What is a Flax Flower? - Home Stratosphere

What is a Flax Flower?

Discover interesting facts about flax flowers as we give you an in-depth background of these vibrant blossoms. We've also included some tips on how to take care of these flowering plants that offer essential uses.

Close-up of purple flax flowers with yellow centers and white pollens.

Commonly known as either the common flax plant or linseed plant, flax plants are proud members of the linaceae botanical family. The term, usitatissimum, can be translated to “most useful”. The meaning of this will quickly become apparent as your learn about this super star of a plant.

The world of textiles wouldn’t be the same place without the contribution of flax fibre, nor would wood finishing! There any many uses and benefits to flax plants, and we’re here to convince you to plant a flax patch in your own green space.

We’ve compiled a huge list of a many different types of flowering plants that would be perfect for your garden or green space. Head on over to Amazing Flowering Plants after you’re done learning about the flax plant!

Table of Contents

Related: Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

Linum Usitatissimum

Focus on small purple flax flowers growing in a large field of flax plants in the sun

Linum usitatissimum is an annual plant. This means that it will experience its entire life cycle within one year, and will usually die right after flowering.

The common flax plant is only known as a cultivated plant. It was domesticated many millenia ago from the wild species, linum bienne, which is commonly referred to as pale flax.

The term flax, can also be used in reference to the unspun fibres of the plant. When the fibres are spun, it is referred to as linen! It was news to use to discover that linen was made from flax fibre!

Where do Flax Plants Grow?

Tall yellow bushels of flax plants ready for harvest growing in a large field

Flax has been cultivated and used by humans for thousands of years. The very first record of that was found in the Dzudzuana Cave in The Republic of Georgia.

Flax fibres obtained from wild flax plants had been woven into a textile were recovered from this cave and dated back about 30,000 years ago, during the upper Paleolithic era.

The first domesticated flax crops were discovered to have occurred in the Fertile Crescent region in Ancient Egypt. Mummies were embalmed using linen, and priests were only allowed to wear linen clothing, as this was the ultimate symbol of purity.

Since its first domestication, crops spread steadily and widely. Flax crops are known to have been present in places like Switzerland, Germany, India, and China as long as 5,000 years ago.

Nowadays, flax plants can grow anywhere that is temperate and receives a decent amount of sun and annual precipitation. They can be found growing wild in open meadows and funnily enough, along the banks of cranberry farms. These plants can exist in USDA growing zones 2 through 11.

What are Some Flax Species?

Focus on violet flax flowers growing in the spring with a small bee coming to pollinate

Perennial Flax (Linum Perenne) – the perennial flax plant is a semi evergreen perennial species. It’s growth habit occurs in tufts of leggy stems that bear narrow glaucous leaves, and sky-blue flax flower clusters. This perennial flower will blossom from spring all the way to midsummer and keep coming back every year.

Wild Blue Flax (Linum Lewisii) – the wild blue flax plant is otherwise known as prairie flax or Lewis flax. These are tall flax plants that tend to lean because of their heavy flowers. One stem will produce several flowers with 5 sky-blue petals.

This variety is a prolific wild flower as blue flax seeds are very easily dispersed through wind, water, and by animal feces.

Scarlet Flax (Linum Grandiflorum) – the scarlet flax plant is a very hardy annual plant. The flowers blossom from April to September and only differ from other flax species in their 5 scarlet petals. This species is known for having an impressive seed yield.

What does a Flax Plant Look Like?

Leaves

A flax leaf is a slender leaf that is lanceolate in shape and usually 20-40mm in length. Leaves are a glaucous green color. The foliage of a flax plant isn’t the most ornamental part of the plant, but they compliment the flowers nicely.

Flowers

Single flax flower with 5 purple petals and 5 stamens just bloomed

A flax flower is comprised of 5 petals that are about 15-25mm in diameter. A flax flower will usually be a charming pale blue or violet color. They are lovely enough for the variety to be grown as an ornamental plant.

