Flax plant: fibers, seeds and the whole lot else

Today's topic is multifaceted and full of nutrition. It's a beautiful sight too. It's the flax plant! The fibers of this ancient grain have been used by Roman, Egyptian and Mesopotamian peoples for thousands of years. Today, people grow these plants for commercial and personal use.

There is so much to gain from working with flax. While you may not be interested in the lengthy process of making linen, flax flowers and flaxseed are well worth the effort it takes to grow them. And once composted, your leftover flax can also improve your soil.

The entire organism is used by commercial growers for fiber production and livestock feed. Linseed oil, derived from flaxseed, is also used to make color pigments and for use on wood. With several ornamental varieties to choose from (including perennial flax and scarlet flax), it's no wonder people are growing it in their home gardens.

So what's behind growing these plants? Let's take a moment to address that.

Good products on Amazon for growing flax:

Quick care instructions

The flax plant produces food, fiber for cloth, oil, and more. Source: Hans S

Common name(s)Flax, common flaxseed, flaxseed
Scientific nameLinum usitatissimum
days until harvest35 days after flowering
Brightfull sun
water6 to 8 inches during the growing season
floorSandy to loamy, well drained, slightly acidic
fertilizerAnnual application of compost or manure
pestsArmyworm, Aster Leafhopper, Bertha Armyworm, Locusts, Pale Western and Redback Earthworm, Wireworms
DiseasesRust, Fusarium wilt, Pasmo, seedling blight, aster yellow, oat blue dwarf virus, powdery mildew

All about flax

flax fieldA field of flax with small blue flowers. Source: isamiga76

Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum), also known as flaxseed or flaxseed, is thought to date from the Upper Paleolithic of Georgia. There, in the Dzudzuana Cave, fibers were found that are believed to be 30,000 years old. Egyptian paintings depict the production and common flax alongside deities. Pharaohs were wrapped in linen – or flax fibers – during the mummification process. The Romans used the fabric for ship sails. These grains came to America with the first colonial settlers, who saw them as central to their lives.

Common annual flax has a rounded trunk that grows up to 2 feet tall and begins to grow in early spring. The pale green leaves are lanceolate and grow alternately from the stem and branches. Its true blue, self-pollinating flowers are funnel-shaped with five petals. They bloom in late spring to late summer and die in a day, exposing a pea-sized capsule containing 10 distinctly separate seeds. When the pods dry, they turn golden and are ready to be harvested. These small, flat, and brown to golden seeds gel when wet, similar to chia. In large masses, where conditions are right, flax plants self-seed and return the following spring.

The seeds are used whole, ground into powder and pressed into oil. Linseed oil is the base for many oil paints and is also one of the most popular furniture and wood oils. The remaining grist left over from linseed oil production is used to feed livestock and bulk up commercially sold animal feed. The blue flowers of the flax plant are also edible and used as a decoration in confectionery. The flower is used to make dyes. The whole organism is processed and made into fiber linen.

Flax also has medicinal uses. In addition to being a food medicine, it is also grown commercially to treat osteoporosis and support healthy blood sugar levels. Flaxseed tea with lemon and honey is valued by herbal healers. The seeds accompany delicious whole grain breads, crackers and tortillas and add fatty acids to meals. Ground nutritious seeds are also excellent as an egg substitute in a vegan diet. Just one tablespoon of flaxseed or flax flour packs a meal packed with nutrients.

It is the national flower of Belarus, a small European country that borders Latvia and Lithuania. But flax is even more mythological. In one medieval version of the story, Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger with a splinter of flax instead of a spindle.

plant flax

Before adding flaxseeds to the soil, soak them. If they develop a mucous membrane, spread them on the surface of the soil, either directly in the garden or in an apartment. One tablespoon is enough for an area of ​​10 square feet or 1 square meter of land. If direct sowing, remove weeds and sow in early spring 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. For flat plants, carefully transfer the young seedlings to your garden in one mass, adding soil to level the area. Since flaxseed can bind roots, be careful not to disturb the root ball. Gently rake directly sown seeds into the garden. The site you choose needs full sun, with moist, loamy, fertile soil that drains well. Flax also grows well in a well-placed and well-stocked container. Use a pot that will fit the taproots. A large planter will give you room for a flood of flax blooms and a decent harvest too.


flax flowersFlax flowers are delicate but beautiful. Source: McClcbooks

Once you've seeded Flax, you've won at least a third of the battle. Let's cover the basics of caring for this laid-back bloomer.

sun and temperature

Flax likes full sun with at least 6 to 8 hours of direct light exposure per day. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9 in a temperature range of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Flax grows and blooms best in cool weather, but can survive lows in the mid-20s and highs in the 90s for short periods. At temperatures above 100 degrees, flax reduces pollen production. If you expect a quick frost in spring, pull flax plants under frost cloth. Excessive heat reduces seed development. A cloth of shade could help with seed production in high heat.

water and moisture

Water regularly and keep the soil around the flax moist. Water at the base daily in dry weather, wetting the roots and not the foliage. Once established, they don't need much water. Water every few weeks during the growth phase. This drought tolerant crop doesn't like wet feet. So if it rains heavily in a season, don't add extra water. Use drip tubing or drip irrigation.


