Growing Old Fashioned Dame's Rocket

Growing Old Fashioned Dame's Rocket
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Growing Dame's RocketHesperis matronalis may not sound familiar, but I'm sure one of its common names will: Dame's Rocket, Sweet Rocket, Queen's Gilliflower, Night Scented Gilliflower, Damask Violet, or Summer Lilac. Dame's Rocket is probably the most commonly used name. It is grown because of its appearance, but also for its ability to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The flowers are pretty and fragrant, and often mistaken for phlox.

This hesperis is edible, but it's not the same variety as the herb commonly called Rocket, which is used as a green in salads. Many people think of Dame's Rocket as a weed or a wildflower, which it is, but when it has fertile soil and is nurtured it becomes a charming plant that can be placed in a cottage garden, the back of a border or in mass groupings on its own. It can easily be started from seed, or taken from divisions. Dividing the plants every 2-3 years will keep it flowering nicely.

Locate Dame's Rocket in full sun, or partial shade and provide standard watering. Once established it's drought tolerant. Yes, it can be invasive in some locations, but as I've mentioned with other plants, if you deadhead blooms before the seed forms you shouldn't have a problem. If you would like to collect the seed, allow it to dry on the plant, then collect the seeds, spread to dry further, and place in envelopes. Direct sow the seed in early spring or fall.

Dame's Rocket can grow up to 5 foot tall, with a spread of 2-4 foot, but most of the time it's around 30 inches.The flowers can be white, pink, purple or magenta, and tend to be more fragrant in the evening. When grown in the garden, the stems are more sturdy than in the wild, and the flowers profuse. It's hardy to Zone 3, and will adapt to most soils, but doesn't do as well in heavy, clay ground. Dame's Rocket blooms from June to September, and will bloom a second time if deadheaded.

You will welcome this plant each year as you discover its ability to attract butterflies, birds and moths. It does well in many locations, so it's hard NOT to find a place in your landscape for it!



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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