It's tough to beat this plant's sturdy reputation. Sea thrift (Armeria maritima) is dependable, tough, and attractive. Native to Greenland, Iceland, and salt marshes and cliffs in northwestern Europe, it survives salty, windy seaside conditions and the drier soils of rock gardens. Its grasslike, evergreen foliage stays neat all summer, so it also makes an attractive ground cover or border plant. In mid-May to mid-June, white to rose-pink, rounded 1-inch flower heads bloom on 10-inch stalks.
Common name: Sea thrift, common thrift
Botanical name: Armeria maritima
Plant type: Clumping evergreen perennial
Zones: 3 to 9
Height: 10 inches tall
- Sun: Full sun. In hot-summer areas, afternoon shade is helpful
- Soil: Light, sandy soil with good drainage
- Moisture: Moderate to dry
- Mulch: None required
- Fertilizing: None required
- Pruning: Trim only spent flower heads. Vigorous pruning of the foliage in the fall may destroy the following spring's bloom.
- Sow seed in containers in a cold frame in fall or spring.
- Divide plants in early spring or fall if centers become bare. Replant 8 inches apart.
Pests and diseases
- In hot summers, plants may rot in the center.
- Sea thrift will perform poorly in heavy, wet soil.
- Because it can withstand dry conditions, sea thrift does well in containers or between stepping stones.
- Good companions include yarrow, thyme, statice, and dwarf bearded iris.
- ‘Alba' (Zones 3 to 9) has white flower heads and grows 8 inches tall.
- ‘Bloodstone' (Zones 3 to 9) has rose-red flowers and grows 10 inches tall.
- ‘Düsseldorf Pride' (Zones 3 to 9, pictured here) has extra-large, wine-red flower heads and grows 8 inches tall.
All in the family
- The Plumbaginaceae family includes mostly herbs and small shrubby plants.
- Ceratostigma minus is a deciduous shrub with bristly-margined, green leaves. Clusters of bright blue flowers appear in late summer to fall. It grows 3 feet tall and is hardy in Zones 8 to 10.
- Sea lavender (Limonium latifolium, Zones 4 to 9) is a perennial with tubular, lavender flowers in late summer. It grows 24 inches tall.
- Statice (L. sinuatum, Zones 8 to 9) has winged, green stems and tiny, funnel-shaped flowers used frequently in fresh- and dried-flower arrangements. It blooms in summer to early fall and grows 16 inches tall.
- Cape leadwort (Plumbago auriculata, Zones 9 to 10) is an evergreen shrub with tubelike, blue flowers in summer to autumn. It's hardy in Zones 9 to 10.
(Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Monrovia Growers, www.monrovia.com)