The flax flower (Linum usitatissimum) is a pretty, fast, and easy-growing annual. Once mature, it produces an abundance of short-lived but attractive and delicate blue flowers that are frequently replaced over the summer.
It's usually densely sown and works well in a meadow, wild or cottage garden setting, often reaching up to three feet in height.
Your flax flowers can have a practical as well as ornamental value. Common flax is widely cultivated on a commercial scale for its nutrient-packed seeds and its fiber.
The blooms on these flowers only last for around a day and the capsules they form contain up to ten little dark seeds. The seeds can be harvested once the capsules turn brown and they start to rattle—usually a couple of months after flowering.
If grown in large enough quantities, these seeds can be collected for eating or producing linseed oil. They're high in protein and packed with the essential fatty acid omega-3.
The tall and thin stems also contain a soft fiber that can be harvested to make cloth linen. This usually occurs once the lower part of the stem turns yellow and it loses its foliage, around a month after blooming and before the seed capsules develop. Harvesting the fibers isn't normally something done by home gardeners, though, as the process is complicated and requires a particularly wet climate.
|Botanical Name||Linum usitatissimum|
|Common Name||Flax, common flax, linseed oil plant|
|Plant Type||Annual, herb|
|Mature Size||Up to 3ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Sandy, loamy, chalky|
|Soil pH||Acid, neutral, alkaline|
|Hardiness Zones||2-11, USA|
|Native Area||Asia, Europe|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets, only if seeds are ingested in large amouns|
With the right cool conditions, flax flowers will proliferate in abundance. Select a sunny and sheltered position, and they should thrive.
Although flax flowers don't appreciate excessively hot weather, they do thrive in a sheltered, full-sun position.
If the soil quality is poor, ideally it'll be well prepared with compost or other organic matter. Although flax flowers are known for being greedy, getting the balance right is important. Overly nutrient-rich soils can also create problems with excessively leggy growth.
Flax flowers appreciate an evenly moist soil, particularly when establishing, but care should be taken to ensure it doesn't become saturated as root rot can be a problem.
Once established, flax flowers won't need too much watering unless you live in a hot and dry region. Here, you could use a thin layer of mulch to help retain moisture, and it can also help with weed control.
Temperature and Humidity
Flax flowers aren't best suited to overly hot and dry regions, where they can suffer from woody and short growth. They thrive in damp, cool climates.
Fertilizer isn't needed for flax flowers unless the soil they're planted in is inferior quality. In this case, a diluted application every fortnight on the run-up to the seed capsules forming could be beneficial.
Is Flax Flower Toxic?
Flax flowers and their seeds contain common plant toxins called cyanogenic glycosides. Although they're thought to be more potent if consumed at the same time as water, they aren't regarded as being highly toxic.
Large quantities of the seed would have to be consumed for it to be a problem and many cultivars have been developed to ensure the levels are very low.
Toxicity of Flax Flower: Symptoms of Poisoning
Excessive consumption of cyanogenic glycosides can lead to gastric upset, vomiting, and convulsions. In the most severe cases, it can lead to respiratory failure and death.
Ensuring that the area surrounding establishing flax flowers is weed-free is crucial. Young plants can quickly be choked out. Be careful not to damage the flax roots when pulling any weeds out.
After they're established, the flax plant should be able to compete with any stray weeds.
Some gardeners cut their flax down halfway after their initial bloom. However, if you live in a hot and dry region, this can impact on the chance of reflowering during the bloom season.
Propagating Flax Flowers
Flax flowers don't appreciate root disturbance. For this reason, division isn't normally encouraged.
How to Grow Flax Flowers From Seed
With the right conditions, flax flowers grow easily from seed. They can be sown directly into their outdoor position in spring, provided there are no expected hard frosts. Outdoor sowing are usually recommended, as seedlings don't take kindly to being transplanted.
If you have the time and inclination, you could consider succession sowing as this will give you a longer flowering season.
Seedlings appreciate consistent moisture, but overly wet and humid conditions can cause damping-off fungus, particularly when germinating in poorly ventilated indoor positions.
Although fast and easy growing, flax flowers can be susceptible to a variety of pests and fungal issues.
There is also a moth larva that specifically eats flax flowers and their seeds. It's known as the flax bollworm and can be a particular problem in northwestern parts of the United States. The larvae are small, green, and look similar to inchworms, with identifiable white stripes along the upper parts of their body.
Aphids can be a problem, too, but often they can be dislodged by using a steady stream of water or by using insecticidal soap.