Cornflower – characteristics, cultivation and use

A bee on a cornflower
A bee on a cornflower

The cornflower was formerly considered a field weed and was so successfully fought that it is almost extinct. Therefore, it was under nature protection. In the meantime, they are more frequently encountered on organically cultivated field margins. Today, its stock has recovered a bit and it is no longer considered vulnerable. Its bright blue flowers are now more likely to be found in gardens than in cornfields, as many gardeners have also given a chance to survive.

Profile of cornflower:

Scientific name: Centaurea cyanus

Plant family: asters (Asteraceae)

Other names: bachelor’s button, corn-flower

Sowing time / Planting time: March – April

Flowering period: May – September

Harvest time: May – September

Useful plant parts: flowers

Location: sunny

Soil quality: humus rich and well drained soil

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: bladder problems, indigestion, bile problems, nervousness

Use as aromatic herb: wild herb salads (flowers)

Plant characteristics and classification of cornflower

Origin and occurrence of cornflower

The cornflower originally comes from the southeastern Mediterranean area. It is believed to have been naturalized throughout Central Europe by travelers carrying the seeds, and it has been growing on crop fields in many places since then. This circumstance has already earned her the name cornflower in the Middle Ages.

The cornflower is often found near or at the edge of crop fields It grows above all in locations that are open and rather poor in nutrients. Occasionally, it is found wild on brownfields as well as in the wastelands.

Plant order of cornflower

The cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) belongs to the large plant family of the daisy family (Asteraceae). For some years, instead of the botanical name Centaurea cyanus also Cyanus segetum is used, the former is clear and commonly known. Relatives is the cornflower with the dandelion, the marigold or the coltsfoot.

The genus Centaurea (bluets) is very diverse and includes more than 350 species. Known species of this genus are the common knapweed (Centaurea nigra), the brown knapweed (Centaurea jacea) or the yellow star-thistle (Centaurea solstitialis). Some of these species play a certain role in naturopathy.

Characteristics of cornflower


Cornflowers are annual and oogamous (two-sexed). They reach stature heights between 40 and 90 cm (15 and 35 in), depending on the location. With its slender roots, it usually reaches up to 30 cm (12 in) deep into the ground.


The alternate leaves of the cornflower look different. The near-ground are usually larger than the leaves on the upper stem. While the lower leaves are slightly sawn, the upper ones are usually narrow, lanceolate and entire. All leaves are slightly hairy and feel downey.


The flowering time of the cornflower is to be expected in the free nature mostly between end of May to middle of September. There the wild form of the plant shows blue to slightly violet flowers. As the cornflower is a member of the daisy family, the inflorescences are accordingly cup-shaped and usually consist of about 30 so-called tubular flowers. In the center of the flower stand the violet-colored bracts.


From the basket blossoms, the typical achene fruits develop for fruit ripening. Each fruit has a hairy pappus, which serves to spread by wind. The fruit itself is whitish to yellowish.

blossom of a cornflower
blossom of a cornflower

Cornflower – cultivation and care


The cornflower grows best in sunny locations.


Optimal are humus-rich, well-drained, loose and slightly calcareous soils, whereby also nutrient-poor and partly sandy soils are tolerated. In the garden, the cornflower should not be grown on very nutrient-rich soil.


Since the cornflower needs cold to germ, the months from March to April are best for sowing. Staggering the sowing dates will extend the flowering time. The seeds should be thinly covered with soil after spreading and kept moist. Germination takes place within ten to fourteen days. In warm climates it is worth sowing cornflowers in September for an early flowering next year.


If the cornflower grows on an intact garden soil, it usually does not need to be fertilized. In potted crops as well as in some nutrient-poorer locations, however, good N-P-K fertilizers or compost can be added into the soil shortly before flowering in weak doses. If the cornflower is to grow in the same place for several years, some compost or manure can be incorporated into the soil in late autumn.


Basically, the cornflower is more adapted to drier locations. Above all, it should be watered after long dry periods or on very hot days in the evening. Care should be taken that the soils are not too humid. Waterlogging should be avoided in any case.


Special care instructions are not to be observed in the cornflower. Anyone who regularly cuts off faded flowers will enjoy the summer flower for a long time, because it is constantly shoot new flowers.


