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Centranthus - Growing Guide
Growing Centranthus ruber
Commonly known as ‘Valerian’
This is a gorgeous perennial which grows as a wild flower in many Cornish towns and villages. It has naturalised itself into dry walls, banks and sandy coastal areas where it flowers away from April through to June or July. Much as visitors to Cornwall may admire this plant it is actually found all along our coastline often with pink and white flowering plants amongst the predominant reds. It is also the essence of a Cotswold village or a taste of the seaside in a London park. It is certainly hardy enough for growing in colder areas of the country but here it may take a bit more careful coddling in the herbaceous border. You are however unlikely to contain its seeds from germinating elsewhere in your garden for long as the bees do their pollination work.
Centranthus ruber are clump forming sub shrubs from Mediterranean areas. They have a woody base and produce many branched plants growing up to 3ft each season. The leaves often have a blue-green hue and, like the stems, appear slightly succulent and fleshy.
This plant will grow in the most tiny crack in a wall or your patio with absolutely no care or attention and is perfectly happy on chalk.
While these plants self sow themselves at an alarming rate the older clumps will probably cease flowering properly and run out of steam after three or four years and need replacing or starting again. If you cut off the seed heads after flowering you may well prolong their performance.
The seed are perhaps the easiest garden plants to grow after echium. The seedlings are likely to come up everywhere even after a cold winter or Atlantic gales so you hardly need bother collecting any. The dormant clumps can be carefully divided but this plant establishes itself so readily and grows so quickly that it is hardly worth the effort!