One of those easily cultivated flowering plants that is hard to miss is the American Basketflower (Centaurea americana). It has this sweet honey fragrance and beautiful flowers that will make you take a second look and not think twice about why it’s a favored pollinator plant.
What makes it unique is the large flowers in shades of white, pink, or lavender. The feathery, fluffy petals are one thing worth noting, but the basket weave-like details of the bracts underside of the flower head are another. This distinct feature gives this Centaurea species its character.
Ready to learn more about this stunning wildflower? Read our quick guide below for more information about American Basketflower, its botanical characteristics, history, popular varieties, meaning and symbolism, and more.
- American Basketflower: The Essentials:
- About American Basketflower Plants
- The Meaning & Symbolism of American Basketflower
- American Basketflower Uses and Benefits
- How to Grow American Basketflower
- Caring for American Basketflower Plants
- American Basketflower FAQs:
- American Basketflower Guide: Wrapping Up
American Basketflower: The Essentials:
|Common Names:||American basketflower, American starthistle, knapweed|
|Scientific Name:||Centaurea americana|
|Native Range:||North America, specifically the central and eastern regions of the United States.|
|Hardiness Zones:||USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9|
|Flowering Season:||Summer to early fall|
|Colors:||Pink, purple, blue, and white|
|Mature Height:||3 to 6 feet (0.9 to 1.8 meters)|
|Watering:||Moderate to low|
|Soil:||Well-drained, sandy or loamy soil|
|Fertilizing:||Apply a balanced fertilizer once a month during the growing season|
|Pests:||Aphids, spider mites, and leafhoppers|
|Symbolism:||The American basketflower is often associated with strength and resilience.|
About American Basketflower Plants
American Basketflower, known scientifically as Centaurea americana, is an annual flowering plant that belongs to the Asteraceae botanical family or the aster family. It is with the same family as daisies, asters, and sunflowers.
Native to northeastern Mexico and south-central parts of the United States, these plants grow in the wild throughout North America. They grow densely along roadsides, open fields, and pastures.
The name basketflower refers to the modified leaves called phyllaries underside the flower head. This unique feature exhibits a basket weave pattern, holding the fringy petals together like they’re atop a “ woven basket,” hence the name.
Other common names for the American Basketflower include American Starthistle, Basket Flower, Sweet Sultan, and Shaving Bush. It’s called Straw-hat in Texas and Cardo de Valle in Spanish.
The plant is believed to have been discovered in 1851 by plant explorers.
American Basketflower Botanical Characteristics
American basketflower is commonly confused with thistles because of their physical resemblance. However, it lacks the sharp prickles details on the leaf margins that the thistles are known for. Fully grown plants can reach about 1.5 to 5 ft in height and 2 to 3 ft wide, depending on growing conditions. Some plants may reach up to 6 feet tall.
The fringy flowers vary in colors, ranging from white to lavender, purple, and pink, and usually feature a cream-colored center. They bloom from late spring to early summer, but others tend to flower up to late summer. Individual flower heads are large, measuring 4 to 5 inches wide, and adjoined together by bracts or modified leaves. Aside from their appealing looks, the flowers also feature a sweet honey scent that attracts many pollinators.
The leaves of American basketflowers are rough, 4” in length, alternate, and lance-shaped. The stems are tall, sturdy, smooth, leafy, and branched above.
Popular American Basketflower Varieties to Grow
American Basketflower ‘Aloha Blanca’
White flowers are pretty common, but this American Basketflower cultivar truly stands out. The ‘Aloha Blanca’ features fluffy, large ivory white blooms that look stunning in gardens, bouquets, vases, or even as dried flowers. The plant typically grows up to 7’ tall with flowers that reach 5 to 6 inches in diameter.
As a cut flower, this American basketflower cultivar can last for 4 to 5 days in a vase.
American Basketflower ‘Aloha Rosa’
Another popular basketflower type is the ‘Aloha Rosa.’ Unlike the ‘Aloha Blanca’ cultivar with white blooms, this one features fluffy smoky pink to pale lavender flowers. Inner petals exhibit black tips, adding uniqueness to this cultivar’s exquisite looks. Each flower grows up to 6 inches wide.
