Take a subtle but striking neutral color, then add a brilliant dash of color. No, it’s not a fashion tip—it’s the reason rose campion is so appealing. This easy-care plant forms basal clumps of softly hairy, silvery gray-green leaves topped with many branching stems that bear bright rosy magenta flowers. Each flower lasts only a day but there are plenty of them, and the bloom period lasts from late spring through midsummer. Rose campion self-seeds readily; you may have to pull seedlings, but allow some to remain so they can replace the short-lived parent plants.
Common name: Rose campion
Botanical name: Lychnis coronaria
Plant type: Biennial or short-lived perennial
Zones: 4 to 8
Height: 2 to 3 feet
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Well-drained, loamy or sandy
• Moisture: Average to dry
• Mulch: None, or a thin layer (1 inch) of organic mulch
• Pruning: Deadhead to reduce self-seeding, if desired.
• Fertilizer: Apply compost in spring.
Pests and diseases
• No major problems.
• ‘Alba’ has white flowers.
• Gardener’s World (‘Blych’) has ruffly, double red flowers that look like miniature carnations.
• ‘Angel’s Blush’ has white flowers with a pink eye.
• Rose campion is a great choice for informal cottage gardens, difficult dry sites, and any well-drained garden that needs a bit of neon color.
• Make the most of the silvery foliage by shearing back top growth after flowering; you’ll reduce seeding and end up with a nice mat of foliage for the rest of the growing season.
• Gardeners with a taste for drama may combine the vivid color of rose campion with other shockingly bright flowers like orange-flowered Maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica) and purple-flowered clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata).
All in the family
• Rose campion is a member of the pink family (Caryophyllaceae), which includes such familiar garden flowers as dianthus and carnations (Dianthus spp.), baby’s breath (Gypsophila spp.), and various campions (Lychnis spp.).
• Some taxonomic references now list rose campion under the botanic name Silene coronaria.
Where to buy
• Annie’s Annuals and Perennials, Richmond, CA, 888-266-4370, www.anniesannuals.com
• Forestfarm, Williams, OR, 541-846-7269, www.forestfarm.com
• Select Seeds, Union, CT, 800-684-0395, www.selectseeds.com
(Text by Nancy Rose, photo courtesy of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden)