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Centaurea, a cluster of color for hard-to-flower areas

Centaury, centaurea

Centaury (or Centaurea) is a knee-height clump of wispy leaves that is dotted with beautiful flowers. It grow well in hard-to-grow places.

Centaury key facts

Botanical nameCentaurea sp.
Common name – Centaury
Type – perennial

Bearing – clump
Height – 8 to 40 inches (20 to 120 cm)
Planting density – 3 to 8 plants per sq. yard (m²) depending on the species

Exposure – full sun
Soil – any type, as long as well drained
Flowering – From May to September depending on the species

Centaury is a type of perennial that includes plants that are very different. It doesn’t fear drought, nor does it particularly hate chalky soil. Centaury is excellent to bring blooms to hard-to-flower soil types.

Planting centaury

Centaury loves full sun and doesn’t complain much about the type of soil, as long as it drains well.

  • In spring or in fall, plant your specimens with a distance of 1 to 2 feet between each (30 to 60 cm).

The larger the plant variety when mature, the farther apart they must be planted. When these rules are followed, there won’t be any planting trouble at all for Centaurea.

Caring for centaury

This is very simple: the only care it needs is deadheading to trigger new blooming. At the beginning of spring, cut the clump back to remove dead foliage and any portions that might have been damaged by frost.

Propagating centaury

Two options are most effective to multiply centaury: dividing the clump or collecting and sowing seeds.


To divide your centaury, pull it out with a spade and then chop the root ball in half. After that, plant each of the portions as if it were a new plant.


Centaureais a perennial that self-sows abundantly. If you aim to propagate it, you can simple unearth natural seedlings and transplant them elsewhere.

Diseases and pests

Diseases and pests that infect centaurySlugs and snails are likely to devour young sprouts. Setting up a barrier will help solve the problem. Centaury also tends to be vulnerable to powdery mildew. If ever you notice some on a few leaves of your plant, feel free to cut it back completely and then water regularly until new growth reappears.

Landscaping uses and companion plants

Centaury will love growing in flower beds, pots, rocky terrain and edges. The best species to pair it with depends on what role it plays in the landscaping.

Centaury clump at the top of a rock wallCentaurea pairs well with perennials that might have similar blooming and leafage: sage, lavender. The bright yellow of a Sedum acre can also work marvels when it’s right next to any of the types of centaury. Just the same for Pennisetum which, when it blooms, seems to chat with the flowers of Centaurea montana as if they were best friends.

A few interesting species and varieties

Centaurea macrocephala :

Large yellow centaurea macrocephala flowersThis very original candidate has bright yellow flowers, it’s also one of the tallest types of centaury since it reaches 4 feet tall (1.2 meters).

  • Blooms in July, August.

Centaurea pulcherrima :

Its cute purple flowers with a white center, and pubescent gray colors make it one of the most beautiful species of centaury.

  • Blooms from May to July.

Centaurea montana :

Centaurea montana is a cute two-colored varietyPerhaps the most common garden centaury of all, it bears violet blue flowers with thin, wispy petals.

  • A classic that blooms from May to July.

Also exists in a pure-white blooming cultivar called ‘Alba’.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
Pixabay: Corinne Decarpentrie, Erik Lyngsøe
CC BY 2.0: tdlucas5000, Gail Hampshire
CC BY-SA 2.0: Tatiana Gerus
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