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Long popular in Cottage gardens, this is a rugged and easy perennial for any sunny border. Plants form an upright clump with tall stems in summer that bear large clusters of scarlet-orange flowers, shaped like a Maltese Cross. Excellent for cutting. In rich soils this may need to be staked to prevent flopping. Reliable and long lived. Clumps may be easily divided in spring or fall. Flowers are attractive to butterflies. Drought tolerant once established.
It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. It is native to eastern Europe and western Asia, and arrived in western Europe by the Middle Ages. It was imported quite early to the American colonies, and Thomas Jefferson planted scarlet lychnis into flower beds at Monticello in 1807.
aka Flower of Bristol, Jerusalem Cross, Maltese Cross, Scarlet Lightning, Scarlet Lychnis, Silene chalcedonica
90-120 cm 35-47 inches, Full to part sun
Start Lychnis seeds indoors 6 – 8 weeks before the last frost is expected. Use well-draining starter soil. Sow the seeds on the surface, lightly covered. Keep seed continuously moist until germination. Some gardeners will cover with plastic wrap to keep humidity high. Transplant outdoors after danger of frost and when seedlings are 2 inches tall. Deadhead spent blooms to prolong the blooming season. Let the last blooms go to seed so that Lychnis can re-seed itself. If re-seeding is not desired, cut the stems back down to basal growth after blooming.