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Bachelor's Button, Cornflower

By Contributor ; Updated September 21, 2017

(Centaurea cyanus)

These cheerful, ragged blossoms are at home in temperate gardens around the world. They bloom so prolifically with so little care that they often are the first plants that children grow on their own.

The nickname "cornflower" comes from the fact that the plant grows wild in the grain fields of southern Europe. When Napoleon forced Queen Louise of Prussia from Berlin, she hid her children in a cornfield and kept them entertained and quiet by weaving wreaths of cornflowers. One of her children, Wilheim, later became the emperor of Germany. Remembering his mother's bravery, he made the cornflower a national emblem of unity.

Depending upon the variety, plants will grow to between 1 and 3 feet tall and are most effective when massed in beds and borders for color. Bachelor buttons are a cutting garden favorite, and they are one of the easiest flowers to dry for everlasting arrangements.

Sowing Bachelor Button Seeds

Bachelor buttons are easy to grow from seeds outdoors. Sow in spring, 1 to 2 weeks before the last expected frost, for early summer blooms. They can also be sown in fall in mild climates for early spring blooms.

Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch apart. The seeds need complete darkness to germinate, so make sure they are well covered. When seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall, thin them to 6 to 8 inches apart. The first blooms appear 10 to 12 weeks after planting, and last for about a month. Successive plantings can extend the bloom period.

Will they come back next year?

Bachelor buttons are annuals, which means they complete their entire life cycle in a single year, and then die. But don't despair; they may be back next year! Bachelor buttons ensure their own survival by dropping seeds that will germinate and grow the following year in most climates. As with most annuals, keeping the spent flowers picked off will encourage the production of more flowers, but to allow them a chance to reseed, leave some of the last flowers to die naturally on the plant. This will give them a chance to drop seeds.

Recommended Varieties:

Black Magic
These 'black' bachelor buttons are actually dark maroon. They combine well with 'Blue Boy' or tall cosmos.

Blue Boy
These dazzling sky-blue flowers grow about 2 feet tall.

Sweet Sultan Imperialis
This fragrant variety has 2" flower heads that are perfect for cutting. The blooms have an interesting 'thistle' look.

Dwarf Blend
This pastel blend is perfect when you need a shorter summer bloomer.

Creating a Wildflower Meadow
Regardless of the size of your property, wildflowers can enhance its beauty and add to your enjoyment. This booklet describes how to grow meadow wildflowers that can fill any size yard with a seasonal procession of colors. Learn to plan, prepare, select the proper seeds, and maintain your meadow with this informative booklet.

  • Type
  • Propagation
  • Light
    full sun
  • Flower Color
  • Bloom Time
    early summer to early autumn
  • Height
    24-36 inches
  • Width
    6-12 inches
  • Soil Requirements
    alkaline pH, moisture=average or dry
  • Zones
  • Uses
    cutting bed

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