Cornflowers are annuals that die off after fruit ripeness and have no direct survival organs. Overwintering measures therefore do not have to be taken.

Use of cornflower

Cornflower in the kitchen

In the kitchen, only the flowers are used, though mostly for decorative reasons. The flowers are edible. The small single flowers are quite tasty and have a slightly spicy taste. The fresh and young petals put in a salad, is not only a beautiful edible decoration, but also promotes digestion and is slightly diuretic.

Cornflower blossoms are used on desserts, cakes or wild herb salads. Chefs, who attach great importance to a decorative look in the arrangement of their food, use the flowers for cold plates.

The leaves are not used because because of their bitter substances and tannins.

Cornflower as a medicinal herb

The cornflower was long considered a universal medicinal plant and was used both internally and externally. Badly healing wounds, fever and eye diseases were the main areas of application. Nowadays it does not play a major role in medicine anymore, as there are many other medicinal plants with a larger spectrum of activity.

The flowers are therefore rarely used pure, but usually in combination with other medicinal herbs. Thanks to its many active ingredients, it can be used as a weed for countless ailments. In many tea blends, for example, it is used as a so-called coloring agent, as it visually enhances it.

blue flower of cornflower
blue flower of cornflower

Cornflower can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • acne
  • badly healing wounds
  • bile
  • bitters
  • bruise
  • conjunctivitis
  • constipation
  • corneal ulcers
  • cough
  • dandruff
  • edema
  • eye inflammation
  • fever
  • gout
  • headache
  • indigestion
  • insect bites
  • itching
  • intestinal problems
  • jaundice
  • kidney weakness
  • liver weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • menstrual cramps
  • oral mucositis
  • rheumatism
  • spider bites
  • stomach upset
  • tonic

Medicinal properties

  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-rheumatic
  • appetizing
  • astringent
  • blood purifier
  • cough soothing
  • diuretic
  • draining
  • expectorant
  • toning

The flowers and the herb are rarely used pure. Especially tea extracts and tinctures are served, less often envelopes. As a rule, cornflower constituents are mixed with other medicinal herbs. For example, yarrow, centaury or peppermint may be added as ingredients for a tea for indigestion.

Preparation of a cornflower tea

  • put 1 tablespoon of flowers in a cup
  • dash with hot water
  • let brew for 10 minutes and strain

Promotes appetite, strengthens digestion, bile and liver. A cup is drunk before meals.

Cornflower flowers are usually added only to other tea blends (such as cough teas).

Cornflower bath

Tea baths help with skin diseases and itchy skin.

Two daily footbaths help against edema.

Cornflower face lotion

A tea with 3 tablespoons on a cup can be used as toner for impure or irritated skin.

Blue flower tincture

As a component of tinctures, cornflower is a popular ingredient. A well-known application is the „blue flower tincture“. Traditionally, the blue flowers of nine different medicinal plants are used. These can be for example ysop, lavender, chicory, ground ivy, speedwell, borage, thyme or other herbs. The tincture should be especially helpful in restlessness, nervousness, stress and difficulty concentrating.

Preparation of cornflower tincture

  • put dried or fresh flowers in a sealable glass
  • fill with 40% alcohol, for example vodka, until all flowers are completely covered
  • let it rest in a shady spot for three to four weeks, occasionally gently shaking it
  • pass the tincture through a fine sieve or cloth and fill it with bottles of amber glass, for example in dropper bottles

If necessary, ten to fifteen drops of the tincture are diluted up to three times daily with water or tea

Cornflowers are still used as a home remedy for some eye complaints. Since homemade eye drops are associated with some dangers (foreign bodies, bacteria), one should back away from own production.

Side effects

There are currently no known risks associated with the use of cornflower preparations. However, people who are allergic to daisy family should first discuss the use of cornflower with a doctor or pharmacist.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Cornflower – What to pay attention to?

Fresh plants can be rarely found in special garen markets, DIY makrets and online. The prices is about 4 EUR /$. However, as most seed producers offer cornflowers in different varieties, seeds can be purchased much easier. The prices for seeds is about 2 EUR / $.

For the decoration of desserts or salads as well as for the preparation of teas, some manufacturers offer cornflower blossoms. The flowers should be packed in aroma-tight and at best originate come organic farming.

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