What is Rose Campion?

Christina Edwards

Lychnis coronaria, commonly known as dusty miller or rose campion, is a flowering plant belonging to the Caryophyllaceae, or carnation, family. Native to parts of Europe and Africa, rose campion is now used as an ornamental plant in gardens across the world. It often grow to be roughly 2 to 3 feet (61 to 91.4 centimeters) tall and adds a splash of bright color to the landscape.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Rose campion can be found decorating rocky hillsides and scrub lands. Although its origins can be traced to parts of northern Africa, southern Europe, and the Middle East, this plant has become naturalized in North America. The beauty of this plant has been recognized for centuries, and it has been grown as an ornamental plant as far back as the 1300s.

Rose campion is a biennial plant, meaning that it is a short-lived perennial. During the first year, leaves, stems, and roots form. After a period of dormancy in the colder months, it will begin to bloom in the second year and maybe even the third year. By the end of the third year, if some flowers were left to go to seed, new seedlings will start to pop up and possibly bloom.

Leaves are situated in opposing pairs along the stem. Because they are covered in soft, fine hairs, rose campion leaves have a silvery gray look to them. They are oval shaped, and their size can vary from 2 to 6 inches (5.1 to 10.2 centimeters) in length.

Flowers of the rose campion can range in color. For the most part, the blooms are a bright pink or dark red, but some can be white. These 1-inch (2.5- centimeter) flowers usually begin to bloom during the spring and summer of the second year of growth. Each flower has about five heart-shaped petals.

Although it will grow well in partial shade, rose campion prefers to be positioned in full sun, where it thrives. This plant is a favorite among many gardeners not only because of the showy flowers, but because of the ability to grow in poor, dry soil. Overly fertile soil is not necessary for the rose campion to survive, and after it becomes established, an occasional watering during a drought is all that is needed.

Garlands of these flowers often adorned ancient athletic victors. Today, rose campion is still grown as an ornamental plant, and it is perfect for a border or as a bedding plant. Because of the long stems, the blooms are considered to be perfect for cut flowers, and can last up to a week in a vase.

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