A traditional, free flowering, cottage garden perennial that is ideal for poor, dry conditions. A good upright plant with long lasting deep pink, red or white flower heads. Attractive to butterflies and pollinators.
Family: Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle family)
Botanical Name: Centranthus / Valeriana
Common Names: Valerian, capon's tail, fox's brush, cut-finger, cut-heal, garden heliotrope, herb bennet, Pretty Betsy, St George's herb, Vandal root.
Foliage: Simple, evergreen or deciduous, blue/grey/green, opposite leaves.
Flowers: Rounded clusters or sprays of small tubular flowers. In shades of white, pink, red or yellow (depending on variety). Lightly fragrant.
Flowering Period: July to October.
Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, sand or loam). Alkaline to neutral pH.
Conditions: Full sun or dappled shade. Plant in a west or south facing aspect, in either an exposed or sheltered possition.
Type: Annual or herbaceous perennial.
Origin: Europe, Caucasus and parts of Asia.
Hardiness: Hardy in the UK (down to -10 deg C).
Very easy to grow and trouble free. Especially suited to dry or chalky soils and coastal exposure. Needs full sun to flower well.
Ideal for cottage and wildlife gardens, dry gardens, flower beds or mixed borders. Also useful for poor soils, dry stone walls, banks and rocky ground.
Excellent as cut flowers.
Support taller varieties with twiggy sticks as they grow. Can be invasive - self sown seedlings should be removed to control its spread.
The strong woody roots can split brick or stonework so discourage from growing in or near walls.
Deadhead after flowering to prevent self seeding. Clip the plants back by about one-third once flowering has finished. Can also be cut down to ground level if they become too untidy.
Generally pest and disease free.
Sow seed outside in spring. The common forms are prolific self-seeders.
Take basal softwood cuttings of cultivars in spring.
Centranthus ruber (perennial valerian) is the main species grown in the UK.
Centranthus ruber (red valerian) is a hardy perennial that produces dense clusters of reddish-pink flowers on tall, fleshy stems with glaucous leaves. Long flowering season and easy to grow. Height to 2.5ft (80cm), spread to 1.5ft (45cm).
Centranthus ruber 'Albus' (white valerian) is a pure white version. Available from Van Meuwen. Good cultivars include "snowcloud", which produces dense clusters of star-shaped white flowers all summer. Available from Gardening Express.
Centranthus ruber coccinea produces dense clusters of tiny fragrant carmine-red flowers, above grey-green leaves. Available from Gardening Express.
Centranthus 'Star Ruber Mixed' is a classic Valerian mixture, containing three colours: rose, white and maroon. Thompson & Morgan.