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cut flower of the month

Hyacinth - February 2010(printable PDF)
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Carthamus tinctorius (KAR-tha-mus tink-TOR-ee-us)

Safflower, False saffron (The spice saffron is Crocus sativus.)

     Safflowers have round thistlelike flower heads, about 1 inch in diameter, with a “burst” of thin, short petals atop rings of spiny bracts. Stems are smooth, thin but sturdy, branched, 20 to 28 inches in length, and green to pale green in color. Leaves are small, oblong and parchment-textured, with minutely serrated edges.

     Safflowers range in color from yellow-orange to red-orange.

     Blooms typically last no longer than seven days, but they can be air dried easily. Foliage tends to dry more rapidly.

     Safflowers are available year-round from a variety of domestic and foreign growers; however, peak season is from about April through November.

vase-life extenders


     Immediately remove safflowers from the shipping boxes, and check flower quality. Remove all stem bindings as well as any leaves that would be under water in storage containers.
     Next, recut the stems, on an angle, with a sharp knife, removing at least 1 inch of stem. Immediately after cutting, dip or place the stem ends into a hydration solution, then place them into containers partially filled with lukewarm (100 F to 110 F) properly proportioned flower-food solution.

     Immediately after processing, place safflowers into a floral cooler at 35 F to 40 F, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before using or selling them.

     Safflowers are fairly resistant to the effects of ethylene.

     Safflowers’ thin, smooth stems can quickly become slimy, so change their storage or vase solutions every other day, and rinse and recut the stems.


     Instruct customers to change the vase solution, using the packaged flower food you provide, and to recut the stems every other day. Also advise them to remove blooms as they fade and leaves as they dry, and to keep the flowers out of direct sunlight and warm drafts.

  fun facts  

WHAT’S IN A NAME The genus name “Carthamus” is derived from an Arabic word meaning to paint or to dye, in reference to the brilliant colored dyes yielded by the flowers (see “What Are They Good For,” below). The specific epithet “tinctorius” loosely means for dyeing, used in dyeing or used by dyers.

FAMILY MATTERS The genus Carthamus is a member of the Asteraceae (Compositae) family. Close relatives include thistles (Cirsium), globe thistles (Echinops), artichokes (Cynara), cornflowers (Centaurea), strawflowers (Helichry-sum), billy buttons (Craspedia) and Liatrises.

HOME SWEET HOME Safflowers are native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Western Asia (Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India).

WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR In addition to being cultivated as cut flowers, safflowers are widely grown for the edible oil contained in their seeds and as a source of yellow, orange and red dyes used in food coloring and rouge.

EAT UP Fresh petals and young, tender shoots are edible; however, unlike real saffron (Crocus sativus), safflowers have little flavor. Petals can be sprinkled over salads to provide color and used to color rice and similar dishes.


purchasing advice

  • Buy safflowers when most blooms are partially to fully open. Buds rarely open fully, if at all, after harvest.

Some information provided by:

Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network® ,
Cut Flowers, by C. Gelein
Hortus Third by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
New Pronouncing Dictionary of Plant Names, by Florists’ Publishing Company
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners by William T. Stearn

Super Floral Retailing •• Copyright 2010
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.