HARDINESS: Zones 4 to 10
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Adaptable
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Average to poor
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun
ATTRIBUTES: Magenta, pink, or while flowers; felted gray foliage; for beds
SEASON OF INTEREST: Early summer for flowers, all season for foliage
FAVORITES: White Alba', pale pink Angel's Blush', 'Diamond and Rubies' mix
QUIRKS: Does not grow well if its roots are cramped in a container
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Artemisia, shrub roses, pink-flowered zinnias, white or pink petunias
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Average to infertile soil in areas with warm summer temperatures
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Constantly wet soil leads to root rot
RENEWING PLANTS: Lives 2-3 years; allow to reseed; divisions have poor survival rate
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Good
SOURCE: Bedding plants, seeds
DIMENSIONS: 2-3 ft (0.6-1 m) tall, 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) wide
Rose Campion in the Landscape
Famous as a fixture in farmyards and cottage gardens, rose campion is a lovely addition to any flower garden. The hue of rose in the flowers is actually a shocking magenta, which perfectly suits the plants' frosty gray, felted foliage. But quieter colors are available as well. Easy to grow and always willing to self-sow, rose campion features 1 in (2.5 cm) wide, flat, velvety flowers held aloft on stiff, angular branches. Best of all, rose campion has a modest appetite and easily withstands drought and neglect. Blooming in summer, rose campion thrives in sun but adapts easily to partial shade in Zones 8 to 10.
Rose campion plays well with other silvery foliage plants that have a lacier texture, such as artemisia or dusty miller. Or use it in a pastel border of campanulas, lavender, catmint, and yarrows to liven up the scene. The right shade of pink petunia will echo the color of rose campion, helping it flow through the garden in style. It also looks particularly fine lined up single file where its stems can be silhouetted against evergreen shrubs or a dark-colored fence or building.
There's good news for those who'd like to capitalize on rose campion's toughness but find the magenta flowers too shocking. There is the soft-hued 'Alba', with its little white flowers and sage-gray foliage. 'Angel's Blush' is similar, but each flower has a center of light blushing pink. And, if you want to see an array of shades and are willing to start from seed, try 'Diamonds and Rubies', a grab-bag seed mix of several flower colors.
Growing Rose Campion
Choose a spot with well-drained soil that gets morning sun. Light, sandy soil of poor quality is certainly an option. You can sow seeds where you want them to grow, barely covering them with soil; start seeds indoors in winter; or purchase seedlings. Set plants out early, while the seedlings are small, because rose campion hates to have its roots cramped in containers. Seedlings started early that are well chilled by late-spring frosts often bloom their first year in the garden.
After transplanting, rose campion needs water to get started, but then you can let it take care of itself. There is seldom a need to mulch or fertilize. Excessive water is its only enemy, so be careful if you've chosen to combine rose campion with plants that require irrigation.
Individual plants pass away after three or four seasons, or sometimes sooner where summers are very warm and humid, and dividing mature plants does more harm than good. But a family of "pups", or plantlets, invariably surrounds the mother plant. Indeed, in Zones 7 to 10 it is not unusual for rose campion to act like a hardy annual, reseeding itself perpetually, with volunteer seedlings that popped up the previous fall producing flowers. Insect and four-footed pests are unheard of where this plant is concerned.