The right way to Plant, Develop, and Look after American Basketflower

Annuals are bittersweet in the garden. They grow for a year and die when they’ve completed their life cycle. Most annuals sold at nurseries are not native wildflowers, and they lack the beneficial adaptations of native plants. The American basketflower is one of these natives, and it’s a delightful surprise when it readily reseeds in the garden.

There’s no need to mourn the last of the basketflower blooms each season, as the plant will sprout again and again from seeds each fall. Unlike frost-tender annuals like Coleus and Impatiens that struggle to set seed, American basketflowers are tough reproducers without the gardener’s help. 

These plants are perfect for sunny spots with good drainage, and they form a gorgeous mass planting with other annual wildflowers like sunflowers and firewheels. Throughout the summer, their tall, slender stems grow large pink flowers that delight gardeners and pollinators alike.



Centaurea americana

Native Area

North America

Watering Requirements


Pests & Diseases

Aphids, powdery mildew

What Is American Basketflower?

The American star thistle flowers display spherical heads composed of numerous tiny, spiky purple florets, surrounded by prickly bracts, on a blurry green background. A bee sits on one of the flowers.Plant American basketflower for vibrant blooms and wildlife value.

An icon of eastern prairies and meadows, the American basketflower pops its pink-purple flower heads above native grasses and wildflowers. Known scientifically as Centaurea americana, this annual is closely related to bachelor’s button, purple scabiosa, and sweet sultan. These plants are in the Centaurea genus, and all grow alike, preferring similar conditions.

American basketflower is one of the few plants in the Centaurea genus native to North America. Plant it instead of its non-native relatives to provide a beneficial wildflower for North America’s native pollinators and animals. This particular native hosts hummingbirds, bumblebees, and an array of other birds and insects. 

Plant this annual today and enjoy animal visitors for life! If you have an area with Full sun and well-draining soil, this plant will make the area pop with its bright flowers and deep-green foliage. 


Close-up of the American star thistle flower showcases numerous small, lavender-colored petals densely packed together, forming a spherical head adorned with a spiky texture, contributing to its distinctive and captivating appearance.Ancient bison hunters’ camps often saw thriving basketflower populations.

Various American Indian nations in the Midwest and Great Plains areas used this flower for medical ailments like venomous bites, indigestion, and eye disorders. It has a long history of growing in the United States. 

Paleolithic remains show that people alive during 6000-8000 B.C. hunted bison in large numbers. They would scare the herds off cliffs and then collect the meat down below. What does this have to do with the American basketflower? On sites where this activity occurred, the native wildflower grows in large numbers.

At these hunting sites, the people camped and cooked their meat. We do not know if they planted this flower, but its presence at these sites shows that seeds may have spread with human interactions. 

Native Area

View of the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma with American basketflower blooming on a meadow in its natural environment.Thriving in sunshine, basketflowers naturalize across diverse U.S. regions.

This wildflower originates from Missouri, Kansas, Louisiana, Arizona, and northern Mexico. It naturalizes itself across the Southeast, Midwest, and East Coast. American basketflowers love growing wherever there is sunshine, cool winters, and water.

This plant’s seeds prefer mild temperatures to germinate, and the best time for planting them varies depending on your region. They naturally germinate over the fall and winter in their native regions and grow slowly until the warmth of spring and summer arrives. Then they mature upwards and prepare to display their unique basketflowers. 

Extreme cold and heat may adversely affect seed germination outside of its native range. This native is a hardy annual though, and its drought tolerance and full sun preference make it a stellar choice for gardens from Hawaii to New York. 


Close-up of an American basket flower against a blurred green background, characterized by a tall stem crowned with an intricate lavender-pink flower head, resembling a finely woven basket.In summer, green rosettes grow into six-foot basketflower towers.

American basketflowers’ foliage looks dainty in early spring. When the warmth of summer arrives, the cute green rosettes shoot up to six feet tall! The leaves extend off the main stem, and they point onlookers up to the large, erect flowers at the tops of the stem. 

