Linaria purpurea ‘Canon J Went’ is a delightful plant with tall spikes of pink and mauve tiny flowers that resemble miniature snapdragons, appear from a basal clump of fine, grey-green leaves. Easy to grow and flowering prolifically in a sunny spot, the delicate plants take up little space and provide a softening haze in perennial borders.
This undemanding hardy, clump forming perennial suits a wide range of sites. Growing between 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) tall, with a spread of around 30cm (12in), the elegant flower stems bloom from July and continue all summer until first frosts.
Linaria are bone hardy, long-lived and quite drought-resistant once established. Wonderful in the perennial border, for naturalised planting schemes, mass plantings or gravel gardens and a great choice for cut flowers, they are also very suited to a maritime environment, on the coast or airy, even windy spots. Their requirement of good drainage and sunny aspects makes them a perfect specimen for containers,
Like a stray cat earning its keep by mousing, Linaria does its job superbly. Once planted out, the plants only take six to eight weeks to flower, this perennial species can be cut back repeatedly to stimulate additional blooms. After the first flower head is removed, numerous smaller heads will quickly branch out and flower. The plants keep on blooming right up to the first hard frost with tall spires of charming tiny snapdragons.
The flowers do not mind being chopped and last at least a week in a small glass or jug. To top it off, the plants are a nectar-mecca, the plants hum and buzz with life throughout summer. This is one of those cottage garden plants that you will never want to be without.
Timing: February to June or September to October.
Linaria seed germinates best when the soil is warm between 18 to 20°C (65 to 68°F) and usually will not germinate when temperatures are below 10°C (50°F). The plants also flower better and for much longer when days remain cool 20 to 22°C (68 to 72°F).
Traditionally the finest displays for both annual and perennial species of Linaria are produced from late summer and autumn plantings and sowings in climates with very mild and nearly frost-free winters. These sowings produce very robust and stocky plants that can withstand mild frosts and will begin flowering in winter and early spring onward.
In very cold climates, spring is the best time to sow for summer flowering. These also make a lovely show wherever summer temperatures remain cool to moderate.
In climates with cool summer nights seed can be sown through summer for late season blooms. Planting or sowing in mid spring will usually produce a splash of quick colour around the holiday season (Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere and 4th of July in the USA).
The seed of Linaria is very fine. While the perennial species like Linaria purpurea and occasionally young L. vulgaris can be successfully transplanted while young, they are almost always best sown direct where the plants are meant to grow. Alternatively, sow very lightly into small punnets or containers. Later on as the seedlings advance, watch their development and as soon as their roots fill the container or punnet and just begin to protrude through the drainage holes, transplant them into their permanent flowering location.
The secret is to transplant them as one intact root ball soil unit with no disturbance of their very delicate roots. Always transplant into moist soil and once transplanted, water them in immediately and they should rocket away.
When sowing the seed directly where it is meant to grow, many gardeners mix the very fine seed with sand or compost and then broadcast this mix very thinly where the plants are to flower. This usually provides enough spacing between seedlings so that little if any thinning-out is necessary.
Lightly cover the seed bed with a little more compost, sand or light mulch; or rake in the broadcast seed and keep the bed lightly moist. Germination is rapid. Seedlings can later be thinned so the plants are not overcrowded or shaded by nearby growth. Thinnings can be successfully transplanted on damp, cloudy days. But these plants will always be a bit inferior to those that have grown their entire life without transplanting shock.
Another secret for creating the most successful Linaria bed displays is thorough weeding. It is usually best to prepare the planting site well in advance; adding compost, lime and possibly a balanced general garden fertiliser and digging it in. Water this in and then let the bed settle. Allow whatever weed seed there is in the bed to germinate, then rake or weed this out, once or twice prior to broadcasting the Linaria seed.
Raking or slicing through the topsoil and weeds on a dry, sunny and windy day will cause the weed seedlings to almost immediately shrivel and return back to the soil as a ‘green manure’ and eliminates the back-breaking effort of hand-weeding.
This eliminates almost all weeds that might otherwise crowd-out or overshadow the delicate and small Linaria seedlings. Otherwise, it is often very difficult to successfully traditionally weed amongst tiny Linaria seedlings because they are so fine, small and shallow-rooted. Pulling out any nearby weeds almost surely will damage a number of nearby Linaria seedlings which will later-on limit their ultimate performance.
Linaria prefer limy soils but will grow in a variety of soil pH from 5.5 to 8.2. Soil can be enriched or poor but the key to success is that it must be light and well-draining. Sandy land and gravel suit them well. They thrive in sunny sites and will also tolerate drier positions in partly shaded. Linaria are good on the coast or airy, even windy spots. Their requirement of good drainage and sunny aspects makes them a perfect specimen for containers, baskets and window boxes.
The perennial species of Linaria, can be cut back repeatedly to stimulate additional blooms. After the first flower head is removed, numerous smaller heads will quickly branch out and flower. Once these finish, remove that entire stem to just above the basal crown and more strong shoots should soon spring into growth.
The plants may self-seed where happy but this species does not run like some other forms of Linaria. The plants are shallow-rooted, so it is not difficult to remove unwanted plants and it is quite easy to transplant the seedlings when they are young. If self-seeded plants are not required, shear them back from just below the flowering stems once the first flush of flowers fade. With any luck the plants will flower again on many more, shorter stems.
All Linaria make excellent and long-lasting cut flowers, a number of annual and perennial species and varieties are grown commercially for the Florist Trade. Flowers are usually cut as the first few blooms open on each stem. Flowers will continue to open up the stem for a week or more. If the flowers remain in bright indirect light and stems are recut and the water is changed regularly, they will continue to flower ‘travelling’ up the stem sometimes lasting for several weeks as a cut flower.
Coastal, Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Arranging, Borders and Beds, Dry or Gravel Garden, Prairie Planting, Wildlife Gardens. Maritime, Low Maintenance.
The genus Linaria contains 125 species, native to' the Northern Hemisphere and South America, seven of which are found in England.
Most species of Linaria are annuals, but Linaria purpurea is a perennial, native to Italy, Sicilly, and Mediterranean islands. Perennial toadflax has naturalised in more northerly areas of Europe, including the British Isles, and North America, especially in California, probably due to intentionally strewn wildflower seed mixes.
The species is in the plantain family, Scrophulariaceae. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant and can be found growing wild as an introduced species. Several toadflaxes are wayside and wasteland flowers. The purple toadflax is a common stray around railway embankments and walls.
The common toadflax, Linaria vulgaris, is butter-yellow with an orange centre and most closely resembles its cousin the snapdragon.
The genus name Linaria was given it by Linnaeus. It derives from the Latin linum meaning 'flax,' from its likeness to a flax plant before flowering. It refers to the flax-like leaves of some species
The species name purpurea denotes the colour purple, from the flowers of the species.
The common name Toadflax originated in the resemblance of the flower to little toads, there being also a resemblance between the mouth of the flower and the wide mouth of a toad.
Coles says that the plant was called Toadflax, 'because Toads will sometimes shelter themselves amongst the branches of it.'
- Additional Information
Packet Size 50mg Average Seed Count 350 seeds Family Plantaginaceae Genus Linaria Species purpurea Cultivar Canon J Went Synonym Canon Went Common Name Toadflax Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Pink and mauve Natural Flower Time The bloom from July and continue all summer Height 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) Spread 30cm (12in) Position Full sun for best flowering Soil Well-drained/ light / sandy Time to Sow February to June or September to October Germination 5 to 10 days at 15 to 20°C (59 to 68°F).