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How to Grow Safflower Plants

Annual, Carthamus Tinctorius

The versatile Safflower plant and flower is grown for a variety of reasons. Human consumption dates back over 4,000 years, to the ancient Egyptians. Safflower plants are native to Asia, and is found growing in arid regions, where the summers are long, hot, and dry. It is drought tolerant.

Safflower is an edible plant. It is a culinary herb. The tender shoots are used in salads and raw dishes. The seeds have a slightly bitter taste, and can be eaten raw or roasted. The seeds are high in fats and oils. Safflower seeds are used for oils in cooking, and are a relatively popular type of bird seed. It is also grown for its beautiful orange, red and yellow flowers. The flowers will bloom from mid summer through fall. Dyes are extracted from its petals, and there are medicinal applications.

When you grow Safflower, a wide variety of birds will be attracted to the ripening seeds.

Safflower attracts:

  • Black-capped  and Carolina Chickadees

  • Blue Jays

  • Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers

  • Grosbeaks

  • House and Purple Finches

  • Mourning Doves

  • Northern Cardinals

  • Tufted titmice

  • White-breasted nuthatches

Plant Height: up to 3 feet

Flowers Bloom: Mid summer through fall


How to Propagate Safflower Plants:

Safflower is grown from seeds. The seeds need to be planted deep, 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Keep the soil moist during germination. Allow the top of the soil to dry between watering. Seeds should sprout in 10 - 15 days. The ideal soil temperature for germination is 70 degrees.

In areas with a shorter growing season, start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost in your area. The plant has a deep , extensive root system, so use individual pots.

Safflower is not common is seed catalogs. If you are also a bird watcher, you can grow some seeds from safflower bird seed that you purchase.


How to Grow Safflower Plants:

Safflower plants do not like cold weather. They need a warm, arid climate, and a long growing season. Safflowers do not do well in wet and humid conditions, and can fall victim to plant disease. It needs 120 days between the first and the last frost.

Select a location to grow safflower that is in full sun. This plant does well in average to good soils, that is well draining. The soil should be deep, as the tap root can grow up to 10 feet deep, in search of moisture.

Sow or plant seeds after the last frost in your area.

Space plants about 12 inches apart.

Weed around plants when they are young.

After the germination period, Safflower seeds grow well in dry soils. Water then only during extreme droughts.

Harvest seeds in the fall when the leaves begin to die back. Make sure seeds are completely dry, prior to storing them. Store seeds in a cool, dry place, our of sunlight.


Pests and Plant Disease:

In wet or rainy areas, Safflower plants are very susceptible to plant disease.

Many insects can be found eating parts of the plants. They include: grasshoppers, aphids, wire worms, cut worms and sunflower moths. Use insecticides as needed.

There is mixed opinions among bird watchers, whether squirrels eat the seeds.

Opossum and raccoons may also eat them.


More Information:

Bird Seed Feeding Reference Chart

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