Cerinthe flowers

Cerinthe is an unusual annual with rounded, blue-green leaves on upright stems. Bearing masses of nodding rich purple flowers, surrounded by purple bracts, from late spring onwards.

Family: Boraginaceae (Borage)
Botanical Name: Cerinthe
Common Names: Honeywort, wax flower, Pride of Gibraltar, blue shrimp plant.

Foliage: Deciduous or evergreen, roundish, glaucus blue-green or greyish leaves.

Flowers: Yellow or purple tubular pendent flowers, borne along with matching coloured bracts.

Flowering Period: Late spring to late summer.

Soil: Well-drained, fertile soil (chalk, sand or loam). Alkaline or neutral pH. Avoid waterlogged conditions.

Conditions: Full sun. Best in a west or south facing aspect, in a sheltered position.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Hardy annual or half-hardy perennial.

Origin: Southern Europe, Mediterranean.

Hardiness: Hardy in coastal and mild regions of the UK (down to -5°C).

Planting and Growing Cerinthe

Easy to grow from seed. Thrives in any well-drained, poor or moderately fertile soil, in a sheltered position. On heavier soils incorporate plenty of grit or sharp sand to improve drainage.

Best grown at the front of the border in full sun. Medium drought tolerance. Ideal for cottage gardens and wildlife gardens.

Spreads and keeps flowering right through the summer. Highly attractive to bees and pollinating insects.

Taking Care of Cerinthe

Water in dry weather. Water container grown plants regularly.


Cut plants back once flowering has finished in the autumn. Plants may survive mild winters but a hard frost will kill them.

Pests and Diseases

Generally pest and disease free.

Propagating Cerinthe

Grow from seed, sown where it is to flower in late spring. Thin seedlings to 12in (30cm) apart. Seed can also be sown in late winter or early spring under glass. Pot on and harden off before planting outside in May/June.

A prolific self seeder in warmer regions. In colder regions, harvest the ripe seeds in autumn and save for sowing next spring.

Popular Varieties of Cerinthe

The main variety grown in the UK is C. major Purpurascens, usually sold as seed or plug plants in the spring.

Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' a compact annual form with rich purple flowers in summer. Height to 24in (60cm), spread to 18in (45cm). Seed available at Thompson & Morgan.