Learn how to grow safflower in this informative article. Growing safflower requires only minimal maintenance and care.
USDA Zones — 5-10
Difficulty — Easy
Other Names — Alazor, American Saffron, Bastard Saffron, Benibana, Benibana Oil, Benibana Flower, Cártamo, Carthame, Dyer’s Saffron, Fake Saffron, False Saffron, Safranon, Zaffer, Zafran, Sallflower and Chimichanga.
Safflower Growing Information
Belonging to the family Asteraceae, the safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is an annual plant. Ideal for dry gardens, it has a bushy growing habit and reaches 0.80 to 1 m high. It has sturdy stems and leathery and slightly prickly leaves. Once planted, safflower first forms a rosette of leaves resembling a large dandelion.
Each stem is adorned with a big flower head composed of many florets, color can vary from light yellow to dark orange. These flowers attract bees and various other beneficial insects and be used as cut flowers. Safflower seeds can be eaten, they are rich in essential fatty acids. Other parts of this plant are also edible: Young and tender shoots are served in salads.
Safflower has a long taproot that can go down to 2 meters deep, which makes it able to pick up the water and other essential nutrients from the depth of soil. It is also called “false saffron” because of its orange flowers that produce a coloration similar to saffron. Once dried and powdered, they may be substituted for real saffron but without having the exceptional aroma.
How to Grow Safflower
Propagation and Planting Safflower
For growing safflower, propagate it from seeds. It requires direct seeding, as the plant doesn’t transplant well because of long taproot. The optimum seed germination temperature is around 60 – 70 F (15-20 C).
Till the soil well and remove the stones and other debris. Add compost or aged manure if the soil is poor. Sow the seeds in rows, with a spacing of 20 cm in the row and 30 cm between rows, so that each plant will have room to grow, this will also limit the spreading of diseases between the plants. Bury each seed 2 to 3 cm deep.
Tamp the soil slightly and water slowly with a watering can taking care not to wash away the seeds. Keep the soil moist during germination. Seedlings will germinate in 2 to 3 weeks.
Requirements for Growing Safflower
Safflower needs warm and dry location to grow. Plant it on the sunniest location of your garden facing south or west. You can also grow it on sloping areas.
Soil must be deep, well drained and loamy. Amend your soil before planting if it is heavy and clay rich. If your soil is sandy, mix peat moss and compost to it. Safflower has less requirements regarding the pH, it prefers neutral soil.
Economical watering is required for growing safflower as it tends to develop rot and fungal diseases due to excess watering. When you water also take care not to wet the foliage as it can promote diseases.
Safflower Plant Care
When plants are young, you need to weed regularly to remove competitive weeds.
It needs high in nitrogen fertilizer. However, it is best to get your soil tested before applying fertilizer. To learn more on fertilizing safflower read this.
Pests and Diseases
Its main problem is moisture that leads the plant to root rot and slow growth. Main diseases and pests are safflower rust, bacterial belight and aphids, leaf eating caterpillar and safflower fly.
Harvest safflower seeds when the plants begin to turn brown. Cut the seed heads and shake them in a bag or jar or open them using hand. Store them in a airtight container in cool and dry place.
Safflower petals are edible and are used to add color to food. Harvest the safflower petals when the flowers are fully open. Either remove the whole flower or pick off the petals.