Mountain cornflower – characteristics, cultivation and use

Mountain cornflower
Mountain cornflower (Centaurea montana)

The mountain cornflower convinces with colorful and especially rare flowers. Because of its undemanding nature and its ease of care, it is even very suitable for new gardeners. It decorates the colorful bed or the romantic cottage garden with rural charm. In order for the native perennial to show its full beauty, only a few care measures are important. Read here how to properly water, fertilize, prune and overwinter the montane knapweed.

Mountain cornflower has become rare in nature so it is not allowed to be picked or harvestet in its natural distribution

Profile of mountain cornflower:

Scientific name: Centaurea montana

Plant family: daisy or aster family (Asteraceae), subfamily centaurea flowers (genus Centaurea)

Other names: perennial cornflower, bachelor’s button, montane knapweed, mountain bluet

Sowing time: March to April

Planting time: Spring to Summer

Flowering period: May to June

Harvest time:

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutritious

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: constipation, digestive diseases, eye inflammation, laxative, loss of appetite

Use in: flower beds, bouquets, overgrowth, borders, cottage garden, flower garden, natural garden, forest garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3 (-40 °C / -35 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of mountain cornflower

Plant order, origin and occurrence of mountain cornflower

The mountain cornflower (Centaurea montana) is a plant species of the centaurea flowers (Centaurea), which includes around 450 to 500 species worldwide. They all belong to the large daisy family (Asteraceae). The common distribution area of the montane knapweed extends over the mountain regions of Central and Southern Europe, where it grows on the edges of forests or under light woods. In the 16th century, Centaurea montana found its way into the gardens of Europe and is now an ornamental plant among the most common bedding plants in the cottage and natural garden.

Characteristics of mountain cornflower

Plant

The mountain cornflower is a perennial, herbaceous plant that slowly but steadily spreads with its roots. The apperance is bushy. The stems are mostly undivided and hairy felty. Centaurea montana reaches heights of 30 to 50 centimeters (12 and 20 in). In contrast to its relative, the cornflower, the mountain cornflower is perennial and hardy.

Leaves

The leaves of the montane knapweed are undivided, egg-shaped to lanceolate and gray-green to dark green in color. They are silky hairy.

Blossoms

The buds of mountain cornflower are encased in closely spaced scales, the edges of which are covered with striking, dark brown or black bristles. Between May and June, Centaura montana shows beautiful flower heads in royal blue. They are put together of expansive, five-pointed tongue flowers on the edge and reddish-purple tubular flowers in the middle.

Fruit

Mountain cornflower forms small seeds with pappus after flowering.

Mountain cornflower – cultivation and care

Location

The mountain cornflower thrives best in the sun or in the light half-shade of trees or walls.

Soil

The soil should be sandy to loamy, nutritious and may be slightly acidic or slightly alkaline. It can also handle calcareous soils without any problems. If the mountain cornflower is in a sunny place, the soil can be a little damp. On the other hand, the plant does not like compacted or waterlogged soil at all.

Sowing / Propagation

The plant can easily be propagated both by sowing and by dividing an existing mountain cornflower. If the rootstock of the plant is to be divided for propagation, this should ideally take place in autumn or early spring. The montane knapweed is also self-seed. Another way to multiply the flower is by cuttings.

Flower of mountain cornflower
Flower of mountain cornflower

Planting

You can sow the mountain cornflower in the loosened soil in spring. As the perennial forms runners, it should only be planted where its urge to spread is welcome, for example in near-natural beds or on the edge of wood. When planting, the recommended planting distance is 40 centimeters (16 in), which means that there are six plants per square meter.

Watering

The mountain cornflower copes well with drought.

Fertilization

The mountain cornflower needs little, if any, fertilization. As an organic fertilizer, compost is a very good choice. It is entirely sufficient if the plant is fertilized once in early spring and once in autumn. Then it is usually supplied with enough nutrients. A long-term bloom fertilizer can also be used as an alternative to compost. Ideally, this fertilizer contains a comparatively high proportion of phosphorus, since this favors the formation of new flowers. The plant is also pleased with pond water for irrigation and for simultaneous fertilization.

