Sprinkled with 5-petaled flowers of a light true blue, Blue Flax is a short-lived perennial with graceful, wiry stems sporting blue-green needle-like leaves. Plants reach two feet in height.
L. perenne originated in Eurasia. The very similar native American species, Linum lewisii (sometimes considered a subspecies of L. perenne), was named in honor of Meriwether Lewis, the first European to discover and describe the plant. Both are frequently included in wildflower mixes and used for erosion control. You can see them both growing alongside highways in the Pikes Peak area.
The plants are easy to grow from seed or nursery stock. Be sure to provide a site where next spring’s numerous volunteer seedlings are welcome. The stems turn brown in late summer if not cut back; place them among other plants whose mature foliage will hide them.
Well-drained sandy soil in full sun is ideal, but Blue Flax will tolerate both clay and part shade. Its water requirements are low to moderate; choose companions with similar moisture needs. A native of the western Great Plains, it is hardy to 9,500 feet.
Flax’s open, airy stems tend to go unnoticed, but the abundant sky-blue flowers will fill those empty spaces between more vibrantly colored blooms in a perennial border. However, it is most at home naturalized into a grassy meadow, with blue gramma grass and other short-grass prairie wildflowers.
Article and photo by Leslie Holzmann