The Meaning & Symbolism of American Basketflower
The common name ‘American Basketflower’ refers to the basket-like or weave-like pattern of the modified leaves or bracts underside the flower head.
The genus name Centaurea originates from the Greek word kentaurus, which translates to centaur or Centaurus. It is in reference to Greek mythology’s centaur Chiron, who is known for using the flowers of Centaurea as medicinal plants to treat wounds. Chiron gained popularity for his knowledge of medicinal plants and the use of herbs for healing.
American Basketflower Meaning and Symbolism
Centaurea flowers, in general, are known as a symbol of hope for love. Centaurea is often associated with hope, devotion, love, unity, wealth, devotion, and fertility.
The language of flowers (floriography) is the practice of using flowers to convey meaning and symbolism. In the context of floriography, the American Basketflower has several meanings and symbolisms, including:
Love and Devotion:
In floriography, the American Basketflower is associated with love and devotion. The purple color of the flower represents royalty and nobility, while the shape of the flower, resembling a basket, symbolizes the act of giving and receiving love.
Creativity and Inspiration:
The American Basketflower also symbolizes creativity and inspiration. Its unique and striking appearance stimulates the imagination and encourages artistic expression.
Hope and Optimism:
The American Basketflower symbolizes hope and optimism, reminding us that there is always the potential for growth and renewal, even in difficult times.
Gratitude and Appreciation:
Giving someone an American Basketflower can also be seen as a symbol of gratitude and appreciation. The flower’s beauty and elegance express thanks for the recipient’s presence in your life.
In addition, American Basketflowers carry the symbolic meaning of:
Unity and Togetherness:
The American Basketflower is known to grow in large groups, creating a beautiful and cohesive display. This makes it a symbol of unity and togetherness, representing the importance of working together towards a common goal.
Strength and Resilience:
The American Basketflower is a hardy plant that can survive in various environments. It symbolizes strength and resilience, reminding us that we, too, can persevere through difficult times and emerge stronger.
Beauty and Elegance:
The American Basketflower embodies beauty and elegance with its strikingly purple flowers. It reminds us to appreciate the simple pleasures in life and find joy in the beauty around us.
Healing and Medicinal Properties:
The American Basketflower has been used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans for centuries. It is believed to have healing properties and is used to treat various ailments. As a result, it is also a symbol of healing and the power of nature to provide us with the resources we need to stay healthy and strong.
American Basketflower Uses and Benefits
With their appealing and fragrant blooms, American basketflowers are one of the greatest pollinator plants that attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, songbirds, and pollinator insects. Reports note that four species of bumblebees and other solitary species of bees are excellent pollinators of American basketflowers.
Because of the plant’s showy blossoms, the American basketflower is excellent for fresh and dry floral arrangements. It’s an outstanding ornamental crop for gardens, adding colors and a sweet honey fragrance through its blooms. Its stunning features also make it suitable for beds and borders, cottage gardens, and wildlife gardens.
Furthermore, the plant can also be used as a cover crop because it produces large quantities of organic biomass. Birds like doves and quails feed on the relatively large seeds of this ornamental.
American basketflower also plays a role in traditional medicine. In particular, American Indians use the plant against poisonous bites, eye disorders, jaundice, and indigestion.
How to Grow American Basketflower
American basketflowers are usually grown from seeds. Seed collection is ideal during early summer. Plant by direct sowing seeds from late summer to fall with depth between ¼ to ½ inches. Seeds will start sprouting within 7 to 20 days after planting. When planting outdoors, keep the planting distance at 1.5 to 2 ft.
Indoor sowing can be done initially. Sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks prior to planting out while keeping the temperature between 55 to 70°F. Moisture plays a crucial role during the germination process. Hence, keep moisture by covering the planted seeds with a humidity dome or any alternative with similar functions.
