The word boutonniere means "buttonhole" in French and has been adopted in America as the word to describe a flower worn on the left lapel of a men's jacket. Boutonnieres are worn at formal occasions, including weddings. A boutonniere may be affixed to the front of the lapel with a pin, or, if a buttonhole is available on the lapel, the stem should be put through the buttonhole and affixed to the back. Boutonnieres may be single or double blooms and often feature flowers with large heads, sturdy stems and some fragrance.
Also known as the cornflower or knapweed, bachelor's buttons (Centaurea cyanus) are a member of the Asteraceae family and make excellent cut flowers. Flower heads are up to 1-1/2 inches across and relatively flat. Blue varieties are the most popular for boutonnieres, according to the 1997 Sunset National Garden Book. Bachelor's buttons will grow to 2-1/2 feet and is an annual in all zones. Plants prefer full sun and moderate water.
Popular for their fragrance and staying power, carnations (Dianthus) are often used in boutonnieres. Carnations are available in more than 300 species and even more hybrids and many kinds may be used in boutonnieres, depending if a single or multiple bloom is desired. The flowers are tight and compact with ruffled and sometimes serrated edges. Available in pinks, reds, white and some bi-color varieties, carnations may be dyed. The sweet William and cottage pink varieties are the most popular cut-flower selections. Carnations are perennials that may be grown as biennials or annuals in most zones with afternoon shade and regular water.
Internationally recognized as a symbol of love, the long-stem rose, which is a hybrid tea rose, is a simple, elegant choice for a boutonniere. These roses, which come in many varieties, including Brandy (orange), Mr. Lincoln (red) or Blue Girl (lavender) are the most popular class of rose and the ones most traditionally used by florists. Single blooms grow on individual stems amid 3- and 5 leaf foliage clusters. Like most roses, hybrid teas may be grown in almost any zone in full to partial sun with regular watering. In coldest zones, cut back after the first frost and in warmest zones, plant in shade and keep soil moist.