Bachelor’s button, or Centaurea cyanus, is a European wildflower of the aster family that has naturalized across the United States.
It’s a vigorous grower that was commonly found growing among the grain crops of farmers.
Currently on the USDA’s list of Introduced, Invasive, and Noxious Plants, C. cyanus is prohibited in North Carolina.
Also known as cornflower, or garden cornflower, its delicate blossoms have been charming country folks for generations.
Robust and True Blue
One of several Centaurea cornflower varieties, but the only one commonly referred to as cornflower, C. cyanus is noted for its predominantly blue flowers that are typically found en masse in fields, and in the dusty gravel along roadways.
An annual that self-sows on viable ground, it gives the impression of being a perennial, returning each summer in all its glory, reaching heights of up to three feet.
Sturdy grayish-green stalks and leaves support delicate, multi-petaled disks that range in color from blue and purple to pink and white.
In my area, there is a sunny meadow full of cornflowers. Occasionally, the owner mows his property, and I’m always fascinated to see the flowers make a defiant, if stunted, comeback, blooming at ground level with almost no supporting stems.
This is a robust plant that’s so easy to grow, it’s recommended widely for gardening with children.
With full sun and well-drained soil, you should have blossoms all summer long.
Bachelor’s button is also an edible flower that makes a tasty and attractive fresh garnish for cold salads.
The sweet/spicy flavor of its flowers falls somewhere between cloves and black pepper, with field green undertones. (Or a taste that’s a little cinnamon-y, according to our reader David Hinkle Bettin via Facebook!)
If you plan to eat it, be sure to source the flowers from a reputable purveyor, or cultivate your own. Forage only if you are 100% certain you can identify this plant, and avoid areas where pesticides or pollution may be present.
Wash all flowers thoroughly before consuming.
To use flowers whole, simply snip off stems and place decoratively on or around cold foods just prior to serving.
To dress up a salad, snip off stems, separate flowerheads into individual blossoms, and sprinkle on top.
A Word of Caution
Flower consumption is not endorsed by the FDA, and may cause adverse digestive or allergic reactions. Use sparingly and with caution.
Centaurea cyanus Plant Facts
- Average moisture
- Average to poor, well-drained soil
- Considered invasive in some areas
- Prohibited in North Carolina
- Easy to grow
- Full sun
- Grow from seeds or purchased plants
- May reach 3 feet in height
- Naturalized wildflower
- Self-sowing annual
- Tolerates drought
- Zones 2 to 11
Where to Buy
Mixed color packages are available in 3 grams, 1 ounce, 4 ounces, or 16 ounces of seed.
Room to Roam
Does your landscape have an expansive location, where the sun is strong, the grass doesn’t want to grow, and the soil is on the dry side?
This might be the ideal spot for a vigorous wildflower.
The easiest way to get started is to sow seeds. Given free reign, they can turn a barren swath into a ribbon of country blue you’ll never tire of admiring.
If you like to cut flowers for bouquets, let the plants grow tall. Alternatively, mow them to a height of four inches for a neater appearance.
Bachelor’s button is a low-maintenance plant. Once established, it takes care of itself, making it a good choice for xeriscaping. However, before you plant, be sure to check with your state’s extension service to determine if C. cyanus is prohibited in your area.
Are you familiar with bachelor’s button? Do you consider it invasive or inviting? Let us know in the comments section below.
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Product photo via Thrive Market. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!