How to Grow Basket Flowers

Basket flower with bright purple thistle-like petals with cream center and buds closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The basket flower, also commonly known as the American basket flower, is an annual wildflower named so for the distinct basketweave pattern of its phyllaries (modified leaves) surrounding the flower head base. The plant produces showy flowers with fringy pinkish-purple petals. This wildflower grows best in full sun, well-drained and slightly acidic soil, and in warm, dry regions with temperatures ranging between 30 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Common Name Basket flower, basket-flower, American basket flower, American starthistle
Botanical Name Centaurea americana
Family Asteraceae
Plant Type Annual, herb
Mature Size 2-5 ft. tall, 2-3 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Sandy, loamy, clay
Soil pH Acid, neutral
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color Pink, purple, white
Hardiness Zones 3-9 (USDA)
Native Area North America

Basket Flower Care

Here are the main care requirements for growing basket flower.

  • Plant seedlings 2 inches apart for good air circulation that promotes healthy foliage.
  • Water young plants on occasion but mature plants prefer drier soil.
  • Fertilize in the spring for prolific blooms.
  • Prune developing tips to spur growth.
Basket flowers with bright purple petals on tall stems surrounding fern-like leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Basket flower with bright purple thistle-like petals on extending thin stems with white centers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


For best results, basket flowers should be grown in full sun. However, they can tolerate a part shade position.


Basket flowers are tolerant of a wide range of soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay, the soil just needs to be well-draining. They aren't too fussy about pH levels either, although slightly acidic to neutral levels seem to produce the best growth.


If you live in a dry region, planting basket flowers is a good choice. Once they're established, they're drought-tolerant and cope well in dry conditions. However, receiving adequate moisture during the spring will result in more impressive growth.

Temperature and Humidity

With their drought tolerance, it's no surprise that basket flowers do well in Mediterranean-style climates. These versatile plants can also handle temperate (around 65 degrees Fahrenheit) and hot, humid subtropic weather.


To see the most impressive blooms and prolific growth, the addition of compost or organic fertilizer during the spring is recommended.

Types of Basket Flower

There are seeds available commercially of basket flower cultivars:

  • 'Aloha Blanca': This type produces unusually large white flowers reaching 5 to 6 inches in diameter.
  • 'Aloha Rosa': This cultivar features blooms with a smoky pink or deeper lavender shade and the inner petals sometimes have eye-catching black tips.

How to Grow Basket Flowers From Seed

As annuals, basket flowers need to be grown from seed. It's easy to do, and they don't require a stratification period. Take these steps.

  1. Collect seeds once they're fully formed and can easily be removed from dried flower heads.
  2. Sow seeds indoors in small pots for a couple of months before transferring them to their outdoor location, or sow directly outdoors after the chance of frost has passed. Do not sow basket flower seeds too deeply in pots or outdoors.
  3. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
  4. The seeds can take anywhere from one to three weeks to germinate.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Much like other flowers in the Centaurea genus, such as cornflowers, the basket flower may see minimal if any problems at all. Aphids may take up residence on the flowers, but use a safe DIY spray to eliminate the pests. Fungal problems, such as powdery mildew are often caused by wet conditions. Prevent this fungal problem by adequately spacing the plants in the ground. Fungicides, or DIY solutions involving baking soda, may help.

How to Get Basket Flower to Bloom

Bloom Months

The blooms can appear anytime from May to August, but most commonly arrive around May or June.

What Do Basket Flowers Look and Smell Like?

These reseeding annual wildflowers are similar to thistles and without the prickly texture, but they have impressively large pink-purple petals with creamy centers. The flower has a distinct sweet and honey-like fragrance.

Deadheading Basket Flowers

If you want to see the most impressive growth in terms of branches and blooms, it's worth pinching off developing tips and deadheading spent flowers.

  • Is basket flower a perennial?

    No, this flower is an annual, but it does self-seed. That means if the conditions are right you could be treated to new plants for years to come.

  • How tall does basket flower grow?

    Typically basket flowers reach 4 feet in height, and sometimes even taller.

  • Is basket flower invasive?

    Basket flowers are not considered invasive but they readily self-seed. They can take over small garden spaces but they can also easily be pulled out.

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  1. Centaurea americana. University of Texas Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.