Who doesn’t like blue? With clouds of sky-blue, 5-petaled flowers that seem to float among the surrounding foliage, Blue Flax is a welcome addition to any garden. A perennial hardy to 9,500 feet, the fountain-shaped plants are comprised of graceful, wiry stems reaching two feet in height, and embellished with blue-green needle-like leaves.
Flax’s open, airy stems tend to go unnoticed, but the abundant true-blue flowers will fill those empty spaces between more vibrantly colored blooms in a perennial border. However, flax is most at home naturalized into a grassy meadow, where it can mingle with blue gramma grass and other short-grass prairie wildflowers.
Blue Flax is easy to grow from seed or nursery stock. The plants are short-lived, but be sure to provide a site where next spring’s numerous volunteer seedlings will be welcome. Also, place flax among other plants whose mature foliage will hide late summer’s brown stems.
A native wildflower of the western Great Plains, Blue Flax prefers well-drained sandy soil in full sun, although it will tolerate both clay and part shade. Its water requirements are low to moderate; choose companions with similar needs.
Blue Flax is frequently included in wildflower mixes and used for erosion control. In late spring and early summer, you can often see it growing along the highways. If you plan to grow these flowers from seed, now is the time to plant.
Supposedly, rabbits and deer turn up their noses at these pretty flowers. I certainly hope so. I’ve just sown a large number of seeds on our wildflower berm, where our local rabbit herds like to hang out.
Until recently, the Eurasian Linum perenne was considered a separate species from our native North American species, Linum lewisii. Now it seems that most botanists combine them under L. perenne, with lewisii designated a subspecies. (The “lewisii” name is in honor of Meriwether Lewis, the first European to discover and describe the plant.) A web search indicates that the two names are often used interchangeably.