Plant of the Month: Jupiter’s Beard
by Jan Koehler
Scientific Name: Centranthus ruber
Other Common Name: red valerian
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Caprifoliaceae , (USDA family classifica tion: Valerianaceae)
Native Range: Europe and northern Africa to Asia Minor
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 1.50 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May-November with deadheading
Bloom Description: Pale to crimson red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Good Cut
Attracts: Butterflies, hummingbirds
Tolerate: Drought, Erosion
Jupiter’s Beard is a tough, easy to grow, long blooming, first year flowering perennial that is hard to beat for providing garden color with little maintenance. This plant thrives on neglect as it is easily grown in average or sandy, medium moisture, well-drained, soils in full sun to part shade. It prefers slightly alkaline soils in full sun. Does well in poor, infertile soils where it usually grows in a more compact form. Freely self-seeds in optimum growing conditions to the point of being weedy. Promptly remove (shear if large planting) spent flower stems to encourage additional bloom and to prevent seeds from forming.
Centranthus ruber, commonly called red valerian or Jupiter’s beard, is a well-branched, bushy, clump-forming, woody-based perennial which is valued for its ability to produce, often in poor soils, a showy bloom of star-shaped crimson, pink or white flowers from spring to frost. Native to the Mediterranean, the Jupiter’s beard has successfully transitioned to many areas of the U.S. and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and the all important pollinators to the area in which it is planted. Flowers (each to 1/2″) appear in dense terminal clusters (cymes) atop upright to relaxed stems rising above the foliage to 1.5-3′ tall. Flowers are fragrant and make excellent cut flowers Jupiter’s Beard is rabbit resistant. If not deadheaded, flowers give way to dandelion-like seed heads which are typically disbursed around the landscape by wind. Fleshy, sessile, oval to lanceolate leaves (to 4″ long) are gray-green.
No serious insect or disease problems. Mealy bugs and aphids are occasional visitors.
Garden uses include bottage gardens, naturalized areas, stone walls, slope or bank cover to help combat erosion and borders, particularly as specimens or in small groups where planting can be more easily managed.