Centaurea macrocephala is a magnificent perennial that ideal for providing vertical interest in a sunny, well-drained herbaceous border. The golden-yellow shaggy thistle-like blooms are on strong stems and mid-green, lance-shaped leaves are followed by attractive seed heads.
Also known as Armenian Basket Flower it is a reference to the woven base below the petals, which adds an interesting texture to the garden and for cutting. When dried the seed heads are excellent for use in flower arrangements.
Growing 100 to 160cm tall (3 to 5ft) high this is an excellent plant for the back of the border. It has a long flowering period, from mid summer to early autumn and will attract lots of butterflies and other insects to the garden. The attractive seed heads will also provide food for birds.
Extremely hardy, it prefers a sunny location and well-drained soil it is quite tolerant of dry conditions but dislikes being divided or moved once established.
Sowing: Sow February to May or September to November
Sow seeds in about one month before you want to plant the seedlings outdoors
Fill individual peat pots, seed-starting flats or cells, or 7cm (3in) pot with a commercial seed-starting mix. Moisten the mix by standing the container in water, then let it drain.
Sow the seeds in rows in the flats. Sow 3 to 4 seeds per pot and cover the seeds with a 1cm (1/2in) layer - centaureas need darkness to germinate. Use a fine spray to moisten the top.Cover the containers with clear plastic to keep the mix moist while the seeds are germinating and place in a warm location, around 20°C (70°F). Germination of perennial cornflowers takes 3 to 4 weeks.
When the seedlings emerge, remove the plastic covers and put the pots in a sunny location or under grow-lights. Water as needed to keep the mix moist (not soggy).
When seedlings are about 5cm (2in) tall and have at least one pair of true leaves, snip off all but the strongest plant in each pot at soil level. (The first set of leaves is known as cotyledon leaves—they usually do not resemble the true leaf shapes of the plants.) Fertilise the seedlings once while they are growing indoors with a weak water-soluble fertiliser.
Transplant on a calm, cloudy day, so the plants can begin to get acclimatised before having to contend with sun and wind. Although they are not too particular about fertility, you may want to dig some compost or dried manure into the soil before planting: a 2 to 5cm (1to 2in) layer should do.
Plant in full or partial sun in any average soil. Give them room to spread, space about 60cm (24in) apart. Place them in the mix at the same level they were growing originally. Water the planting well.
Fertilise the plants monthly with a balanced fertiliser or use a slow-release plant food at transplanting time. Water infrequently; Centaureas are drought tolerant, and the stems actually get rather floppy if the soil is too moist. Remove spent flowers to keep the plants producing new blooms.
The plant dislikes being divided or moved once established. Division is usually most successful while plants aren’t in active growth in spring or autumn. Keep well-watered afterwards.
Flowers Borders and Beds, Patio/Container Plants, Wildflower Gardens or Wildlife Gardens Cut or Dried Flower. Bee plant, First Year Flowering
Cut and Dried Flowers:
Freshly cut blooms last 4 to 5 days. Cut the blooms in early morning when they are half open and strip the lower leaves from the stems.
To dry, pick them in late morning or in the afternoon. Select flowers that have just opened or they will drop their petals when dry. Air-dry the flowers: tie in bunches and hang upside down in an airy, dark place for 2 to 3 weeks.
Centaurea is a genus of between 350 and 600 species of herbaceous thistle-like flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. Members of the genus are found only north of the equator, mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere; the Middle East and surrounding regions are particularly species-rich.
Centaurea comes to us from the Centaur Chiron, who cured a festering wound that was made with an arrow dipped in the Hydra's blood. The wound was cured by covering it with the flowers of this plant, which now bears his name as its genus name. This also gave the plant its reputation for great healing properties.
The species name macrocephala is derived from the Greek makros meaning 'large' and kephale, 'head' – so meaning ‘with a large head’
Common names for this genus are starthistles, knapweeds, centaureas and the more ambiguous "bluets"; a vernacular name used for these plants in parts of England is "loggerheads". The Plectocephalus group, possibly a distinct genus, is known as basketflowers. "Cornflowers" is used for a few species, but that term more often specifically means C. cyanus. And while one sometimes finds the name ‘centauries’, this properly refers to the unrelated plant genus Centaurium
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 60 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 60 to 65 seeds per gram Family Asteraceae Genus Centaurea Species macrocephala Cultivar Wildflower of Britain and Ireland Synonym Grossheimia macrocephala Common Name Great Headed Centaury Other Common Names Globe Knapweed, Armenian Basketflower. Other Language Names centaurée kornblomst fiordaliso Korenbloem Kornblume chaber Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Golden-yellow shaggy thistle-like Natural Flower Time Long flowering period, from mid summer to early autumn Height 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) Spread 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) Position Full sun or Partial shade Aspect West or South Facing. Exposed or Sheltered. Soil Well-drained (Acid, Alkaline or Neutral) Time to Sow Sow February to May or September to November Germination 3 to 4 weeks.