C. cyanus, the blue cornflower is a slender plant of great charm. The upper half of the plant is multi-stemmed, producing many flowers. Its rich shades of blue are much sought after, for both garden decoration and flower arrangements.
Cornflower once occurred throughout the UK. Between 1930 and 1960 it was recorded in 264 sites. Today, self-sustaining populations are thought to be confined to just three sites. (Suffolk, Lincolnshire and the Isle of Wight). Isolated plants still occur over a large area of the south and east of England and in Wales, many of which are due to introductions from wildflower seed mixtures.
Modern intensive agriculture is to blame for the Cornflower's drastic decline. The increased use of herbicides and fertilisers, the development of highly competitive crop varieties, the destruction of field-edges, the demise of traditional crop rotations and the conversion of marginal arable land to pasture have all helped to destroy populations of one of our most attractive summer flowers.
In Britain cornflower is now classified as Endangered. It receives general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Sowing: Sow in August to September for early summer flowering the next year or sow directly where they are to flower in March to April
Sowing Direct: Sow thinly, 3mm (1/8in) deep in drills 30cm (12in) apart in well-cultivated soil which has been raked to a fine tilth. Water ground regularly, especially in dry periods. When large enough to handle, thin out seedlings to 15cm (6in) apart
Sowing Indoors: Sow in pots or trays of moist seed compost and cover with a very fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. After sowing, do not exclude light as this helps germination. Keep at 15-20*C (59-68*F). Keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged. Germination will usually take 14-21 days. When they are large enough to handle, transplant the seedlings into 7cm (3in) pots or trays. Overwinter plants in cool, light, frost-free conditions before planting out the following spring, or grow on as greenhouse pot plants.
Cultivation: This fully hardy plant requires a sunny site, growing in most well-drained soil types, even poor soil.
Do not over fertilise because this will lead to excessive leaf growth at the expense of blossoms. Cornflowers bloom more when crowded. The wiry plants may need some discreet support, and deadheading helps to prolong the flowering season.
Plant Uses: Flowers Borders and Beds, Patio/Container Plants, Wildflower Gardens or Wildlife Gardens, Naturalizing, Cut Flower, Attracts Butterflies, Drought Tolerant Everlasting (use for drying and pressing, Cornflowers retain their colours when dried)
Other Uses: Cornflowers are prized historically for their blue pigment. Cornflowers are often used as an ingredient in tea and is famous in the Lady Grey blend of Twinings.
Nomenclature: The name “Cornflower” comes from the fact that the plant grows wild in the grain fields of southern Europe. Other plants named for their association with grain fields are corn-cockle, corn poppy and corn marigold In folklore, cornflowers were worn by young men in love; if the flower faded too quickly, it was taken as a sign that the man's love was unrequited
Other common names: Ragged sailor, Witches' bells, Happy skies, Haw dods, Hurtsickle, Cornbottle, Corn centaury, French pink, Brushes, Bunk, Corn binks, Blue tops, Bluets, Break-your-spectacles, Blue bow, Blue poppy, Blue sailors, Blue blaw, Blue bonnets, Bluebottle, Barbeau, Blaver, Blawort
History: 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
|Average Seed Count||No|
|Cultivar||Wildflower of the British Isles|
|Common Name||Cornflower, Bachelors Button, Ragged Robin|
|Other Common Names||other|
|Flowers||Blue between May and August.|
|Natural Flower Time||No|
|Time to Harvest||No|
|Soil||Well-drained (Acid, Alkaline or Neutral)|
|Time to Sow||No|