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Cornflower

Sow cornflowers next to marigolds or poppies to make them look really bright

Cornflowers Season

  • Sow seeds in spring
  • Name: Centaurea cyanus

Common Name

Cornflower

Description
Cornflowers are easy-to-grow wildflowers that add vibrant blue hues to your garden in the summer. They’re perfect for cutting and placing in vases to brighten up your home.

Growing Tips

Growing Conditions

Cornflowers thrive in well-drained soil and full sun.

When to Grow

Sow from March to May. They bloom from June to September.

What You Need

  • Packet of cornflower seeds
  • Gardening gloves
  • Rake
  • Trowel
  • Plant label and pencil

How to Grow

Sow cornflowers directly where they will bloom. Clear the area of weeds with a trowel, then rake the soil until it’s fine and crumbly. Create shallow drills 12mm deep, spaced 30cm apart. Water the soil if it’s dry, then sow the seeds and cover them lightly with soil. Thin seedlings to 30cm apart as they grow.

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

Cornflower is a hardy annual that grows quickly and blooms in summer with charming, ruffled flowers on slender stems. Originally from the Mediterranean, it has adapted well to other regions, including the UK.

Once common in cornfields, pesticides have made wild cornflowers rare. They are popular in wildflower mixes for gardens due to their appeal to pollinators. The blooms are also edible, adding a decorative touch to salads.

Traditional cornflowers are deep blue, but you can find varieties in pink, maroon, and white. Plants range from 30cm to 120cm tall, with taller ones making excellent cut flowers. Cornflowers bloom for about three months in summer and can self-seed, although they are not invasive.

Child-Friendly Plant

Cornflowers are great for children to grow. Sow seeds directly onto soil, rake lightly, and enjoy flowers in about 10 weeks.

How to Grow Cornflowers

Plant cornflowers in well-drained soil with full sun. Sow seeds directly into weed-free ground or pots in spring, then thin seedlings as needed. Minimal care is required beyond removing spent flowers to encourage more blooms.

Where to Grow Cornflowers

Use cornflowers as fillers in garden borders, part of an annual flower meadow mix, or in pots. They do best in well-drained soil and sunny spots. Fertile soil is not necessary.

Cornflowers in Pots

For pots, use general-purpose, peat-free compost mixed with coarse grit. Shorter varieties are better suited for pots. Expect blooms for 10-12 weeks, which is shorter than many summer flowers.

How to Plant Cornflowers

Directly sow seeds where they will bloom, or start them in seed trays and transplant in spring, spacing them 15cm apart.

How to Care for Cornflowers

Remove faded flowers to promote new blooms. After flowering, compost the plants or let them self-seed for the following year.

How to Propagate Cornflowers

Cornflowers often self-seed. To save seeds, collect from faded flowers and store in an envelope. Sow from early spring to early summer, 0.5-1cm deep. Thin seedlings to 10-15cm apart for continuous blooms throughout summer. If outdoor sowing isn’t possible, start seeds in trays or pots in an unheated greenhouse.

Pests and Diseases

Cornflowers are generally trouble-free.

How to Grow Cornflower from Seeds

Cornflowers are easy to start from seed and are popular as bedding plants or cut flowers. They are part of the Asteraceae family, which includes sunflowers and daisies. The flowers, with their fringed petals and delicate foliage, pair well with zinnias and calendula.

While starter plants are available at garden centers, growing from seeds offers more color variety. Cornflowers are also popular in weddings and have been bred for a range of colors including white, pink, red, purple, and burgundy.

When & Where to Plant Cornflower

Light
Full sun, open fields.

Soil
Moist, well-drained soil, though they can handle drought once established.

Spacing
Allow 8-12 inches between plants.

Planting
Sow seeds in early spring for summer blooms. In milder climates, sow in early fall for spring and summer flowers.

Cornflower or Bachelor Button Seeds

How to Grow Cornflower Throughout the Season

  • Growth Habit: Cornflowers vary in height. Shorter varieties are best at the front of borders, while taller ones suit mid-garden spots. The more you cut the flowers, the bushier the plants get.
  • Staking: Generally, no staking is needed unless grown in a greenhouse for cutting.
  • Watering: Cornflowers tolerate drought but prefer regular watering.
  • Fertilizing: In early spring, add fertilizer to the soil. Side dress with a balanced fertilizer in mid-summer to boost blooms.
  • Mulching: Mulching with bark helps retain moisture and protect roots from excessive sun.

Cornflower: End of Season Care

Cornflowers are annuals. Remove plants at the end of the season and compost them.

Dividing & Transplanting

No need for dividing. Transplant young seedlings into their growing spots.

Pests & Disease

Cornflowers are generally low-maintenance but can suffer from stem rot and rust if overcrowded. Watch for aphids and leafhoppers.

Additional Care

Remove spent blossoms to maintain continuous blooms.

Cornflower: Extra Info

Companion Plants
Cornflowers look stunning with Nasturtiums, Marigolds, and California Poppies. In vases, they pair well with Snapdragons, Sweet William, and Love-in-a-Mist.

The blue flowers of cornflower add a striking contrast in gardens and landscapes.

Additional Uses
Cornflowers can be used as natural dyes and are edible, making lovely garnishes.

Do cornflowers return every year?

No, cornflowers are annuals, meaning they do not come back the next year. However, in suitable locations, cornflowers can self-seed, leading to new plants emerging the following spring.

Are cornflowers perennial?

No, cornflowers are annuals. They complete their life cycle in one growing season and do not return the next year. However, in some areas, they can self-seed, allowing new plants to grow the following year.

What are the best conditions for cornflowers to grow in?

How to care for cornflowers
Flowering season(s): Spring, Summer, Autumn
Sunlight: Full sun
Soil type: Chalky, Clay, Loamy, Sandy
Soil pH: Neutral
Soil moisture: Moist but well-drained

How long do cornflowers take to grow?

Cornflower plants typically flower in approximately 70-80 days. Regularly deadhead the flowers during the growing season to encourage more blooms.

Can cornflowers be grown in pots?

Yes, cornflowers can be grown in containers. If you have limited garden space, you can grow them indoors initially and then move them outside once they are hardened off. Pinch back the tips as they grow to encourage more branches.

Do cornflowers need staking?

Generally, cornflowers grow upright and do not require staking unless they are grown in a greenhouse for the cut flower trade. Cutting blossoms encourages the plants to produce more buds, making them bushy and full.

Why is my cornflower plant dying?

Cornflowers can be affected by root rot or fungal diseases, often due to poor soil drainage. If your plant is dying, dig it up and check the roots. Healthy roots are creamy white inside, while diseased or dead roots will be black, brown, or rusty colored and may be slimy.

How do you start cornflowers?

Direct sow cornflower seeds just before the last frost and continue sowing every two weeks until the end of spring. You can also sow them in autumn. Starting indoors isn’t necessary but can be done by keeping seed trays in the dark at a soil temperature of 15-21°C (60-70°F).

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