Care

The montane knapweed is a very easy-care plant. It is sufficient if the hobby gardener simply cuts off all the flowered components of the plant. This helps that more flowers can form even faster. If you want to cut off the flower for the vase, you can also do this and admire the beautiful floral decoration outside and inside. Even then, the flowers grow very well for about 4 weeks. Pruning the plant can also ensure that it does not seed itself and can inadvertently spread in your garden.

A pruning back of the leaves is possible in autumn, but not a must. After all, the plant is very happy if it can pull in its leaves by itself. This process ultimately helps to ensure that some of the contents and nutrients from the leaves can be taken up again by the roots. Thanks to these reserves, the mountain cornflower can get off to a particularly powerful start in spring.

Diseases and pests

Downy mildew is a problem for montane knapweed if it rains over a longer period of time. However, there are ways to prevent this from happening early. It is best to stir a tea from the leaves of the horsetail. This brew contains silica, which can not only stabilize but also strengthen the leaves.

If, on the other hand, powdery mildew has already occurred, the use of special bio-spraying agents is recommended, which are easily available from specialist retailers. It also makes sense if the infected plants are shortened to their base. This gives the mountain cornflower the opportunity to sprout again with healthy flowers and leaves. Rust and aphids can occasionally be found.

Wintering

Mountain cornflower has adapted perfectly to the local temperature and ambient conditions. After all, the flower also grows at an altitude of 2,000 or more meters (6,600 ft. and above), where icy temperatures can sometimes prevail in winter. The flower therefore does not need winter protection, as it is considered to be fully hardy and will bloom again next year.

Harvesting

Mountain cornflower is protected in many areas and must not be collected in nature!!!

Flowers that have just opened are being harvested. They can be plucked, but these must be dried quickly but gently so that the blue color is retained. It doesn’t always work.

You can also harvest the herb with the flowers and dry it as a bundle in a shady and airy place, so the blue color is preserved best. After drying, the flowers are plucked or the calyx and flower base are removed.

The dried flowers must be stored in the dark, as light quickly bleaches out the dried flowers.

Use in the garden

Mountain cornflower is an attractive and easy-care perennial for the cottage garden or nature gardens. There they are valued not only for their cornflower-blue flowers, but also as a valuable bee pasture: the montane knapweed attracts bees, butterflies and other insects to come in flocks to the garden. It is also a beautiful and durable cut flower for the vase.

Use of the mountain cornflower

Mountain cornflower as a medicinal herb

In folk medicine, mountain cornflower was used in the past in a wide variety of applications. Whether as a laxative, for loss of appetite or for eye infections, the herb has been used as a very versatile remedy. The following list shows other possible uses for the medicinal herb.

Mountain cornflower can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • constipation
  • digestive diseases
  • dropsy
  • eye inflammation
  • inflammation
  • intestinal sluggishness
  • laxative
  • loss of appetite
  • skin care
  • tonic

Although the mountain cornflower has been used primarily as a digestive aid in the past due to its laxative, astringent and appetite-promoting effects, the plant is said to have other properties that are equally relevant to medicine. These characteristic properties of the mountain knapweed are as follows.

Medicinal properties

  • appetite enhancing
  • astringent
  • anti-inflammatory
  • cough suppressant
  • digestive
  • diuretic
  • laxative
  • menstrual promoting

Incidentally, in order to be able to savor the healing effects of mountain cornflower, it cannot simply be picked wild. Because the plant has become very rare in its natural distribution, which is why the mountain cornflower is protected accordingly. However, if you want to cultivate it in your own garden based on the healing powers it is said to have, you can do so without any problems. The formerly popular medicinal herb was replaced by many other plants in modern herbal medicine and is hardly of any importance today.

Preparation of a mountain cornflower tea

Dash 250 ml of hot water over 1 tablespoon of flowers, let steep for 10 minutes and strain.

The tea promotes appetite, strengthens digestion, bile and liver. One cup is drunk before meals.

Mountain knapweed blossoms are usually only added to other tea blends, e.g. cough teas.

Preparation of a mountain cornflower tea envelopes

Compresses with the tea help with swollen eyes and eye diseases.

According to popular belief, the mountain cornflower is particularly effective for people with blue eyes.

Gargle with mountain cornflower

Gargling with the tea helps with mouth sores.

Side effects

There are people who are allergic to daisies. Do not use during pregnancy and lactation.

Disclaimer:

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

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