Black Ball Bachelor Buttons are easy to grow from seeds

March 28, 2018

Flowers need not be showy or huge to make a statement. On his wedding day, John F. Kennedy wore a single small flower in his lapel. We know these simple flowers as bachelor’s (or bachelor) buttons (Centaurea cyanus), so called because they were a favorite for bachelor's lapels. Flowers have long been used as a code for lovers. The bachelor button is said to be able to predict the future of a new relationship. Put a single flowerhead in your pocket and if the bachelor button is still alive the next day, you and your lover will have a long future together.

While bachelor buttons come in shades of blue most commonly, there are also dark, nearly black varieties that are stunning in the field or vase. Black Ball Bachelor's Button has deep crimson-black flowers atop two- to three-foot-tall plants. These very dark maroon flowers bloom from June through August, smothering the plants with two-inch double flowers. These relatively tall flowers are quite effective when used in wildflower mixes. Planted in masses, they are absolutely striking. They mix especially well with cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus). They are a real show-stopper planted among red poppies and snapdragons. You can also sow some among your day lilies for the back of the flower bed.

Because Black Ball Bachelor Buttons are easy to grow from seeds, they make a great plant for a child's first garden. Planting these easy-to-grow flowers will give children a sense of accomplishment, and help build their confidence. You can even weave wreaths of them to hang around your child's neck. Sow the seeds in early spring, planting the small seeds one-quarter-inch deep and one inch apart. Because bachelor button seeds need complete darkness to germinate, make sure they are well covered with soil, but not buried too deeply. For large plantings, scatter the seeds over the prepared bed, and then rake soil over them. When the seedlings are one to two inches tall, thin them out so they stand six to eight inches apart. Your first blossoms will appear just 10 to 12 weeks after planting.

Not only do Black Ball Bachelor Buttons look good in the garden, they make for an excellent cut flower whose blooms stay fresh for up to a week in a bouquet. You can even eat these flowers. The new, young shoots can be lightly steamed or added raw to salads. The colorful flowers make an unusual edible garnish.

Even though bachelor buttons are annuals, they often reseed themselves freely, and seem to come back for years. Like most flowers you can keep the blooms coming all season if you cut off the dead flowers, a process called deadheading. Even if you cut back dead flowers, let a few plants go to seed, not just to reseed next year's blooms, but to provide fall and winter food for the birds. The thistle-like seeds will attract goldfinches.

To dry the flowers, pick them after the dew has dried, tie into bunches of six to 10 stalks, and hang bundles upside down in a dark, airy spot for several weeks.
Bachelor buttons grow well in containers, so try planting them in window boxes or individual pots. Plant them with alyssum, geraniums, lobelia, zinnias and dusty miller.

Plant dark Black Ball Bachelor Buttons for a casual landscape flower, to feed songbirds, or perhaps to put in a bachelor's boutonniere. You may just predict the love of your life.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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