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Meadowmat wildflower species: cornflower

Cornflower (Centaurea Cyanus)

The favourite flower of John F. Kennedy (as well as a popular choice here at Meadowmat), cornflower is an intensely blue wildflower that can grow up to 35 inches tall with lanceolate leaves of between 1-4cm. It is also known alternatively as Bachelor’s Button or blue-bottle.

How to grow cornflowers in the garden

Though it is an annual flowering plant, cornflower is best sown from early to mid-spring to ensure an early summer bloom. It is noted on the RHS Perfect for Pollinators Plant List under the June-August months and can grow in any good garden soil, so long as it’s positioned in a place of full sun (it can also grow in mild winters as well). If you want the cornflower to flower all through the summer then, as with sweet peas, they need to be cut constantly. Cut them just before they open fully, when the centre of the flower is still dipping inwards.

cornflower with bumblebee

A bumblebee feeds from a bright blue cornflower

Cornflower grows in an upright posture which allows it to fit into tight spaces and, because the nectar is unusually sweet, it is a preferred food source for many beneficial insects such as butterflies and bees. The rice-sized seeds are also a favourite of goldfinches, tits and sparrows.

Cornflowers in the wild

A native species of Europe and once grown as a weed in crop fields, this beautiful wildflower has since become endangered by agricultural intensification in the UK, particularly with the overuse of herbicides destroying its native habitat; in the UK there are only three sites left for cornflower, compared to 264 sites over 50 years ago. Despite this, it is now naturalised as an ornamental garden plant in many other countries, including North America, Canada and Australia.

cornflowers in meadowmat

Truly wild cornflowers are rare in the UK.  These are growing in Meadowmat for Birds and Bees

Traditional uses for cornflowers

Considered a beneficial weed, cornflower is an edible flower and can be added to salads; it is also often used as an ingredient in various herbal teas and tea blends, most notably in the Lady Grey blend of Twinings. In Russia, it is added to vodka to give the drink a bluish tint and slightly spicy taste.

The wildflower is also used in herbalism, where it is decocted to create an effective wash for tired eyes and conjunctivitis. Cornflower tea can also be made. This is used to treat fever, water retention and chest congestion, though anyone who is sensitive to daisies, marigolds or any other members of the Asteraceae/Compositae family, should check for allergies with a healthcare provider before using this wildflower in a medicinal capacity.

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