are treated as weeds in some areas, because of their propensity to self-seed. Nevertheless, every gardener needs at least one can’t-fail plant in the flower garden, and this lightly fragrant flower belongs in every beginner’s landscape.

Latin Name:

Centaurea cyanus

Common Names:

Bachelor’s Button, Basket Flower, Blue Bonnet, Blue Bottle, Blue Bow, Blue Cap, Cornflower, Boutonniere Flower, Hurt Sickle

Zone:

Grow as an annual in all growing zones.

Size:

  • Height: 30 inches
  • Spread: 10 inches

Exposure:

Full sun

Bloom Period:

Bachelor’s buttons bloom from midsummer until first frost, but deadheading them extends and increases the blooming. They make excellent dried flowers if you cut the blossoms before the frost nips them.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Blue Boy: A vivid periwinkle blue
  • Tall Double Mixed Colors: Shades of white, pink, and blue
  • Black Ball: A rare variety with deep crimson poms

Planting:

You can buy packets of 200 bachelor’s button seeds for less than five dollars, making this a great flower choice for frugal gardeners. Even if you aren’t used to growing plants from seed, you have a high chance of success starting cornflower seed:
  • Sow after first frost directly in the garden
  • Sow in late winter for spring blooms
  • Provide average, well-drained garden soil
  • Keep seed bed moist until germination occurs, usually within 10 days
  • Cornflowers can tolerate some crowding, but thinning seedlings increases blooming

Maintenance:

Bachelor’s buttons are as easy to maintain, as they are to start:
  • Give them the equivalent of an inch of water per week
  • Stake plants if they flop; alternatively, grow in a sheltered area
  • Fertilize monthly with liquid manure or compost tea if desired
  • Collect brown seed pods to sow in other areas or to share with friends
  • Expect more bachelor button flowers in the same site next year, as they volunteer freely

Design Tips:

Bachelor’s buttons are edible flowers, so you can include them in the kitchen garden to jazz up salads. Some describe their taste as sweet or cucumber-like. Bachelor’s buttons also have a long tradition in herbal and natural medicines as an anti-inflammatory, so you can include them in the herb garden.

As an ornamental, bachelor’s buttons look pretty in wildflower gardens, and their bright blue blossoms are welcome in the cutting garden. Pair blue cornflowers with annuals opposite on the color wheel, like orange cosmos or yellow marigolds, to make both flowers stand out in the flower garden.

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