Carrot plants do have flowers but they won’t appear every year. Carrot plants are biennial plants and are supposed to flower during their second year of life. Sometimes with weather fluctuations a carrot plant will flower during their first year of growth and that’s called bolting.
Carrot flowers develop in clusters called umbels. Each umbel contains smaller clusters of flowers called umbelletes. The actual individual flowers of a carrot plant in each umbellet are tiny.
The individual carrot flowers are what’s called “perfect” flowers. This means they have both male and female parts in the same flower. The male part of the flower, the stamen, will become active and shed its pollen before the stigma, the female part, is active and ready to receive pollen. This is a trick that plants with perfect flowers have developed to encourage pollination from different plants and produce a diverse gene pool.
Carrots are biennial plants meaning they take two years to complete their life cycle. This is another “trick” that plants have developed. This makes it possible for a plant that requires a long growing season to grow in an area with a short growing season by entering dormancy after its first year of growth and finishing its life cycle in the following year after overwintering.
How to Grow Carrot Flowers & Seeds
The easiest way to grow carrot flowers and seeds is to leave carrot plants to overwinter and the plants will produce flowers and seeds in their second year. Carrot plants can survive sub-zero air temperatures when covered with a layer of snow or mulch. I live in southwest Michigan and carrots have no problem overwintering.
If you’re still worried or have tried to overwinter carrots without success choose a cold hardy variety like Napoli and try again. If it still doesn’t work for you and you want to over winter carrots use the following method called “root to seed”.
Harvest carrots in the fall at the normal time. Trim back the top foliage leaving 1-2 inches of green growth on top. Wash and dry the carrots and discard any with blemishes or misshapen carrots if you like uniform looking carrots.
Next put the carrots in paper bags with wood chips or desiccants of some kind. Put the paper bags in airtight ziploc plastic bags and put the plastic bags in the refrigerator. When the spring comes plant the carrots at the same time you would normally plant seeds. The carrots will wake from their dormancy and be on their second year of growth where they will produce flowers and seeds.
Carrot plants will flower for 30-50 days. Once pollinated the clusters of flowers will dry up and the edges will curl inwards like a birds nest. A single carrot plant will have around 1,000 carrot seeds. To collect the seeds cut off the umbel from the stem and put it into a bag or container.
Next do your best to wrangle the seeds from the top of the flower by hand. Use a sieve to help separate chaff from the small carrot seeds. Make sure seeds are dry and then separate seeds into envelopes by variety and store in the refrigerator. They should store this way for up to 7 years without much germination rate loss.
Bolting is also known as “running to seed” and it’s when the plant speeds up its life cycle by jumping to flowering ahead of schedule. This is caused by weather fluctuations or stress on the plant. Some varieties like Karudo and purple varieties are prone to bolting. When carrots bolt and start to flower and produce seed earlier than expected the plant stops putting resources into the taproot, the carrot, and puts all its resources into the flower and seed production. There’s not much edible carrot produced in this scenario.
Eating Carrots After the Plant Flowers
Carrots are the energy storage system for the carrot plants. Carrots are supposed to flower during their second year of growth. The plant uses the sugar in the carrot to grow the flowers and produce seeds. After a plant flowers the carrot will be smaller and more woody making it not good for eating. A carrot plant that bolts and flowers the first year likely didn’t have enough time in a vegetative growth state to grow a good sized carrot.
How Carrot Plant Flowers Pollinate
Carrot plant flowers are insect pollinated. In Jefferson County, Oregon where 85% of the hybrid carrot seeds in the country are produced 10,000 colonies are used in the month of July to ensure good pollination of carrot flowers which makes for good seed production. Bee colonies are rented out for around $100 apiece.
In fields that are grown for carrot seed two different varieties are grown in the same field. There are four rows of one variety that has male sterile flowers and two rows of another variety that has viable male pollen. With this configuration, the four rows with the non-viable male pollen will end up with seeds that are a hybrid of the two varieties. The two rows that have the viable pollen will have 100% of that varieties genetics.
Purple Carrot Flowers
I’d guess that most purple varieties of carrots produce purple flowers. Purple Haze is one variety I know that produces purple carrots and flowers.
Carrot Flowers & Queen Anne’s Lace
Queen Anne’s Lace also known as wild carrot, is a parent plant of cultivated carrots. Both wild and cultivated carrot fall under the same species Daucus Carota L. Queen Anne’s Lace is identifiable from the small purple floret in the center of the flower. It’s said to be Queen Anne and the white flowers surrounding it her lace. This variety of flower also has an edible root that’s smaller.
There is another plant known as False Queen Anne’s Lace that has a very similar flower and Ammi majus. Poison hemlock also looks similar and is extremely poisonous when ingested. The clusters of flowers, called umbellets, on the poison hemlock plant are spaced farther apart than on the real Queen Anne’s Lace or the False Queen Anne’s Lace.