Rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) is a hardy flowering biennial or short-lived perennial with bright magenta, saucer-shaped flowers that contrast beautifully with silky grey leaves and stems. Although originating from south-eastern Europe, it has been a long-standing cottage-garden favourite, gaining many common names including dusty miller, rose cockle, pink mullein, bird’s eye, and crown of the field. Varieties of rose campion have white, pink-and-white, and deep red flowers, and can be single or double. Rose campion is now seeing a resurgence in popularity for use in drought tolerant, naturalistic and wildlife friendly planting as it gives colour for many weeks. It works well alongside ornamental grasses, along with other flowering perennials such as verbascum, stachys and hardy geranium.


How to grow rose campion

Grow rose campion in full sun and well-drained soil, keeping watered until established. Cut back dead growth to the ground any time from autumn to early spring.

Where to grow rose campion

Double rose campion flowers
Double rose campion flowers

Rose campion grows to around 60-75cm high when in flower, with a spread of 30-40cm. Grow in the middle of a border, in free-draining soil in full sun. Rose campion works well when planted individually or in small groups for a more naturalistic planting.

How to plant rose campion

Plant rose campion in spring, or in early autumn so it establishes well before the cold, wet weather arrives. Dig a hole no deeper than the rootball of the plant but slightly wider. There's no need to fertilise the planting hole as rose campion thrives in poor soils. Firm gently around the plant and water well. Continue watering until established.

How to care for rose campion

Once established, rose campion needs little care. Removing the dead flower stems encourages further blooms to develop, though do this with care to avoid removing unopened flowers. Cutting off the faded flower stems before seed ripens also prevents self-seeding.

How to prune rose campion

Cut back dead stems any time from autumn to early spring, before growth begins. Leave the basal rosette of leaves untouched, with the exception of gently pulling or cutting off any unsightly dead leaves.

How to propagate rose campion

Saving rose campion seed
Saving rose campion seed

Rose campion self seeds readily. You can either save seed from the ripe seed heads and store in brown envelopes until you come to sow them, or leave it to self seed naturally around the garden.

Sow red campion seed in late winter to early spring or in autumn. Sow thinly on the surface of pots or trays of moist seed compost and, as seed needs light to germinate, either cover with glass or polythene, or with a thin layer of Perlite. Rose campion seed needs a period of cold to germinate (a process known as stratification) so a site in an unheated greenhouse or a sheltered spot outside. Once seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant into individual small pots or modular trays and then plant out when well grown.

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Pests and diseases

Rose campion is trouble free once established.

Advice on buying rose campion

  • Rose campion is quick to grow from seed or from ready grown plants in small pots, which are better value than those in larger 2-3l pots
  • Both seed and plants are readily available
  • Always check plants for signs of damage or disease before planting

Where to buy rose campion