The plant’s namesake is its basketflowers, and they can reach widths of four inches wide! They are purple-pink on the outside and pale yellow-white on the inside. Their shape resembles cornflowers, but much bigger.

When left to flourish on their own, these annuals drop seeds that readily germinate each year. Their seediness makes them excellent additions to meadow, prairie, and grassland-type landscapes. 


View of American basketflowers with buds showing off tightly packed, spherical heads enveloped by pointed, green bracts, and a flower in bloom with delicate, thread-like petals radiating from a central disk.Bright and long-lasting, basketflowers enhance bouquets and landscapes.

The flowers make excellent cut flowers in arrangements and bouquets. They work well because they grow bright and big on a long, slender stem. The flowers also hold their shape surprisingly well and make long-lasting dried flower arrangements

In the landscape, they are choice additions for naturalizing areas that are chock full of invasive species. After removing the invasive species, plant this seed in mass quantities with other native grasses, wildflowers, and annuals. It will quickly spread and create a meadow that protects the soil, and that prepares the area for future landscaping.

This native wildflower also looks stunning planted in a mixed flower border with other plants that prefer like conditions. Experiment by planting American basketflower seeds with your other plants this fall, and watch them attract pollinators to your space as they grow and flower. 

Where To Buy American Basketflower

American basketflower seeds are available online and in North American retail seed stores. Their annual nature makes it difficult to sell them as live plants. The best way to purchase this native is by buying seeds and sowing them in fall through spring. 


Close-up of centaurea sprouts among moist dark brown soil, characterized by thin, short stems and pairs of tiny oval green cotyledons.Easily cultivate basketflowers with minimal maintenance and simple setup.

Easy to grow, the American basketflower requires little maintenance and setup to grow successfully. Start by sowing seeds at the optimal time in the fall. This mimics the plant’s natural growth period, as the seeds naturally ripen at the end of the summer and fall to the ground.

Start the sowing process by choosing an optimal growing site for your plants. This native grows its best in full sun with soil that drains well. Once you’ve located your site, scatter seeds across the loose soil. Then, cover them with a thin layer of soil and water well. 

In areas with extreme frost, sow seeds in the spring after all dangers of frost have passed. Or, start seeds indoors a few weeks before your last frost date. After the seeds germinate, water them consistently until the plants grow a few leaves. Then, cut back on the watering, as they will need less water while they are adults. Transplant container-grown seedlings into the garden after all dangers of frost have passed

Mature plants set seeds on their flowers for next year’s plants. Simply let the plants scatter their seed where they grow, and they’ll germinate on their own! Thin overcrowded seedlings as they grow, then watch as your plants repeat their reproductive cycle with flowers and seeds each year. 

How to Grow

Grow this annual easily, as its planting, maintenance, and upkeep are simple to learn. To grow the American basketflower, plant seeds, water them, and let them mature into adult plants! Undoubtedly, a plant this easy to care for is an excellent addition to any garden. 


Close-up of a flowering Centaurea americana plant under full sun, displaying lance-shaped, deeply lobed leaves arranged along sturdy stems, supporting vibrant purple flower heads surrounded by spiky bracts.Ensure abundant sun for thriving basketflower growth and blossoming.

This native wildflower loves full-sun locales with more than 6 hours of direct sun daily. Adapted to meadows and prairies, American basketflower plants prefer growing areas that match these conditions. Plant your seeds in a sunny spot, and you’ll never have to worry about sun exposure for your plants. 

In shady locations, this plant struggles to flower and set seed. It produces fewer flowers and may not reseed as readily as needed to spread itself throughout the area. Avoid these issues by planting seeds in full sun. 

In warm desert areas with extreme heat and drought, American basketflowers benefit from living in a location with a bit of shade during the afternoon. This offers protection during the hottest parts of the day, as the shade helps them stay cool and hydrated despite the heat. 


