AppearanceIt is an annual plant growing to 16-35 inches tall, with grey-green branched stems. The leaves are lanceolate, 1–4 cm long. The flowers are most commonly an intense blue colour, produced in flowerheads (capitula) 1.5–3 cm diameter, with a ring of a few large, spreading ray florets surrounding a central cluster of disc florets. The blue pigment is protocyanin, which in roses is red.
UsesIt is grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, where several cultivars have been selected with varying pastel colours, including pink and purple. Centaurea is also grown for the cutflower industry in Canada for use by florists. The most common colour variety for this use is a doubled blue variety such as 'Blue Boy' or 'Blue Diadem'. White, pink, lavender and black (actually a very dark maroon) are also used but less commonly. It is also occasionally used as a culinary ornament. Cornflowers have been used and prized historically for their blue pigment. Cornflowers are often used as an ingredient in some tea blends and herbal teas, and is famous in the Lady Grey blend of Twinings. Wild cornflower floral water is produced in Provence, France. It is obtained by steam distillation which can be used as a natural mild astringent and antiseptic to prevent eye infections as well as an alcohol-free natural toner. A relative, Centaurea montana, is a perennial plant which is also cultivated as a garden plant. Cornflowers germinate quickly after planting.Also the cornflower is well known as the official flower of France.
Light requirements: full sun. Water requirements: high-average water daily. Soil pH requirements: neutral (6.6-7.5) to mildly alkaline (7.6-7.8).
It flowers from June until August.
The cornflower is considered a beneficial weed, and its edible flower can be used to add colour to salads.
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