Alphabetical Plant Listing

Carthamus tinctorius (False Saffron)

False Saffron, Safflower, American Saffron, Dyer's Saffron, Fake Saffron, Saffron Thistle, Bastard Saffron, Rouge Plant, Safflower Oil Plant


Carthamus tinctorius (False Saffron) is an erect, branching annual boasting a profusion of bright yellow or orange, tufted, thistle-like flowers, 1 in. (2.5 cm), surrounded by prominent, spiny, green bracts. Blooming for 1-3 months from mid-spring to early fall, each flower head produces 15 to 50 seeds which contain vegetable oil. The flowers, 1-5 per stem, rise on spiny-leafed stems. Safflower has been grown for thousands of years for the dye that can be obtained from the flowers and for the oil-rich seeds. The dye is not much used nowadays, having been replaced by chemical dyes, but the plant is still widely cultivated commercially in warm temperate and tropical areas of the world for its oil-rich seed. Fresh, the flowers are used in Hawaiian leis. Dried, they are used as a substitute for saffron, which it resembles in flavor and color. The flowers are also used for dried arrangements and are considered to be everlasting.

  • Typically grows up to 2-3 ft. tall (60-90 cm) and 12-18 in. wide (30-45 cm). This plant reproduces by reseeding itself.
  • Thrives in full sun in any light, well-drained soils. It prefers cool to warm temperatures while in the rosette stage, and warm to hot temperatures after it bolts. Because of its deep taproot, resistance to heat and drought is excellent.
  • Good choice for beds and borders, cottage gardens, dried floral arrangements.
  • Generally pest and disease free. In areas with high humidity or cool weather during the summer, this plant is vulnerable to a variety of fungal disease organisms.
  • Cut back after flowering.
  • Propagate by seed sown in gentle heat from early to late spring.
  • Native to Western Asia.

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Requirements

Hardiness 2 – 11
Heat Zones 3 – 11
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H1, H2
Plant Type Annuals
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Height 2' – 3' (60cm – 90cm)
Spread 1' – 2' (30cm – 60cm)
Spacing 18" (45cm)
Water Needs Low, Average
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Dried Arrangements, Cut Flowers, Showy
Tolerance Drought
Garden Uses Beds and Borders, Patio and Containers
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage

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By Viktor Kovtun, WR.lili / Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.


Requirements

Hardiness 2 – 11
Heat Zones 3 – 11
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H1, H2
Plant Type Annuals
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Height 2' – 3' (60cm – 90cm)
Spread 1' – 2' (30cm – 60cm)
Spacing 18" (45cm)
Water Needs Low, Average
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Dried Arrangements, Cut Flowers, Showy
Tolerance Drought
Garden Uses Beds and Borders, Patio and Containers
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage

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