Historically, safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) was used for medicinal and culinary purposes. Today, safflower is grown commercially for its seed oil. You can grow your own safflower plants and harvest them for use in recipes, homemade dyes and birdseed or animal feed mixes. Safflower plants, which are annuals, require minimal watering and thrive in dry climates, but they should not be grown in areas of high frost. Start safflower seeds indoors in March or April for midsummer flowers.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Test the soil in the area to determine the pH and nutrient levels. Safflower prefers a pH of 6 to 7. If the pH is too low, add lime. Mix in up to 25 percent compost to enrich the soil. Compost is important, as safflower needs nitrogen-rich soil. If the soil needs major amendments, wait until the next growing season to plant so the soil has time to vivify.
Start seeds indoors in a warm location with adequate sunlight. Plant seeds a quarter inch deep in peat pots. Keep the soil moist until sprouts emerge.
Transplant the young plants in midspring, placing the pots directly into holes dug to a depth that is equal to that of the root balls. The soil needs to be at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit at the time of planting. Place the plants approximately eight inches apart.
Water the plants minimally once established. Rain is typically sufficient, except during times of high drought. Overwatering can cause fungal disease in safflower plants. Safflower plants reach maturity in four to five months.