Larkspur (Consolida ambigua)
Larkspur flowers are excellent as both fresh and dried flowers. They’re easy to grow, just know when to start them. They produce long stems (up to 12 in.) of flowers and dry easily, making them nice for dried bouquets, wreaths, and sprays. And they come in a nice assortment of colors.
Flowers are arranged along a long wiry stem, resembling Delphiniums. They are related to Delphiniums but are annual rather than perennial. And they’re a different genus all together.
The flowers come in a beautiful dark blue, light blue, light pink, dark pink, carmine, and white, and more. The nicest flowers for both fresh and dried are the doubles.
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When dried the flowers look like a wand of fluffy color. They hold on the stem and hold their color very well.
Plants can get from 4 to 6 ft. tall. The stems are wiry and straight, but well-branched. The leaves are finely divided and feathery.
They go to seed so you may have many volunteers, but volunteers will most definitely be singles, not the nice double larkspur you want. So be sure to remove volunteer seedlings and replant with quality seed each year.
Growing the plants
Start these by sowing directly into the soil. Final spacing should be 4-6 in.
Larkspur needs cooler temperatures to flower well. If you live in a hot summer area they will do best if planted in the winter and flower in the early cooler part of the summer.
For me in Zone 9b, at 3,000 ft. elevation in the northern Sierra foothills, with a few good snow falls each year, I plant by Valentine’s Day for the best flowers. I have planted later and gotten shorter stems and fewer flowers, but still good.
When I lived in the Sacramento Valley I planted them in late fall. They like the cool temps for germinating but I have never needed to chill them. Just plant so they get chilling naturally and save yourself the trouble. If you do start them a little late in the spring you’ll still get flowers, just fewer of them.
Cut the stems when the bottom half of the flower spike is opened. If you wait too long the petals will fall off early. Strip the foliage from the stem and place in water as normal.
If some stems are short consider drying those. They dry very easily by bunching a few stems together and hanging upside down in a cool, dark, airy place.
Any doubles are excellent. QIS are grown for best cut flower quality. Giant Imperials is a mix. My preference is to choose only two colors so I have consistency in bouquets and dried arrangements without taking up too much space in the garden.
Johnny’s Seeds is my favorite source, but many seed companies offer larkspur. Just remember to get only doubles!