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Plant Profile: Annual Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

Also known as bluebottle, bluet, bluecap, and bachelor’s button, the latter name is my favorite as it comes from the fact that single Victoria men wore the flower in their lapels to indicate their marital status and thus they became known as bachelor’s buttons. Wearing a flower in the lapel for any reason rates high in my book! Kaiser Wilhelm I emperor of Germany made the cornflower a national emblem of unity because of his childhood experience hiding in a cornfield filled when Napoleon forced his mother, Queen Louise of Prussia, from Berlin. His mother entertained her children by making wreaths of cornflowers until they could come out of hiding thus endearing the flower to Wilhelm. The Latin genus name, Centaurea, comes from the Roman centaur, a mythical animal that was half horse and half man. The plant is native to Europe where it is now endangered in some areas, but has done well in America and has become invasive in some areas because of its tendency to self seed. The flowers are generally a bright lavender blue and add a touch of color that is not common in nature making even a roadside patch a pleasure to see. Plants bloom in the spring and may bloom all summer in cooler areas if kept deadheaded. They are equally at home in containers, borders, and naturalized meadow areas. The flowers are attractive in fresh arrangements and are edible so can be used to add color to salads. They dry well and hold their color so are especially sought  as fillers in dried arrangements.

Type: Annual

Bloom: Blue, pink, rosy red, and white flowers in spring to early summer; all summer in cool areas if deadheaded.

Size: 1-3’ H x 6-12” W.

Light: Full sun to afternoon shade.

Soil: Average, moist well drained.

Care: Low maintenance.

Pests and Diseases: None of importance but susceptible to white mold, rust, downy and powdery mildew, thread blight, and Southern blight.

Propagation: Seed.

Companion plants: Nice with other wildflowers especially field poppies and corn marigolds.

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