Five Summer All-Stars

Plant these flowers for a garden that blooms during summer’s worst weather.

By Jeff Cox


Red Valerian is perfect for the summer garden Red Valerian
Centranthus ruber
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
Blooms: Late June to August, then reblooms to frost
Height x Width: 3 X 3 feet
Flower color: Varies from mauve-pink to lilac-red to strong red
Light requirements: Full sun to partial shade

If every perennial were as easy to grow as red valerian, we could plant up a garden and forget it. Red valerian's thousands of tiny florets cluster in dense showy heads held above bushy, fleshy, gray-green foliage. The flowers have a nice but not strong fragrance, and the flowerheads will last a full week when cut for an arrangement in the house.

Red valerian thrives in just about any soil and conditions except wet, boggy shade. It is drought-tolerant to the point where it naturalizes in many parts of the West where summer water is sparse.

Use red valerian to bring easy, long-lasting color to steep banks, on rough slopes, or along the roadside. Some people might describe its growth habit as “floppy,” but I prefer to call it “relaxed.” Either way, red valerian looks lovely growing where it can cascade gracefully—over a wall, for instance.

Photo: (cc) Clatie K/Flickr