Also known as hardheads, this vigorous perennial is native to the Caucasus and a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, yarrow, and lettuce. A relative of annual bachelor button, it has stiff stout stems that bear coarse, waxy, medium-green, lanceolate leaves with wavy margins. Bright orange-yellow thistle-like flowerheads emerge from large rust colored bud over a bloom period of two to three weeks in summer. Each flower is three to four inches across and is surrounded by glossy brown paper-like bracts. If plants are cut to the ground after they bloom they will grow new foliage and may rebloom in the fall. Flowers are good in the vase and dry well. Plants do not need staking but may become over-vigorous in rich soil. The genus name, Centaurea, comes from the Greek word kentauros meaning centaur, the half horse, half man animal of Greek mythology, and refers to the myth that a plant in this genus healed the centaur Chiron. The specific epithet, macrocepala, comes from the Greek words makros meaning long and kephale meaning head, and refers to the large flowerhead.
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Bloom: Bright orange-yellow thistle-like flowers three to four inches across surrounded by glossy brown papery bracts.
Size: 5-6� H x 2-3� W
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Soil: Average to lean, dry to moderately moist, well-drained
Hardiness: Zones 3-7
Care: Low maintenance; staking may be necessary if soil is overly fertile.
Pests and Diseases: None of significance but susceptible to mildew, blight, rust, white mold, rust, mildews
Propagation: Division in spring or fall
Companion plants: Salvia �May Night, Cotinus �Grace�, Nepeta.