Can’t Miss With Lychnis

Closeup of Rose Campion in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Closeup of hot pink Rose Campion (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Derived from the Greek word meaning lamp, I can think of no better description than to say the flower of lychnis will indeed “light up” your garden.  A few of the most commonly recognized lychnis are really quite different individuals.  One is Lychnis chalcedonica, also known as Maltese Cross, which is a long lived perennial for sunny zones 3-8. Familiar for its vibrant red blossoms that can reach up to 3′, there are now white and salmon colored options as well.  The other commonly known lychnis is Rose Campion, or Lychnis coronaria, a hot-hot-hot fuchsia pink with frosty stems.  Unlike Lchalcedonica, L. coronaria is not a reliable perennial and should be treated as a biennial.  That said, a sprinkling of seeds will result in new plants year after year, with any unwanted visitors easily removed.

Lychnis coronaria in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Lychnis coronaria in the border (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Where Maltese Cross stands out with vibrant heads bouncing on the breeze, Rose Campion offers season-long interest with her flashy silver foliage.  However, the bright magenta flowers can sometimes be a challenge to mix in with other plants because of the color intensity.  I will often prune off some flowers or remove the entire plant when it becomes too clashy or overbearing later in the growing season.  And for those that would rather have something a bit more demure, I have had great luck with the lychnis coronaria ‘Oculata’, which has the same stunning pewter foliage, but with a white flower accentuated by a subtle pink center instead.  Modest Oculata is quite beautiful and blends perfectly with a wide range of other flowering companions (and yes, it will self sow as well).

Lychnis arkwrightii 'Vesuvius' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The dazzling Lychnis arkwrightii ‘Vesuvius’ (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Just as I thought coronaria was going to be the only hot tamale for me, I walked into Lychnis x arkwrightii ‘Vesuvius’ at a local nursery.  Why hello there.  It was love at first sight and she wasn’t even blooming yet!  The lush bronzy burgundy foliage was all I needed to reel me in.  (Yes, she had me at “Hello“).  And you can imagine my bliss when Madame Vesuvius burst into bloom a few days ago with her tangerine flowers on 18” stems, why I just had to stop and stare.  Luckily, she didn’t mind. With a flashy outfit like that, you know this lady isn’t shy.  Which reminds me, you may want to let this lantern light up her stage without competition from other colorful garden friends by placing her with some sedate greenery (such as oregano or mint, for example), allowing her to maintain her star status.

Lychnis coronaria 'Oculata' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Lychnis coronaria ‘Oculata’ (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Consider lychnis (pronounced lick-ness) as a possible addition to your garden if you’re looking for a little punch of color and fun.  Most are hardy to zones 3-8 in sunny, well drained settings, although they do enjoy cooler climates.  They are low care, drought resistant, offer a wide range of color options and attract butterflies and hummingbirds while remaining offensive to deer.  Just remember to wear your sunglasses my dears~

**Looking for other sizzling blossoms, try: PHLOX THAT ROCK !!


  1. Lychnis ‘Vesuvius’ seduced me at the garden center this spring too. If it comes back next spring I will definitely be adding a few more.

    • I’m with you on that one, Sue! Mine is blooming up a storm right now-an orange beacon across the lawn. I sure do hope it’s more reliable that the knautia . . .

  2. lisa Quinn says

    A neighbor gave me a bunch of this and it died,how can I get seeds? Where I planted them they died years ago this year 1 came up to mu surprise.Where can I get this? Please help me.

    • If you’re looking for Lychnis coronaria seeds, you can try: or, both are reputable. The plant will self sow if you allow it to go to seed after it flowers. Sometimes I take the spent flower heads and sprinkle the seeds into areas I would like them to grow. Best of luck, Lisa ~

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