It is a survivor, bachelor’s button. Centaurea cyanus is easy to grow in even terrible soil. The photographs featured here were taken on the side of the road in hard-packed clay.
Centaurea cyanus is called bachelor’s button because young men would wear it when they were in love.
If the flower faded too quickly, it was a sign the young man’s love would not last. Centaurea cyanus is also known as cornflower because it commonly grew in cornfields. There are tons more stories about bachelor’s button should you have interest in its historical connection to human history. (It was apparently John F. Kennedy’s favorite flower and bachelor’s button was also found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen).
Growing bachelor’s button in the garden
Bachelor’s button is easy to grow and reseeds freely once established. It likes full sun but can handle a little shade. It tends to get floppy as it progresses through the season. More sun will equal stronger stems. Some people grow bachelor’s button through a peony ring to stabilize the stems, but this seems way out of character for such a loose and informal plant. If it is too casual for a space to flop around a bit I would plant something else.
You don’t need to worry about supplemental watering. The best way to include it in the garden is from seed. Sow after danger of frost is past (or a little before). It takes a week or two for the seed to germinate. You can deadhead to extend the flowering season, but I wouldn’t bother once a good patch gets going.
Best in cottage, prairie, or informal gardens.
Plant type: Annual
Native status: non-native, native to Europe and Asia
Bloom period: April-June (zone 8) – extended season with deadheading
Winter hardiness: Annual – can be grown in USDA zones 2-11
Of note: Easy to grow. Naturalizing. Non-native but not considered invasive. An old-fashioned flower that is gorgeous in the natural landscape. Grows in disturbed environments (road-sides, fallow fields).