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Cornflower: Why Growing This Flower (and Herb) is a Good Idea

Photo by Maria Keays via Flickr Creative Commons

Homeowners have a lot of planting choices for a flower home garden. They can, for instance, make their garden pop by growing stargazer lilies.

Just sticking with one kind of plant for your flowerbed, though, isn’t enough. You’ll want to plant more than one type of flower to further enhance the curb appeal of your yard.

One of the plants that you can add to your garden is the cornflower. This beautiful leggy perennial can adapt to whatever condition you throw at it. Once planted and provided with some time to settle in, the blue cornflower will be there in your garden for a long time.

As a well-known naturalizing flower, the cornflower is a plant you’ll find in formal estate and country cottage gardens. Wherever you grow these clump-forming plants, they bring a wealth of color and structure. What’s more, they attract a range of garden wildlife.

What Gives a Cornflower Its Blue Hue?

Roses are red. Violets — and cornflowers — are blue. The reason behind the color of the cornflower has something to do with the structure of the plant’s pigment.

According to a study published in the journal Nature, the blue color arises from a complex of six molecules: two calcium ions, one magnesium ion, one ferric iron, a flavone molecule and an anthocyanin molecule. Scientists believe that this tetrametal complex forms into an unusual “supermolecule” in the cells of the blue cornflower.

If you happen to come across a cornflower, do spare a thought for the dedicated chemists who have spent years trying to figure out what makes this particular flower blue.

How Do You Grow and Take Care of Cornflowers?

Photo by schizoform via Flickr Creative Commons

Planting

You can buy cornflower seeds or purchase young plants from nurseries or garden centers for planting in spring.

Easy to grow from seed, cornflowers have a high success rate when you plant this flower several times during the growing season. Begin by sowing the seeds indoors. You can transplant the seedlings after winter, specifically once the danger of frost is over.

Once late spring arrives, sow a row of seeds directly in the garden. Press them in about half an inch. Then, rake them over using fresh soil and water lightly.

Although cornflowers can tolerate poor soil conditions, you should still plant them in rich, loamy soil enriched with phosphorus. This soil provides fruit and flowering plants an extra boost.

Pro-tip: you can plant other cornflower varieties in the middle of the summer for an attractive autumn display. Cornflowers come in a range of colors, which allow you to create a colorful garden.

Fertilizer

Use a balanced flower fertilizer to feed cornflowers. Do this once a month during the spring and summer months.

Check the instructions printed on the fertilizer label for proper dosage, and apply half the suggested dose. You’ll want to avoid over-fertilizing a cornflower, as this plant can be invasive if the soil is too fertile.

Watering

Water cornflowers once a week — but only do this on weeks when there’s no rainfall. If you’re going to water this plant, let the soil dry out slightly between watering sessions. Never allow the soil to become too dry, though, as the cornflower may flop over if you neglect to water it.

Pest and Disease Control

Check the cornflower’s foliage regularly for signs of powdery mildew and aphids. You can get rid of aphids manually with a hard spray of water.

As for powdery mildew, you can identify an infected cornflower by a white coating on the leaves along with brown and wilted foliage. Take out the infected flowers and burn them as soon as possible to prevent the disease from spreading to other plants.

What to Do with Cornflowers After Flowering

Cornflowers attract beautiful butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects in your garden. Photo by tdlucas5000 via Flickr Creative Commons

You can cut cornflowers and turn them into a bouquet if you’d like. When making a fresh bouquet, cut newly opened blooms early in the morning. Then, set the stems in a jar of warm water immediately.

Next, take out the flower’s lower leaves that might foul the water. After that, arrange the cornflowers in a vase. Don’t forget to add fresh water to the vase. Cornflowers can last up to a week (or even longer) if you mix in some floral preservative to the vase water.

Alternatively, you could leave the cornflowers in your garden. Apart from making your garden the talk of the town, the flowers will attract butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects.

What are Other Uses for Cornflower?

Cornflower isn’t just an ordinary flower. It’s an herbal garden plant.

Believe it or not, you can use the dried flowers of this beautiful plant to make medicine. People take cornflower tea to treat water retention, constipation and fever. They also drink the tea as a stimulant for the gallbladder and liver. Women take it for vaginal yeast infections and menstrual disorders.

Important note: although you have the option to use cornflower to make medicine, you should still consult with a medical professional before taking any kind of herb.

You can use cornflower in cooking. You can add this plant to butter lettuce and other veggies to whip up a mixed salad. Adding cornflower to flavor your cakes is also a good idea.

Cornflower goes beyond beautifying your garden. You can take advantage of the plant’s health benefits and therapeutic value.

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