The plant requires partial shade to full sun and grows best in slightly acidic to neutral soil. It is not particular about soil type as it tolerates sandy, clay, and loamy soil type as long as there is good drainage.
Established plants are generally drought tolerant and require watering once a week or during dry spells.
The use of fertilizers is not necessary, but plants will benefit from organic fertilizer or compost in spring.
For cut flower use, cut the blooms as they begin to open.
Caring for American Basketflower Plants
The American Basketflower is generally a hardy and disease-resistant plant and is tolerant of frost, drought, and floods. However, like all plants, it can be susceptible to certain pests and diseases. Here are some common pests and diseases that can affect American Basketflower:
- Aphids: These small insects can infest the leaves and stems of the American basketflower, sucking out the sap and causing damage. They can also spread viruses and other diseases.
- Leafhoppers: Leafhoppers are small, winged insects that can cause yellowing or curling of the leaves. They can also transmit viruses and diseases.
- Powdery mildew: This fungal disease appears as a white, powdery coating on the leaves and stems of the plant. It can cause stunted growth and weaken the plant.
- Root rot: Root rot is a fungal disease that affects the plant’s roots, causing them to rot and decay. It can be caused by overwatering or poor drainage.
- Rust: Rust is a fungal disease that appears as orange or brown spots on the plant leaves. It can cause the leaves to deteriorate and fall off.
To prevent and manage these pests and diseases, it is important to keep the plant healthy by providing adequate sunlight, water, and nutrients. As for plants in general, keeping the area clean and with good air circulation is a good and simple way to prevent any occurrence of plant diseases and pests.
You can also prune the developing tips of the plant to help boost growth. Deadheading spent flowers will prolong flowering.
American Basketflower FAQs:
Is American Basketflower an invasive plant?
Technically, American Basketflowers are not considered invasive plants. They are, however, self-seeding. These plants can grow prolifically outdoors but can easily be managed.
Is American Basketflower annual or perennial?
American basketflower is an annual plant known for its large and fragrant blooms. It lasts for only one growing season and dies after producing seeds.
What is the difference between American Basketflower and Thistles?
One common misconception about American Basketflower is that it’s a type of thistle plant because both plants look almost alike. The similarities may be because most thistles belong to the same botanical family (Asteraceae) as American Basketflower.
Thistles are known for the sharp prickles on their leaf margins. However, basket flowers lack this distinct feature.
How long do American Baskerflowers bloom?
American Basketflowers start flowering in late spring to late summer.
How do you grow American Basketflower from seed?
Growing an American basketflower plant from seed is easy. First, collect seeds from dried flower heads. Then, sow seeds either indoors or directly outdoors. Seed germination occurs within one to three weeks after planting.
When sowing seeds indoors, use a small container or pot and only transfer the young plants outdoors once established.
Directly sowing seeds outdoors is advisable only when the chance of frost has passed.
Can American Basketflowers grow in containers or indoors?
American basket flowers are tall plants that grow best outdoors rather than indoors. You can start growing them indoors using small pots or planting containers, but they must be transferred outdoors when established.
How tall does an American Basketflower plant grow?
Typically, American Basketflower grows about 4 to 5 feet in height. However, some plants, especially when provided with the optimum growing conditions, can grow up to 6 feet or taller.
When is the best time of year to plant American Basketflowers?
You can grow American basket flower plants year-round in most climates but avoid extreme weather conditions. As with any other plant, planting this wildflower in extremely hot or cold weather will result in poor plant growth.
American Basketflower Guide: Wrapping Up
American basketflower or American starthistle (C. americana) may not be as popular as other Centaurea species like the Cornflower or Bachelor’s Button, but it indeed is one worth noting. At first glance, it may look like thistles but don’t get confused as it lacks the spikes that thistles are recognized for. American basketflowers are also rich in meaning and symbolic value.
You don’t need a green thumb if you want this plant in your garden, as it’s easy to grow and requires minimal care. As long as you provide the right conditions, American basketflower will reward you with a stunning display of large, fragrant blooms.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.