Cornflowers (also know as bachelor's buttons) are fairly easy to grow and are a great flower for kids or beginners to include in their garden. They are a cheerful and attractive flower that is just as appealing to beneficial insect life in the garden as it is to the garden's human inhabitants. Though most cornflowers are 'cornflower blue', they do actually come in a whole range of types and colours.

Growing cornflowers or bachelor's buttons

Cornflowers are grown from seed planted in the spring and they are best sown direct into the soil in which they are to grow. If you plant cornflower seeds between March and May then you will be treated to a lovely display between June and September.

Cornflowers prefer a site in full sun, in a well-drained soil. The soil does not need to be particularly fertile and in fact many varieties will actually flower better in an area where soil is less than perfectly nutritious.

How to grow cornflowers

When you are planting your cornflower seeds, make drills in the soil and water these before you sow the seeds. This is to prevent the seeds being washed away by the water. The cornflowers should pop up above the soil in around three weeks. Try to be careful not to disrupt the cornflowers' delicate roots if you decide to move the small seedlings or thin them.

Cornflowers are best planted in a sheltered location, as if they are in a bed together then the whole lot can easily be flattened by a strong wind. Since they are fairly tall plants, some people choose to give them some support although this is not usually necessary.

Cornflowers welcome other company and will look lovely and bright when in a garden bed with marigolds or poppies or other vivid flowers. Cornflowers can be good for hiding the stems of roses and other tall shrubs.

You can pick cornflowers for use in floral displays. If you are careful to cut them just above a leaf node then they should produce more flowers for you, just on shorter stems, so these flowers can keep producing for you for the whole summer and perhaps even beyond. Cornflowers should be picked just before they are fully open when the centre of the flower is still slightly dipped inwards.

Why grow cornflowers in the garden?

Cornflowers really are a beautiful flower to look at. They are good value too since the display they create can keep on going for several months. Once established in a bed, cornflowers will self-seed and return year after year, bringing enduring cheer in a low maintenance area of the garden.

Cornflowers are native to the UK and once grew with abandon across farm fields, until herbicides used in farming made them very rare in the wild and confined them to gardens.

Do cornflowers need staking?

Yes, cornflowers should be staked. It's best to stake them before they bloom. An easy way to provide support is to place 2ft stakes around the planted area and attach two layers of netting at two different heights. The plants will grow through the netting and be supported as they grow.

Are cornflowers edible?

Yes, cornflowers are edible. You can add petals to salads as a pretty garnish or sprinkle over pasta or add on top of omelettes.

Are cornflowers perennials / do cornflowers come back every year?

The answer is that it depends! Most common cornflowers are annuals, not perennials. But "centaurea montana" is a type of perennial cornflower that will keep coming back every year.

Growing cornflowers in pots

Cornflowers can easily be grown in pots or indoor containers. Just make sure that the soil is well drained and that the container has plenty of drainage holes. Sow the seeds indoors about 6 weeks before you plant them out.

What do cornflowers represent/symbolize?

The botanical name for the cornflower (Centaurea) was inspired by the mythical Greek centaur named Chiron, a centaur who was famous for his knowledge of medicine. According to mythology, he used cornflowers to heal wounds caused by poisoned arrows.

The cornflower's other name, bachelor button, comes from the fact that they were once worn by men in love to show that they were single and had a romantic interest in a particular woman. In some cultures, it can also represent the state of being unmarried, usually for religious reasons. As a result of being worn by hopeful bachelors, the cornflower has also come to represent romance and patience. According to an old English tradition, young women wore cornflowers in order to symbolize that they were ready for marriage.

In a less happy meaning, cornflowers can also represent wretched or unwanted singleness, which is why they have been called the Hurtsickle and Devil’s Flower.

Are cornflowers poisonous to dogs?

In short, no, cornflowers aren't poisonous to dogs. Indeed, they're quite safe for humans to eat too (see our tips above for eating cornflowers!), delicious and pretty in a salad.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Centaurea cyanus