Close-up of an American star thistle with dew droplets in a sunny garden.Once established, water basketflowers sparingly for optimal growth.

A true prairie wildflower, this native requires little water during the growing season. Plants in areas with regular summer rainfall do not need extra irrigation. Aim to water them once the soil is dry, and be sure not to water your plants if the soil is already wet. 

As seedlings, these plants need regular water to mature fully. Keep their soil moist as they germinate and mature in early spring. Then, once the stems start bolting and growing upward in summer, water only once the soil is dry. 

American basketflower plants are drought tolerant once established and require less water as adults than in their early growth stages. A good watering routine is once every two weeks in the summer and once every week when there is extreme heat. Paying attention to your plants is the best way to know when to water, as they will drink water in varying degrees depending on your climate. 


Close-up of gardener's hands, wearing a black and white checkered shirt, checking the soil in the garden.Incorporate compost to improve soil for flourishing basketflower growth.

Adaptable and dependable, American basketflower plants are not picky about their soil. They prefer to grow in free-draining soil with good drainage, although they will grow in clay, silt, or sandy soil. 

If your garden is full of clay, amend it with compost to help increase the soil’s water-holding capabilities. Over time, compost amends your soil to be better for your plants by adding structure, microbes, and nutrients. Whether your soil is clay, silt, or sand, it benefits from a healthy addition of compost each season. 

Temperature and Humidity

The start blooming American basketflower buds, nestled amidst sturdy stems and lance-shaped leaves, promise a forthcoming display of intricately woven lavender-pink blooms.Thriving in diverse climates, this flower gracefully adapts and blooms.

American basketflower plants grow in a wide range of temperatures and humidities, although they prefer cool temperatures while they germinate and warm temperatures while they flower. Planting seeds in fall or spring gives your plants this treatment, as they’ll germinate in the cool and flower in the heat of summer.

This native flower grows in a range of humidities and does not need a specific level to grow successfully. In humid areas, the plants may experience powdery mildew infections. These infections are rarely fatal, though, and you can minimize them by increasing airflow to the plant and lowering the humidity.


Top view, close-up of a blooming Centaurea americana flower, displaying a striking lavender-pink flower head with thin stalk-like petals.Naturally resilient, this plant thrives sans fertilizer, preferring lean soils.

An added benefit of growing this plant is that it never requires fertilizer! This native performs well in low-nutrient soils and struggles to grow where nutrients are highly available. Plant yours in an area that has good drainage, and they should grow without issue. Steep drainage allows the nutrients to flow freely out of the soil, and it will help your plants grow tough and hardy. 


Close-up of a blooming American Basketflower with a mesmerizing arrangement of delicate, lavender-pink petals surrounding a central disc, forming a captivating floral sphere. The petals are slightly withered.With little effort, let nature’s beauty flourish in your garden.

American basketflower’s maintenance is minimal and dependent upon what you prefer to do in the garden. If you appreciate a natural, wild look, let these wildflowers grow freely without pruning them. For a more formal garden look, deadhead the flowers when they’re done and watch as your plants sprout new ones!

Placing compost on the soil each year leads to abundant flowers in the summer. Compost adds beneficial structure to the soil, and it adds low amounts of nutrients that won’t harm your flowers or their growth. 

Growing In Containers

The American star thistle flowerhead presents a striking spherical form adorned with numerous densely packed, needle-like purple florets, surrounded by spiny bracts.Thriving in containers, these adaptable annuals bring summer’s beauty.

These annuals adapted over time to survive in plains and open spaces, yet they grow surprisingly well in containers, too! If you prefer these plants to stay contained, or you lack the space to plant them in the ground, try growing them in containers!

Use free-draining soil in the container, as this plant doesn’t like to stay wet. In areas with extreme frost, plant seeds in the early spring, and in all other areas, plant them in the fall. Keep the soil moist while the seeds germinate.