Common flax enjoys fertile, loamy, well-drained soil. It is tolerant of other soil types but thrives in clay. Do not grow flax in heavy clay. To prepare the soil, amend the soil, or your average garden soil, with some well-rotted compost or manure. Rabbit dung is bioavailable in the raw state. If you work with sound, add more changes. The optimal pH value for flax cultivation is between 6.0 and 7.5.


Mature plants do not require fertilizer. However, they appreciate a thin layer of well-rotted compost or other organic matter applied to the soil surface when planting. Repeat this annually in early fall and spring. This gives a little boost to self-seeded flax and perennial flax.


Some guides recommend pruning perennial flax in its fifth year to avoid leg formation. However, most scientific studies suggest practicing crop rotation with a grain crop of flax every three years. Remove them from the planting area before flowers appear to prevent further germination in the area. Remove any brown and diseased leaves from the plants to keep the short-lived flowers healthy. This way they will produce enough seeds for you to enjoy.


Another way to rotate your plants is to divide them and carefully proceed to plant them elsewhere. Dig up the section's stems and entire root system, remove weeds from the new planting area, prepare the soil and add your plants to the new section. Most home gardeners know how to propagate flax by seed. This is a simpler propagation method. Either allow the flax flower to bloom, die and form seed pods. Then drop the seed pods on the ground. The flaxseed will then germinate on its own. You can help with flax production by removing the seeds and sowing them in an area with similar characteristics to the one you just extracted seeds from. See the Planting section for more information.

Harvesting and Storage

drying flaxAs it matures and produces seed, flax dries to a yellow color. Source: bdearth

Once your flax plants are in bloom, it's time to harvest flaxseed. Here are the basic principles of harvesting these plants that home gardeners need to know.


The blue flax flowers should be picked and used immediately as they bloom and die in just one day. Seed pods are fully mature and ready when the flowers have bloomed and died, and you can hear the seeds inside the pod when you shake it. After the blue flowers die off, look at the pods. When they are golden in color, shake them for the seed sounds. To harvest, grab a few stalks near the base and cut them off with a sharp knife. Then shake the stems over a clean sheet or cloth. When seeds come out of the pods, they are ready for post-harvest processing. If not, dry them in a place with good air circulation for a few weeks. Thresh the pods and sift the plant material from the seed. Make linseed oil by pressing the seeds or boiling them in a slow cooker.

If using the plants for fiber, tie the stems in half and place in direct sunlight to dry. Here's how growers prepare flax for a commercial fiber crop. When the flax is brittle, it's ready for the roasting process, in which the stalks are laid out in a thin layer and thawed. Rotate them every week and test the stems with each rotation. When the fibers easily pull away from the stems, they're done.


Store fresh seeds in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer for 1 to 2 years. They keep for 1 year in the fridge. Ground seeds will expire after 6 months in the fridge or freezer. Flaxseed flour will keep for a few days at room temperature. Store flaxseed oil in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 year. Store in the freezer for 6 months. Use flax flowers immediately, or dry the flowers and store in an airtight container. Use the petals as soon as possible. Raw material fibers stored in cool, dry conditions will last indefinitely.


Rust on Flax LeavesRust forms small orange spots on flax leaves. Source: skepticalview

Flax has some pests and diseases and some growth problems. Let's discuss what to look out for so you can enjoy linseed oil or flax fiber at harvest.

growing problems

Aside from pests and diseases, flax doesn't have many problems. Since it is drought tolerant, submersion is often not a problem. overhydration can weaken the root system and make the plant more susceptible to disease. So can a lack of drainage. Since she's growing fast, these issues are difficult to fix and you may have to try again next season.

too much heat leads to lower yields, and too much cold leads to stunted growth. A quick freeze damages the leaves. If there is minor cold damage, remove damaged leaves and allow the plant to spring back up.

plants a too much shade will also not achieve maximum performance. Supplement indoors with a grow light. Outdoors, try dividing the plant and moving it to a sunnier spot. Avoid disturbing the roots too much or they will go into transplant shock. If you are careful, with gentle and proper care, the plant can come out of shock.


