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Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’ (photo courtesy of Kimberley Navabpour)
Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’ (photo courtesy of Kimberley Navabpour)

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Zone
Zones vary by species.
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Centaurea

Asteraceae (Compositae)
Annuals, Perennials

Out of some 500 species, only a dozen or so are widely cultivated. Of these, annuals are grown mainly for cut flowers; perennial kinds are valued for soft, silvery foliage. All are relatively easy to grow. For best performance, add lime to acid soils. Sow seeds of annuals or set out plants of perennial kinds in spring or fall. (In desert regions, plant all in autumn for winter and spring bloom.)

Centaurea cineraria (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)
Centaurea cineraria (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)

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Centaurea cineraria

The common name (dusty miller) is used for many plants with whitish foliage. Perennial, native to Italy. Compact growth to 1 ft. wide and 1 ft. or taller. Velvety white, strap-shaped leaves with broad, roundish lobes, mostly in a basal clump. Solitary 1-in. flower heads (purple, occasionally yellow) in summer. Trim back after bloom. Blossoms attract bees. Very drought-tolerant but can take regular irrigation.

Centaurea cyanus ‘Blue Diadem’ (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)
Centaurea cyanus ‘Blue Diadem’ (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)

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Centaurea cyanus

Bachelor’s button, or cornflower, is a pretty blue annual from the northern temperate regions. A common but often welcome weed in some areas, such as the Pacific Northwest. Grows to 1–1 1/2 ft. tall, less than a foot wide, branching if given enough space. Narrow gray-green leaves, 2–3 in. long. Spring to midsummer flowers are 1 1/2 in. across, in blue, pink, rose, wine-red, or white; blue varieties are traditional favorites for boutonnieres.

Centaurea macrocephala (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Centaurea macrocephala (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Centaurea macrocephala

Perennial, from the Caucasus. Attractive, coarse-foliaged, leafy plant grows to 3–4 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide. Blooms in summer, bearing 2-in. clusters of yellow flowers tightly wrapped at the base with overlapping, shiny, papery brown bracts. Flower heads resemble thistles. Use in fresh or dried arrangements.

Centaurea montana

Perennial, native to the mountains of central Europe. It forms a clump 1 1/2–2 ft. tall and wide; grayish green leaves reach 7 in. long. Flowers resembling ragged 3-in. cornflowers top the stems in late spring to midsummer. Protect from snails. Divide every other year.

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