Annuals For Your Garden: Bachelor Buttons

Ilona Erwin

This is one of those flowers that inhabit my childhood memories.
The gangly plants grew in a crowd and the signature cornflower blue flowers were always called “Bachelor Buttons” by my mom even though there are other nicknames. Cornflower, Basket flower, or Blue-bottle may be how you know them.

Grayish foliage and a tall flexible stem topped by the pretty, ragged petaled blooms could be picked with impunity for impromptu gifts. It never mars the garden picture to cut numerous stems for your vase. They make a pretty country bouquet for the table.

Centaurea cyanus is one of the old fashioned flowers that our mothers, grandmothers and on back had planted for their ease, and perhaps sentimental value. I am sure, too, because their blue was relatively rare.
Mixed colors of Bachelor Buttons
No trouble was needed to grow them. Direct sowing anywhere a little color was wanted, supplied plenty of easy care flowers. Succession plantings can be made to give a recurring round of cut flowers.

If You Wish To Grow Centaurea Cyanus

Seeds come in selected colors of blue or mixed shades, mainly a dark maroon, blues, white, and pinks.

Each packet will come with sowing directions. Follow those for suggested planting times in your section of the country.

They are hardy annuals, so you may even fall plant for early flowers next season.


  • Soil: average, well drained
  • Moisture: Medium.Plant tolerates drought, but needs moisture to continue optimum bloom.
  • Light: Full sun
  • Native to Britain, Europe
  • Germination time: one to five weeks; darkness.
  • Direct sown is best, but can be transplanted.
  • Like neutral to alkaline soil
  • Deadheading prolongs bloom
  • Use as catchcrop.

Sow seeds about 1/2 inch deep in good garden soil in a sunny place. Keep regularly moist for germination, which occurs in about 7 to 10 days in 60-70 degree temperatures.

Succession Planting

Planting at staggered times is succession planting, it gives a wave of peak blooms to keep the color coming. Bachelor Buttons are one of the annuals that benefit from this method rather than reviving by “cutting back”.

In Your Garden

Best used for cutting gardens, but useful also when you want some extra color in the main garden.

They have a wildflower, informal look, ideal for cottage and country gardens. Pretty when sown amongst other plants.

Bachelor buttons growing by fence

photo source: Things I Like.. by Dani

Grown in American gardens since Colonial times, they can be included in many types of period plans. Along fences, in the vegetable patch ( they attract insects to themselves and away from crops), sprinkled in containers, mixed with other annuals.

Bachelor Buttons got their name from the long-lasting quality of the flower when it was cut, and especially its use as a buttonhole flower of young single men going “a-courting”.
You can dry the flowers by hanging in bunches upside down in an airy, low light place.

Native to Europe, they once grew wild in fields, but now are found mostly in gardens.



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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.