Army Cutworm, Bertha Armyworm, Pale Western Cutworm, and Red-backed Cutworms all love to munch on the leaves of flax. If you notice them on your plants, you may find that they only consume the green parts of the leaves. Since only the vasculature of the leaves remains, they take on a lacy appearance. All army worms and earthworms are productive and easily destroy a crop. Luckily, there are several ways to control them. Neem oil diluted in water and sprayed all over the plant is one way to keep them away. Alternatively, try Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) spray. Pyrethrin can also deal with severe pest infestations.

wireworms are the larvae of click beetles and feed on the ungerminated seeds and roots of your plants. In the event of an infestation, they prevent sprouts from emerging. Prevent them by aerating the soil before planting. Bury potatoes on a stick 2 to 4 inches deep in the ground with the stick sticking out so it can be removed. In a week, take out the potato and there you will feast on wireworms. throw her out Beneficial nematodes are a great measure to reduce wireworms in the soil before planting.

grasshoppers feed on all plant parts above the ground. Spray kaolin clay in water on each part of the plant to keep them away. Neem oil spray is another option. Diatomaceous earth on the soil and plants also works. In the worst case, spread the locust-specific pathogen Nosema locustae via a broadcasting tool. Locusts eat the bait and die.

the aster cicadas can be devastating to plants. Cicadas suck the sap from the leaves and spread diseases in the process. They shelter in left behind garden debris, so keep your planting area clear. Insecticidal soap applied every few days will prevent them from laying eggs on your plants. Kaolin clay powders also work. If they just won't go away, try pyrethrin spray once every 7 to 10 days.


rust is a fungal disease that overwinters in the waste from flax leftovers from last year's harvest. It is caused by the Melampsora lini fungus and appears as bright orange pustules on flax leaves, stalks, and pods. It proliferates in a garden on damp and cool nights. As they progress, the spores on the stems turn black. Copper fungicide has some anti-rust effect, but prevention is better than treatment. In preparation for growing flax for fiber or seed, remove all weeds and debris. If your plants are heavily infected, remove them and discard the entire plant.

Fusarium wilt is another fungal disease caused by Fusarium oxysporum f.sp lini, which invades from the roots upwards. The organism disrupts the absorption of water and nutrients, especially during the growth phase of the seedlings. The dying plants have ashen roots and a distinctive "shepherd's crook" appearance. By rotating crops, you can prevent Fusarium wilt infections from spreading to other areas. Some forms of mycorrhiza, or soil bacteria, are found to be useful in controlling Fusarium fungi.

pasmo, caused by the fungus Septoria linicola, occurs on the soil surface and over parts of plants. Affected leaves show brown lesions and stems show brown and green bands. This infection makes it impossible to use the plant for fiber. Use culture controls listed in the previous two paragraphs to prevent fungal diseases. Early sowing also helps. There are no known natural controls for Pasmo. If your plant is infected, remove and discard it.

seedling blight is mainly caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani. Before the seedlings can set in spring, they turn yellow and wither and die. Look for gaps in your planting areas to determine if seedling rot has occurred. To prevent seedling rot, apply a diluted copper fungicide spray every 7 to 10 days to support healthy growth. If a few weeks of application doesn't work, remove and discard the seedlings.

aster yellow is caused by a phytoplasma injected into plants by leafhoppers. Symptoms include the yellowing and deformation of the tops of plants, including the flowers. Infected flowers do not produce seeds. Sow early to reduce the spread of phytoplasma by cicadas. Unfortunately, there is no known organic control. Remove and destroy affected plants. Do not compost plant material infected with aster yellow.

the Oat Blue Dwarf Virus also spread by cicadas. Colloquially referred to as "crinkle," this virus causes leaves to curl and plants may experience stunted growth or reduced yields. There are no known controls for this viral pathogen other than preventing leafhoppers from reaching your crop. Destroy infected material to stop the virus from spreading further.

powdery mildew is caused by several strains of fungi, particularly the fungus Oidium lini in flax. It appears as a white powdery mass on the leaves. Neem oil or a copper fungicide can be used to treat mild infections, and neem oil also works as a preventive spray. Remove damaged leaves as needed. water at the root level. You can still have a fiber or seed crop if the infection isn't too bad.

frequently asked Questions

Fibrous FlaxFlax produces fibrous stalks that are roasted to produce fiber for cloth. Source: tewahipounamu

Q: Is the flax plant poisonous?

A: It contains very small amounts of cyanide which are only toxic if ingested in large amounts. Apple seeds are more dangerous than flax.

Q: Where does flax grow?

A: In full sun and loamy, rich, well-drained soil.

Q: Can you eat flax plant?

A: Yes! But only the seeds and flowers.

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