Growing Old Fashioned Rose Campion

Growing Old Fashioned Rose Campion
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rose campionAn heirloom garden treasure worth growing in our gardens is Lychnis coronaria, also known as mullein pink, rose campion, gardener's delight and bloody William. It's a stunning combination of magenta blooms with a soft silverish foliage. Rose campion, which is the most used name, is considered a short-lived perennial that will grow well in Zones 3 to 9 in a sunny or lightly shaded location. It's been cultivated since the 1300's, possibly earlier. In Catholic literature it is referred to as "Our Lady's Rose", possibly because of the heart shaped petals.

Rose campion grows from 2 to 3 foot tall and the foliage is a greenish silver color and fuzzy like lamb's ears. It will do best in a moister, fertile but well-drained area though it is drought tolerant and will grow in drier soils. After the first set of blooms cut it back and you should get a second set. The plants reseed easily, so if you don't want extra do not let it set seed, or just allow a few to go to seed.

As I mentioned, it's considered a short-lived perennial, and is often called biennial as well. Actually the plants often live for quite awhile, and if you allow it to reseed you will have more when you need them. Extra, unwanted seedlings pull up easily. Starting plants from seed is easy to and they can be planted out in very early spring as soon as the ground can be worked. If you live in a very warm climate it helps to chill them for a few weeks before sowing the seeds.

Rose campion can be used as a cut flower if you harvest the stems when just one or two of the flowers are open. They will last about a week in a vase. There striking color and pretty foliage make them a lovely flower in borders or herb gardens.

There are other varieties of lychnis that can be grown. German catchfly, Lychnis viscaria 'splendens-plena', blooms in June and grows about 18 inches tall. It has double blooms in pink and the foliage is more grasslike. It isn't quite a hardy and is best planted where it will be sheltered from harsh winds. Mulch if the snow is not heavy. The stems are sticky, which is why it's commonly called catchfly.

Maltese cross, Lychnis chalcedonica, is another variety that has been in cultivation for centuries. It is a native of Russia that grows to about 3 foot tall in sun or shade. The flowers are red and are grouped into heads when they bloom in July. They can be invasive if not watched and controlled. They are said to have been brought to Europe by the Knights of Malta during The Crusades, hence the name.


Image: Courtesy of Creative Commons License from the photographer - Rhian vK


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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