How to grow honesty

How to grow honesty

Find out all you need to know about growing honesty in this detailed Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow
Sow

Do not Sow in January

Do not Sow in February

Do not Sow in March

Do not Sow in April

Do not Sow in May

Do Sow in June

Do not Sow in July

Do not Sow in August

Do not Sow in September

Do not Sow in October

Do not Sow in November

Do not Sow in December

Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do Plant in September

Do Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does flower in April

Plant does flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Collect seeds
Collect seeds

Do not Collect seeds in January

Do not Collect seeds in February

Do not Collect seeds in March

Do not Collect seeds in April

Do not Collect seeds in May

Do not Collect seeds in June

Do not Collect seeds in July

Do Collect seeds in August

Do Collect seeds in September

Do Collect seeds in October

Do not Collect seeds in November

Do not Collect seeds in December

Honesty, Lunaria, is an old-fashioned cottage garden plant, known more for its seeds than its flowers.

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The distinctive flat, translucent papery pods, which hold the dark seeds, are often used in dried flower arranging but, if left on the plant, they’re good for adding winter interest to the garden. However, the purple or white fragrant flowers in spring and early summer are very attractive in their own right and are also attractive to pollinating insects.

As well as providing flowers for pollinators, honesty is used as a caterpillar food plant by the orange-tip butterfly. Look out for green caterpillars on the stems of plants in summer, and the almost triangular pupae, which remain on the plant throughout winter, before the new season’s butterflies hatch in mid-spring.

How to grow honesty

Most honesty is biennial. Sow seeds in early summer to flower the following spring. Grow in moist but well-drained soil in sun to partial shade. Let the flowers develop seedheads for attractive winter displays.

More on growing honesty:

Find more detailed advice on growing honesty, below.


Where to plant honesty

How to grow honesty - honesty growing with tulips
How to grow honesty – honesty growing with tulips

Honesty thrives in fertile, moist and well-drained, slightly alkaline soil. It does best in partial shade. Pair it with spring-flowering bulbs like tulips (pictured) or as part of a spring woodland border.


How to plant honesty

Honesty can be grown from seed or young plants. Sow in pots or a seed tray in early summer and transplant into larger pots when plants are large enough to handle. Plant out into their final growing positions in autumn. As honesty is biennial it has a large taproot and therefore is best planted out when young – larger plants tend not to establish as well as younger ones.


How to propagate honesty

How to grow honesty - honesty seeds ready for sowing
How to grow honesty – honesty seeds ready for sowing

Honesty will self-seed easily if not cut back. However you can also collect seeds for propagation by saving a few of the seed pods. Sow in early summer for planting out in autumn, and flowering the following spring.

Follow our No Fuss Guide with Alan Titchmarsh, on how to save honesty seed:


How to care for honesty

Honesty is a low-maintenance plant and doesn’t require feeding or cutting back. Allow plants to go to seed, harvesting a few pods for sowing and leaving the remaining ones on the plant to provide winter interest.


Growing honesty: problem solving

Honesty is a member of the Brassica family and therefore is susceptible to the same diseases as many cabbages, such as the fungal disease, club root. This will cause distorted roots and stunted top growth.


Honesty varieties to grow

How to grow honesty - honesty varieties to grow
How to grow honesty – honesty varieties to grow
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  • Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’ – this has wonderful chocolate leaves and lilac flowers and grows to a height of 1m. The nectar-rich flowers attract bees, butterflies and moths and it also provides food for caterpillars
  • Lunaria annua var. albiflora – this has been awarded the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) for its large white flowers, which are followed by the attractive papery seed pods
  • Lunaria rediviva – this perennial variety grows up to 90cm, and has pale lilac flowers with a lovely fragrance followed by good seedheads
  • Lunaria annua ‘Alba Variegata’ – this has heart-shaped leaves with a creamy white border and white flowers. It’s a biennial and is a slightly smaller variety, growing to around 60cm