Cultivation and characteristics of the cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

Legend has it that Cyanos , a young and beautiful Roman very devoted to the Goddess Flora and who was very fond of the color blue, died suddenly while walking through a wheat field. The Goddess, moved by such an untimely death and grateful for the devotion that the young man professed to her, turned him into a beautiful blue flower to which she gave the boy’s name.

Legends aside, the cornflower , whose scientific name is  Centaurea cyanus,  is a herbaceous plant of the Asteraceae family and classified in the genus  Centaurea.  In its origin it grew wild in the cereal fields of Europe and its seeds have been adapting to all types of climate so that today they can be found on all continents.

It is popularly known by countless common names , and the most used are: cornflower, tile, sky flower, azulete, lanterns of the Virgin, escobilla, cabezudo or lantern from the fields.

Despite its humble origin, the cornflower flower has a great weight in the popular culture of some countries, it is not for nothing that it is the national flower of Estonia and in France it is the symbol of the «Associations of former combatants». It was also John F. Kennedy’s favorite flower, and his son used it at his wedding as a beautiful tribute to his father.


The cornflower, in addition to the beauty of its flowers, is also known to have some medicinal properties and uses in cosmetics. It is an annual plant that rarely manages to survive two years, which has lost some of its wild character to become very popular as an ornamental plant on terraces, balconies and gardens and also for making bouquets in florists.


Covered by a hairy look and feel, it is straight, fine and flexible, and branches at the top. The plant, in its entirety, can reach a meter in height .


They are elongated, narrow, with smooth edges and longitudinally arranged ribs, those closest to the base may have small “horns” on the sides. They are also covered in hairiness and are between 1 and 4 centimeters in length.


Very showy and with a flake structure, they are made up of three parts: an ovoid-shaped head with small, tight-fitting, overlapping green leaves (bracts) from which two types of florets or florets emerge, and the peripheral ones much larger and bold, sterile deep blue, and much smaller interiors a deeper bluish purple.


The cornflower is a plant that does not require much care , being a plant grown outdoors, a place in full sun and with mild temperatures will be enough to enjoy them.


In gardens it supports almost any type of soil as long as it has good drainage and if we have it in pots, a universal growing substrate with 30% perlite will be enough.


Although it is a plant that supports dry climates , to have a good and continuous flowering, it needs a lot of water in the hottest months. The most convenient irrigation frequency to ensure a vigorous plant is 3 or 4 times a week in summer and every five or six days in winter.

It is advisable to fertilize in early spring with some universal liquid fertilizer for plants.


Due to its wild origin, the cornflower is a plant that reproduces very easily by seeds planted during the spring. We must be careful if we have them in gardens, since each plant produces hundreds of seeds that can germinate and make it invasive, damaging the other plants that are nearby.


Since time immemorial there are many properties attributed to the cornflower, even magical as a talisman to attract love.

In cosmetics it is used to prepare mild shampoos and make-up removal lotions , but the most interesting are its therapeutic properties, especially those related to eye health. The French prepared an infusion which they called eau de casse lunettes  (water from broken glasses) because they thought exaggeratedly that by washing the eyes with that lotion they would no longer need them.

Centaurea cyanus  contains bluish pigments (pelargolin and cyanine), bitter principles, sesquiterpenic lactones (cnicin and centaurin), mucilage, flavonoid tannins (quercimethrin), acetylenic compounds, coumarins and a not inconsiderable amount of mineral salts.

To use it for therapeutic purposes,   the cornflower should be collected when it is in full bloom during spring, letting its flowers dry in a ventilated place where it does not get the sun and then store it in an airtight jar where it does not get light. With it you can prepare infusions and decoctions that have the following properties:

  • The bitter principles make it an excellent appetite stimulator.
  • Centaurine acts as an antipyretic, relieving fever.
  • It has antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties so it can be used for mouthwashes to relieve sores, dental discomfort, and bleeding gums.
  • Relieves symptoms caused by rheumatic diseases.
  • Improves circulation in legs with varicose veins.
  • Its properties gain prominence in relation to the health of the eyes:
  • Relieves eyestrain caused by improving microcirculation, reducing ocular inflammation and regenerating the vascular layer of the retina.
  • Applied in compresses on closed eyes, it is used as a remedy for conjunctivitis.
  • It acts as an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory to relieve the symptoms of styes.

We will take the cornflower as an infusion to improve the conditions described above and in the case of ocular discomfort, we will apply it in a compress on the closed eyes.

To prepare the infusion we will need a dessert spoon of the dried plant for each cup of boiling water that we will let infuse covered for about four or five minutes, after that time we will strain it and it will be ready for the use we want to give it.

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