Flax – Linum species

Group Flax to create a splash of bright colour from June to September. Fill a pot with annuals, mixing pinks with reds or plant the brilliant blue on its own. Yellow Flax will add late colour to a container rock garden.

Linum usitatissum, an annual with bright blue flowers, is one of the oldest and, at one time, most important economic plants known to man. It has been grown since 5000 BC and used by Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Hebrews; the stem to make linen and the seed for linseed oil and cattle feed. When roasted it can also be eaten by man. It has been used medicinally as a mild laxative and an anti-inflammatory and soothing mixture.

Flexes are twiggy but dense plants that vary in size from 15cm (bin) in the tiny White Flax, (L. salsloides), to nearly 60cm (2ft) in the wonderful brilliant blue species

L. narbonense. Both are perennials. In between these come L. flavum the perennial Yellow Flax 30— 45cm (12-18in) with grey-green leaves and funnel-shaped, golden yellow flowers from mid to late summer, and L. grandiflorum 38-45cm (15-18in), an annual which has slender leaves and large five-petalled flowers in shades of rich red and brilliant pink from June to August. The other annual L. usitatissimum grown for linen has blue flowers that bloom through June and July.

VarietiesFlax - Linum species

  • L. grandiflorum includes ‘Roseum’ a deep pink, ‘Rubrum’ a brilliant scarlet, and ‘Album’, white with a crimson centre.
  • ‘White Diamond’ is 30cm (12in) pure white with yellow sepals.
  • L. Perenne is a perennial with paler blue flowers that ore more delicate than L. usitatissum.


Annuals are grown from seed in March and April. Perennials can also be increased by cuttings in summer.

Growing from seed

1 Sow seeds in March in damp soil-based seed compost in seed trays or a propagator. Cover with polythene or propagator cover and place in a warm and light position but out of direct sun. Maintain a temperature of about 15°-18°C (60°-65°F).

2 Seeds should germinate in about 2 weeks. When the seedlings have developed their second pair of leaves they can be pricked out into seed trays or pots.

3 Gradually acclimatize seedlings to cooler outside temperatures, then, when all chance of frost is past, plant out in their final position.

Taking cuttings

Cuttings should be taken from perennials from the current year’s growth which has become moderately firm and woody near the base but is still green.

1 Choose a side shoot of about 15cm (bin) and cut off close to the main stem. Remove leaves from the lower part and cut again just below the lowest leaf node. Trim off the top of the shoot just above a leaf so the cutting is about 5-10cm (2-4i n). ,

2 Plant in seed compost, cover with polythene and place as for seeds. When cuttings show growth, remove cover and repot individually a month later.

Pests And Diseases

Flax is rarely affected by any serious disease.

Grey patches appear on stems and leaves. This is grey mould and can occur if conditions are too wet.

Treatment: Remove and burn any infected parts. Spray with a fungicide of benomyl, thiram or zineb.

Aphids can affect almost any cultivated plant. Spring and early summer are the m,,,t likely periods outdoor.. Treatment: Remove t YOU can see and spray the plant with soapy water. Repeat after a week. If the infestation is had use a suitable insecticide to combat the pests.


This is an easy plant to grow. It loves sun, will tolerate dry conditions and is not fussy about soil. Remove dead flowers to prolong the flowering period. Water plants grown in pots often as these dry out quickly in hot weather.

  • Potting: Perennial Flaxes should be repotted in spring when necessary. Grow in a well draining soil-based potting compost.
  • Water regularly during spring and summer as necessary. Plants grown in containers should be watered thoroughly twice a week and will need watering more frequently if the weather is very hot.
  • Feeding: Feed every 2 weeks with a standard liquid fertilizer.


  • Light: Flax prefers a light and sunny position but will tolerate some shade.
  • Temperature: Normal summer temperatures are fine for this plant. Annual Flaxes will die down in autumn and need sowing each year.

Buying Tips

  • Buy seeds in spring for sowing in March or April. Bedding plants should also be widely available.
  • Buy seed that has been packaged for the current season. Choose bedding plants with good bushy growth.
  • Annual Flaxes (red, pink and bright blue) will not overwinter. Perennial Linums (Yellow Flax and Common Blue Flax) can last for many years.

Flax is a valuable summer plant that flowers from June to September. It is easy to grow and comes in brilliant shades of blue, red and pink and yellow.

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