Carthamus tinctorius ‘Shiro’ is a special selection of the annual Safflower that has been bred specifically for indoor and outdoor professional cut flower production. ‘Shiro’ feature unusual creamy-white thistle-like blooms, with round, thornless leaves and round flower buds. The stem length is uniform across the series.
Carthamus tinctorius makes an excellent, high quality cut flower and can also be used green when harvested young. Growing 80 to 100cm (32 to 40in) tall, and flowering June to August. The flower is also used for dried arrangements and is considered to be an everlasting.
Carthamus tinctorius is a hardy annual plant that can handle a lot of heat in the garden. Hardy to 0°C (32°F) and easy to grow from seed, they can simply be sown directly where they are to grow in May or June. Alternatively, for the earliest flowering seed can be sown indoors in February to April and planted outdoors at 15cm (6in) spacings.
Sowing to flowering takes around 12 to 14 weeks and can be staggered by sowing successionally through the spring. It will give a host of vibrant hues throughout summer, whether in the garden or in the vase.
Sowing: Sow indoors late February to April for flowering July to August.
Seeds may be started early indoors 6 to 8 weeks before frost-free weather. Alternatively, sow seeds directly outdoors where they are to grow after all danger of frost is past and the soil has warmed.
The plants take approximately 14 weeks to mature and bloom. Blooming can be staggered by sowing successionally through the spring.
Sow indoors 6 to 8 weeks before last frost at temperatures of around 13 to 16°C (55 to 65°F).
Sow seed into seed trays or small pots and lightly cover with a thin layer of compost. Water carefully from the base of the tray. Germination usually takes around 14 to 21 days.
Transplant when there are at least two sets of true leaves and seedlings are large enough to handle. Prick out into small pots and grow on. Transplant to the garden after the last freezing nights usually around mid May. ‘Harden off’ for 3 to 4 days before planting out.
Sow where they are to flower once temperatures reach 13 to 16°C (55 to 65°F). Surface sow to no more than 1mm (1/8in) deep. Sow the seeds 30cm (12in) apart in well-cultivated soil which has been raked to a fine tilth. Lightly cover seed.Water ground regularly, especially in dry periods. Germination will normally occur within 21 days.
Carthamus tinctorius is a long-day plant, requiring a photoperiod of about 14 hours. It grows slowly during periods of cool short days in the early part of season. It is shade intolerant so is best planted in full sun for best flowering.
The seedlings can withstand temperatures lower than many species. The plants are hardy to 0°C (32°F), however frost damages budding and flowering so protect any plants that may be close to flowering at the end of the season.
The plants thrive in heavy clays with good waterholding capacity, but will grow satisfactorily in deep sandy or clay loams with good drainage. Soils approaching neutral pH are best. They are drought tolerant but for best flowering need soil moisture from planting through to flowering.
Carthamus blooms can be cut while still in the green stage. The buds will open in the vase.
Cut the stems in the morning. Cut at a 45 degree angle with a sharp knife. Fill sterilised buckets with luke warm water and add flower food. Place the carthamus in the buckets. Leave over night to condition before using.
Keep the carthamus in a cool place. Never leave cut flowers in direct sun light, near a radiator, in a draft or near fruit. (The gas used to ripen fruit will harm most flowers).
Carthamus make an excellent dried flower. To dry, hang upside down in a warm (not hot) place with good air circulation. Drying too fast at high temps can cause browning, but drying too slowly may result in colour loss on the stems and leaves and give a less fresh appearance.
Beds and borders, City, Cottage/Informal, Flower Arranging, Low Maintenance, Wildlife
The species Carthamus tinctorius is widely used for food colouring, medicinal, culinary, herbal dyestuffs and cosmetic uses. The oil is used in paints instead of linseed oil as it does not have a yellow tint.
The oil of Carthamus tinctorius, commonly known as safflower, is used both as a food and a supplement, while the flower has a role in traditional Chinese medicine. Oil from the seed is used in salad dressings, the young leaves can be used cooked or raw.
As a Dye:
In colouring textiles, safflower's dried flowers are used as a natural textile dye. The pigment in safflower is carthamin and it is classified as a quinone-type dye. It is a direct dye which is also known as CI Natural Red 26. Yellow, mustard, khaki, and olive are the most common colours in textiles. Even bright reds and purples can be reached using alkaline processing. All natural fibers, such as cotton, wool, etc. may be dyed with this plant. Polyamide textiles can also be dyed without a mordant agent because of its wool-like chemical structure. Synthetic fibres can be dyed only in the presence of a mordant.
Safflower was used to dye the red cotton tapes of legal documents and it is the source of the expression 'Red Tape.
The orange-red flowers of safflower sometimes serve as a substitute for saffron, since they give a colour to food. They are frequently sold as saffron to tourists in Hungary or Northern Africa (and probably many other parts of the world). Their value as spice is nearly nil, but their staining capability justifies usage in the kitchen.
Dried safflower flowers are used in a lot of recipes where they help to improve the colour of broths, soups and stews, without being expected to contribute any flavour. However, many cooks are unaware between the difference between safflower and saffron, and consider the former a cheaper grade of the latter, with saffron being very expensive in some regions.
The earliest Carthamus seed remains, which are thought to be the remnants of early safflower cultivation, are from northern Syria, dating to ca. 2500 yr BC. Seeds have been found in the ca. 1325 BC tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt, and safflower garlands have also been found adorning Egyptian mummies dating to ca. 1600 BC
Safflower is believed to have been domesticated in the Fertile Crescent region, but up to ten geographic centers of similarity throughout the world have been proposed. Because it is phenotypically differentiated from its progenitor species, grown over a much larger land area, and has a long history of cultivation, safflower has been described as a “strongly domesticated” species.
The genus name Carthamus derives from the Arabic verb qurtum meaning ‘dye’, in reference to the usage of safflower flowers for textile dyeing.
The species name tinctorius is an adjective corresponding to the noun tinctor ‘dyer’, from the English verb tint.
Commonly called safflower, the word is similar in various European countries German Saflor, Finnish saflori and Bulgarian and Russian saflor. These names were derived from usfur or asfur via Old Italian asfiore and Old French saffleur. By folk etymology, the name was transformed towards 'saffron' and 'flower' (Italian fiore, French fleur).
The orange-red flowers of safflower sometimes serve as a substitute for saffron and many European languages name safflower as ‘false saffron’ - Portuguese falso-açafrão, Italian falso zafferano or French safran bâtard, meaning 'bastard saffron'.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 25 Seeds Family Asteraceae Genus Carthamus Species tinctorius Cultivar Shiro Common Name White Safflower Other Common Names False Saffron Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers Cream Natural Flower Time June to September Height 60 to 70cm (24 to 30in) Position Full sun for best flowering Soil Moist, well-drained, fertile soil is best.