Flax flowers will usually start their blooming period in early spring or late spring but the blooming season lasts quite a while, until about late summer (usually from May to September).

However, each individual blue flower will only be in bloom for about a day! All flowers bloom at different times, and that is why their bloom season lasts so long: because of the staggered opening blossoms.

Growth Habit

Flax plants can be impressively tall and flower stalks can grow to height over 5 feet, though they will usually hover around 3 feet. Tall and slender stems grow from the earth and bear the leaves and flowers of the plant.

Fruit

Once a flax flower is fertilized, it will produce fruit in the form of a seed pod that contains several seeds. A flax seed is shaped like an apple pip, and a capsule will hold about 10 flax seeds.

Once the capsule dries and turns brown (and rattles when shaken) that is when you know that the flax seed is ready for harvest. This usually occurs a couple of months after the flowers have finished blossoming.

If you happen upon a wild flower patch, see if you can harvest a few handfuls of wild flower seed to bring home and starting growing flax on your own!

How do you Care for a Flax Plant?

Beautiful flax field brightened by evening sunset with dried seed pods ready for flax seed harvest

Planting and caring for your own flax plant is quite simple to do. Whether you are planting from wildflower seed or from a seedling found at a nursery, there are some easy tips to keep in mind.

Soil Type

Though flax plants can tolerate many different soil types, there are some aspects that they definitely prefer. They will not tolerate heavy waterlogged soils, or soils that are very dry and gravelly.

The ideal soil type for a flax plant is a deep loamy soil that is rich in organic matter. An easy way to achieve this is by incorporating some compost into your soil before the growing season.

Sun Exposure

Flax seeds are sun loving plants and are not particularly tolerant of partial shade. They require a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, which is why they can often be found growing wild in open meadows.

Water Level

Flax plants have moderate water requirements. They should receive between 6 and 8 inches of water throughout their growing season, which isn’t very much. Soil should remain mostly moist, but they can tolerate short periods of drought.

Pruning

When it comes to pruning, no maintenance needs to be kept. These plants grow in a controlled growth habit, and pruning away any part of the plant would be wasting its vital components!

Fertilizer

A cultivated flax plant can be rather sensitive to fertilizer and it is best to avoid using it. A great way to maintain healthy soil is by incorporating compost into the earth to help increase the nutrient content.

Intolerances

All in all, flax plants are not that high maintenance. The main things to remember are that they are not tolerant to clay soil, waterlogged soil, partial shade or full shade, or overwatering.

How are Flax Plants Used?

Linseed

Pair of hands holding a handful of harvested linseeds right after harvest

In most of the temperate climate regions of the world, flax plants are cultivated as both a food and fibre crop. Flax seed can be ground and turned into either a flour-like meal, or into linseed oil.

Linseed oil can be taken as a nutritional supplement that is valued for its high content of Omega-3 fatty acids. This is beneficial for heart health!

Additionally, linseed oil is very valuable as a wood finisher, it’s used for making putty and paint binder, as well as for both gilding and the manufacturing of linoleum!

Ornamental Plant

On top of all of those wonderful qualities, flax plants are also beautiful to look at. They have lovely small blue flowers and exhibit an attractive growth habit. They are the perfect wild looking flower to incorporate to your cottage garden, wildflower mixes, or windowsill container.

Linen

Lovely image with flax seeds, unspun flax fibers, and woven linen all sitting on a table

Flax fibre is harvested from the long stems of the flax plant. These fibres are known as being almost 3x as strong as those of cotton fibres. These fibres are naturally very smooth and straight.

Spun flax fibres are better known as linen in western countries. This material has been an extremely important contributor to the textile industry for thousands of years.

Traditionally, linen was used to create underclothes, table linens, and bed sheets, but nowadays are a very valuable textile for fashion pieces. Linen is soft, breathable, and beautiful.

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