What are Bachelor Buttons?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Bachelor buttons are bright blue annual flowers with distinctively ragged blooms and a somewhat rakish growth habit. These plants are commonly included in wildflower mixtures, and they are also sown alone in tight clusters which will provide a burst of color when the flowers start to bloom. Many garden supply stores carry bachelor button seeds, and some also carry starts and seedlings, although these flowers tend to grow best from seed. In some regions, these flowers grow wild along the roadside and in meadows.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

These flowers are also known as cornflowers or Centaurea cyanus. In addition to classic blue, they also come in white, pink, and shades of purple, with some cultivars growing up to three feet (one meter) in height, while others are more compact and low to the ground. Like many wildflowers, bachelors buttons tend to look a bit ragged while they grow, but this is part of their charm; they lend themselves well to an informal flower garden or a butterfly garden.

Ideally, bachelor buttons should be grown in full sun, although gardeners can plant them in other areas of the garden with varying levels of success. It can help to prepare the soil with compost or fertilizer before seeding, and to fertilize and water periodically during the growing season, but these plants are very hardy, and sometimes they can survive even if they are a bit neglected. They generally cannot be shaped or pruned, although gardeners can cut flowers to encourage the plant to produce more.

Seeds can be sown in the late fall or early spring. People who live in very cold climates may want to wait until the spring, or consider sprouting bachelor buttons inside a greenhouse and planting the seedlings out after the worst of the winter weather has passed. These flowers are annuals, so they will die off after the summer, but they also reseed themselves, and they may appear again in the next year without any effort on the part of the gardener. Bachelor buttons will also tend to spread across the garden after a few years.

These colorful flowers tend to look best when they are grown as a clump. They can be paired with other wildflowers such as coneflowers, asters, black-eyed-Susans, cosmos, hollyhocks, bluebells, goldenrod, larkspur, poppies, yarrox, and phlox, among many others. Bachelor buttons make excellent cut flowers for bouquets, buttonholes, and flower arrangements, and they also take readily to drying, for people who like to work with dried flowers.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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