Centaurea pulcherrima



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Centaurea pulcherrima

Feathery silver foliage clump of fine, delicately cut leaflets – looking like frost crystals all year.
Then topped fetchingly by lilac-pink little “Bachelor’s Buttons” over spring and summer, on Centaurea pulcherrima, or Dwarf Pink Cornflower.

Rose pink flowers over frost silver feathers 

But don’t let that lacy, delicate look fool you, this is a rugged little toughie.
So it can hang in when the going gets tough with frost, or hot and dry.
(Please see “Growing” section below for plant details, how / where to grow)

Tough & hardy, despite the delicate look

Centaurea pulcherrima originates from rocky slopes in Turkey and Iran, so it is naturally adapted to poor, rocky soil. And also happily able to take extremes of climate in its stride, where it is hot and dry in the summer, and frosty cold in the winter. 
It is also naturally adapted to windy sites, thrives in soils with a high lime content, and happy in seaside gardens because of its native origins.
It is a beautiful little toughie.

Pretty petite edging or pot

The word “pulcherrima” means “beautiful” in botanical Latin – it says it all.
Centaurea pulcherrima makes a pretty petite edging, underplanting for roses, or feature in a pot.
Because of  the fine, feathery appearance it also mixes well with the look of natives, and it is certainly hardy enough to live with the natives.     

Cut for small vases

Despite its dwarf size, Centaurea pulcherrima actually gives lovely cut flowers for small vases.
One of the popular old common names is “Bachelor’s Buttons”, and this gives the game away – it was very popular when no self respecting gentleman could be seen without a flower in his buttonhole.  

Growing: Centaurea pulcherrima

Height with flowers: Flowers on approx. 30cm. stems. sitting jauntily above the low, neat foliage mound. 
Width: Dense clump of silvery foliage to a diameter of 35cm approx.
Position: Full Sun. Will grow in some Partial Shade but will not bloom as profusely. 
Soil: Preferably well drained soil on the dry side. Will grow perfectly in dry, poor, rocky or sandy soils. So avoid rich soils or too much fertilizing.
It is tolerant of a wide range of soil pH on either the acid or alkaline (lime) side of neutral. But handily for limestone gardeners, it will tolerate quite a high lime content in the soil.

Other garden benefits

Water-wise: A water-wise, low water need plant, which can tolerate periods of heat and dry well. Average, normal garden watering is more than enough. So make sure it is in a spot where it never becomes waterlogged, or you can kiss it goodbye. 
Frost: Very frost hardy, and so can easily tolerate heavy frosts to well below -20C.
Growth: An evergreen perennial clump of feathery silvered foliage, growing in a tight, neat, low clump.
Beneficial for wildlife: Bees, butterflies and other beneficial pollinators adore Centaurea for their rich supply of both pollen and nectar. Considered an excellent “bee-plant”.
Fragrance: Sadly none, but I can forgive it because of the other useful qualities.

Easy low care

Care: Generally low maintenance and easy to grow. Remove spent flower stems after bloom if you wish, but not essential.
Deer & Rabbit resistant: Both deer and rabbits treat it with ignore as they dislike the texture unless desperate. Washington State University actually lists it as an excellent deer resistant plant. 

And a shocking history

Origin: Native to rocky slopes in Turkey and Iran.
Healing History: The whole family of Centaurea was named after the Centaur Chiron – half man half horse – who according to Greek mythology, used a Centaurea plant to heal his wounds. 
Chiron our Centaur, was the unfortunate result of a rape, when a very wicked, shapeshifting god took on the form of a horse, and “lay” with a sea nymph. Poor Chiron was rejected by his mother at birth, but rose above his unfortunate beginnings to become a great healer.
And that’s how Centaureas got their name.
They were traditionally used as a healing herb for wounds.


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