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Red valerian, a beautiful perennial

Flower cluster of a red valerian plant

Red valerian, also called Devil’s beard, is a herbaceous perennial that blooms abundantly during the summer.


Summary of red valerian facts

Name – Centranthus ruber
Family – Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle family), into which the Valerianaceae family was merged
Type – perennial

 – 24 to 40 inches (60 to 100 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – ordinary, or even poor

Flowering – May to September

Its shrub-like stature and beautiful blooming make it a very ornamental plant.

Sowing and planting red valerian

Sowing red valerian

Sowing red valerian from seed is performed under cover at the end of winter and directly in the ground in spring, after any risk of freezing has disappeared.

Red valerian needs sun to develop and bear flowers.

If you sow at the end of winter, in a sheltered place:

  • Sow in a tray.
  • Keep the soil mix a little moist.
  • Thin as soon as the first leaves appear.
  • Transplant directly in the ground any time after mid-May every 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm).

If you sow directly in the ground:

  • Break up the soil to lighten it up.
  • Broadcast seeds.
  • Thin as soon as the first leaves appear to keep only the most vigorous seedlings every 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm).
  • Water regularly with a fine drizzle.

Planting red valerian

It is recommended to plant your red valerian in spring or in fall spacing them 12 inches (30 cm) apart.

If you’re planting red valerian in spring, remember to water a bit more at the beginning.

  • No need to add soil mix because red valerian copes well with poor soil.

Propagating red valerian

Red valerian is a plant that propagates naturally through its seeds, but it is also possible to perform crown division.

Pruning and caring for red valerian

Red valerian is definitely an extremely easy plant that requires no care at all.

You can cut off wilted flowers when they die off if you wish, but this is only aimed at making it look nicer and won’t influence plant behavior.

  • Cut back short in fall, once the leaves have wilted.
  • No need to water red valerian, except perhaps if potted since potted plants are more vulnerable to drought.

Diseases and parasites that attack red valerian

There is no plant that is easier to care for than red valerian, and on top of this, it doesn’t even fear diseases or parasites.

Learn more about red valerian

Red valerian, or Centranthus ruber, owes its name to the botanist De Candolle, who likened its flowers to a red spearhead (kentron means spear in Greek, and anthos means flower and ruber means red).

Native to the Mediterranean area, red valerian has the incredible capacity to grow in all types of soil, even the driest ones.

Lastly, red valerian is often said to share into the sedative properties of its cousin medicinal valerian.

Important to know: Red valerian is related to the Valeriana family. Inside all these plants is valproic acid, a compound that helps relax. It has been shown that eating any during pregnancy, especially at the beginning, resulted in more birth defects (1 to 2% added risk) in the children. These include spina bifida, atrial septal defect (a hole in the heart), hypospadias (in boys, an abnormality in the urethra), polydactyly (extra fingers/toes), craniosynostosis and cleft palate. Do not use this herb while pregnant or if hoping to be!


Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
Pixabay: Gabriele Lässer
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