After the seedlings grow into baby plants, they require less water to function. Water once the soil in your container is dry, and place your container in full sun. Then, watch as they grow into tall flowering plants in the summer! 


Close-up of an American star thistle bud on a blurred green background, showcases a compact, conical form enveloped in spiky, green bracts, with hints of purple peeking through, promising the emergence of a vibrant and prickly bloom.Sow, grow, and watch nature’s cycle bloom anew each year.

This annual wildflower grows freely from seeds. After flowering occurs in the summer, the flower heads form seeds to drop on the ground. To propagate this plant, simply let the seeds drop on the soil! The next year, they’ll grow into your second generation of American basketflowers.

In gardens with extreme freezes during the winter, you can cheat the seasons by sowing seeds in pots indoors. Take the seeds inside in the fall and keep them in a cool, dry, and dark location. Then, a week or two before your last frost date, sow the seeds in pots indoors. After the last frost, bring your plants outside and place them in full sun. Keep them on a stoop in a container, or transplant them directly into the ground.

When you collect native plant seeds, be sure not to collect more than a fourth of a single plant’s seeds. This ensures that the plants continue reproducing healthily in the wild by allowing them to keep most of their seeds. When seed collectors overharvest wild plants, it negatively affects their future livelihoods in nature.

Common Problems

Easy to grow and care for, American basketflowers have few cultivation issues. If your plants are experiencing growing issues they are quick to fix with a little care and attendance.

Lack of Flowers

Close-up of the American basketflower plant reveals lanceolate leaves arranged in a basal rosette, with a tall, slender stem rising to bear a captivating lavender-pink flower head comprised of delicate tubular florets surrounded by papery bracts.Bask in full sun for abundant, vibrant floral displays.

American basketflower plants need full sun to flower profusely. If your plant grows stems with leaves but no flowers, it may be experiencing a lack of sunlight. Transplant your plant to an area with more sun, or prune overhead branches to allow more sunlight to reach the plant. 

Yellow Leaves

At the end of the season when frost arrives, this plant normally yellows, and browns, and then dies. If your plant has yellow leaves during the growing season, it could be experiencing a moisture issue with its roots

Address this problem by watering less. Only water your plants once the top few inches of soil have dried. Then, water completely and fully, and let the soil dry before watering again. 


Close-up of a stem infested with brown aphids, which are small, soft-bodied insects with elongated bodies and dark brown coloration.Let ladybugs handle rare aphid invasions naturally.

Aphids may attack this plant, although it is a rare occurrence. Simply spray them off your plants with a strong stream of water or squish them with gloves on. A third option is letting them be. Over time, the aphid populations attract ladybugs and other predators that devour aphids. 


Close-up of a green leaf covered with a powdery gray-white coating - affected by powdery mildew.Combat powdery mildew with airflow and ground-level watering techniques.

In humid areas, American basketflower plants may become infected by powdery mildew. Although unsightly with white, powdery growth on a plant’s leaves, it is rarely fatal. Cut off infected leaves, and try to increase airflow to your plant. Watering the soil at ground level and not using overhead watering will further reduce powdery mildew infections. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Plant this native plant in your yard to invite local fauna into your space. Native plants and animals evolved compatibly over time, and many have unique partnerships with each other. American basketflowers are a favorite of hummingbirds, bees, and native pollinators.

This plant naturally grows in meadows, prairies, and open spaces with full sun. Mimic these conditions in your garden, and this annual will thrive every year.

This annual wildflower requires full sun to flower fully. Plants grown in the shade may not flower as much as plants grown in more suitable conditions.

Final Thoughts

Ditch the boring non-native annuals at the nursery this year, and try growing American basketflowers from seeds! This native annual wildflower loves to grow in the U.S., and it perks up any garden it is a part of. Plant some today, let them produce seeds, and you’ll have beneficial native wildflowers in your garden for decades to come! 

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