Also called American starthistle, this annual is native to the southern central US and northeastern Mexico.  It is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, yarrow, and lettuce.  Growing 3-4′ tall, the plant has stout stems carrying sessile, lanceolate leaves that are up to 4″ long, rough textured, and may have widely spaced teeth on the margins. From late spring through summer, thistle-like flowers appear.  They are 3-4″ across and have a center of creamy disc flowers, surrounded by pink to purple ray flowers, and an involucre with a basket weave pattern on it.   The flowers attract butterflies and are attractive in both fresh and dried arrangements.  Although mostly grown as a cut flowers, American basketflower is a good choice for back of the border, and a butterfly or  meadow garden.  The genus name, Centaurea, is from the Greek word kentauros meaning centaur and refers to the myth that a plant in this genus healed the centaur Chiron, a half-man- half horse creature of Greek mythology. The specific epithet, americana, refers to the native origin of the plant.

Type: Annual

Bloom: Thistle-like flowerheads with creamy disc flowers and pink to purple ray flowers from late spring through summer

Size: 3-4′ H x 2′ W

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average, moderately moist, well drained, slightly acidic; somewhat drought resistant when established

Hardiness: Not relevant

Care: Low maintenance

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed

Companion Plants: Purple coneflowers, tickseed, anise hyssop

Outstanding Selections:

‘Aloha’ (3″ wide lilac-rose flowers on 3′ tall stems)

‘Jolly Joker’ (3″ wide lavender-pink flowers on 4′ tall stems)

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

By Karen