Highly prized for their brilliant blue flowers, the soft, frilly double blossoms with fringed petals and delicate gray-green feather foliage, cornflowers are ideal in a vase along with zinnias, calendula and other brightly colored cutting garden blossoms. Two of the most common varieties of Bachelor Buttons grown by the cut flower industry are “Blue Boy” or “Blue Diadem”, along with “Black Ball” which is a dark burgundy cornflower, especially striking with ornamental grasses.
Learn the best practices for wildflower planting with expert tips from the 'Seed Man'
All About Cornflower: Origins and Uses
Cornflowers are sometimes referred to by their nickname, "bachelor's button" due to an old practice when men wore a cornflower in a buttonhole of their suit, indicating they are in love or they were ready for courting. Cornflowers, or Bachelor Buttons, are also used as boutonnieres in weddings, often worn by the groom and his best man which is a more modern twist on this traditional symbol of love and devotion.
Called ‘Bluet’ in England and ‘Bluebonnet’ in Scotland, in North America Cornflowers are sometimes called Ragged Robin, or Ragged Sailor because of the shaggy petals. They are one of the few true blue flowers that are also edible, imparting a sweet cucumber like taste. In the garden, they are visually stunning planted with brightly colored Nasturtiums, Marigold and California Poppies. In a vase, they blend well with Snapdragons, Sweet William and Love-in-a-Mist (or Nigella)
The cornflower shape and brilliant blue color is similar to chicories, and has many associations throughout the world; it is the national flower of Estonia, representing the Estonian political party, and a symbol for social liberalism with the Swedish National Party. The blue cornflower also plays a role in German history, thanks to Queen Luis of Prussia who purportedly hid her children in a field of cornflowers when she fled Berlin.
The story is told that she kept them quiet by weaving wreaths made from the flowers. To honor her courage and resourcefulness, the Cornflower blue was adopted for the uniforms of the Prussian army. In France, the cornflower is a common symbol for veterans of World War to wear, as a reminder of the 1918 Armistice, similar to the remembrance of poppies worn in the UK and Canada.
All About Cornflower: In the Garden
Cornflowers are best grown in drifts or clumps since their stems are slender and flowers not much bigger than a quarter. Flowering starts early since they are relatively cold hardy and can be one of the first transplants in the garden. Expect first blooms in early to mid-summer and if spent blossoms are kept trimmed, will continue all summer. Butterflies and bees adore them, which is a good reason to be sure that Cornflowers are in every home garden or wildflower meadow.