Centranthus ruber ‘Coccineus’ is a cottage garden favourite that’s made it back into the style books.
Once valued as a cut flower, Centranthus went out of fashion for a while, but is back in full force once again as people remember how easy it is to grow.
Very long flowering and easy-to-grow from seed, and given a spring sowing they will flower the first year. The plants form a handsome, bushy mound, with succulent-like, mid-green leaves that and contrast perfectly with the vibrant flowers. Dense clusters of reddish-pink flowers appear from July to October on tall, fleshy stems with glaucous leaves. The flowers are sweetly-perfumed, combine well with many different plants and are lovely when used as a cut flower.
Centranthus look best grown en-masse on banks, or when allowed to self-seed between the cracks in walls and paving. They will grow in poor, but well-drained soil and in shallow soil where virtually nothing else will grow.
They are ideal for a wildflower garden, attracting bees and butterflies and other pollinating insects into the garden. Dead-heading encourages rebloom and in warmer areas it can be encouraged to keep blooming until November.
Sowing: Sow at any time of year.
Centranthus seeds can be sown at any time or year. They germinate rapidly with temperatures of about 20°C (68°F). At lower temperatures germination might be slower and more irregular.
Seeds can be sown in an unheated greenhouse to wait for natural germination, as many seeds wait for spring before emerging regardless of when they are sown. Spring sowing will obviously give them a full season of growth.
For best results, sow seeds onto a good soil-based compost. Cover the seeds with fine grit or compost to approximately their own depth. Keep in cooler conditions after germination occurs.
Centranthus needs regular watering in well-draining soil its first year, after which it's highly drought-tolerant, hence suitable for a low-maintenance sun-garden. The plants are intolerant of over-watering. Even so, an exceedingly droughtly summer can exhaust the plants and cause a premature die-back so water the plants when summers are hot. If grown in rich soil plants may need to be staked.
Centranthus self-seeds reliably but self sow seedlings are easily removed and can be moved to a preferred spot in the garden. Deadhead regularly throughout the summer to prolong flowering. In autumn cut the plant back down to the ground and compost the dead stems.
Cut the flowers in the morning when approximately 80% of the flowers are open.
For dried flowers, air dry flowers for two to three weeks in a dark, dry place. Darkness is necessary so the flowers do not turn brown.
Cottage Gardens, Wildlife Gardens, Low Maintenance Garden, Cut Flower Garden, Coastal Garden
A native of the Mediterranean region, Centranthus ruber has been introduced into many other parts of the world as a garden escape. It is often seen by roadsides or in urban wasteland. It can tolerate very alkaline soil conditions, and will grow freely in old walls despite the lime in their mortar.
It is an edible plant with the leaves being used in a salad or lightly boiled and the roots boiled in soups.
The genus name Centranthus derives from two Greek words kentron meaning 'a spur,' and anthos, meaning 'flower, and referring to the flower having a spur-like base. One of the common names of this species is Spur Valerian.
The species name ruber means 'red' referring to the colour of the species, as does coccineus.
Pronounced sen-TRAN-thus ROO-ber
Common names include Keys of Heaven, Jupiter's Beard. Pretty Betsy, Red Valerian, Delicate Bess, Sweet Mary or Sweet Setywall
- Additional Information
Packet Size 200mg Average Seed Count 100 Seeds Family Valerianaceae Genus Centranthus Species ruber Synonym Valeriana coccinea Common Name Keys of Heaven, Jupiter's Beard. Pretty Betsy Other Common Names Red Valerian, Spur Valerian, Delicate Bess, Sweet Mary or Sweet Setywall Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers Reddish-pink flowers Natural Flower Time July to October Foliage Sessile grey-green leaves Height 55 to 60cm (22 to 24in) Spread 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) Position Full sun for best flowering Soil Moist, well-drained, fertile soil is best.