Centranthus ruber
Common Name: red valerian 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Native Range: Northern Africa, southern Europe
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 1.50 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: Pale to crimson red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Good Cut
Leaf: Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Drought, Erosion


Easily grown in average to sandy, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers slightly alkaline soils in full sun. Limestone may be added to acidic soils. Tolerates dry soils. Does well in poor, infertile soils where it usually grows in a more compact form. Freely self-seeds in optimum growing conditions to the point of being somewhat invasive and weedy. Promptly remove (shear if large planting) spent flower stems to encourage additional bloom and to prevent seeds from forming. Plants are generally less vigorous in the hot and humid summers of the Southeastern U.S. than in cool summer climates.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Centranthus ruber, commonly called red valerian or Jupiter’s beard, is a well-branched, bushy, clump-forming, woody-based perennial which is valued for its ability to produce, often in poor soils, a showy bloom of star-shaped crimson, pink or white flowers from spring to frost. Although native to the Mediterranean, this plant has escaped gardens and naturalized in certain parts of the United States, particularly along the west coast. Flowers (each to 1/2") appear in dense terminal clusters (cymes) atop upright to relaxed stems rising above the foliage to 1.5-3' tall. Flowers are fragrant. If not deadheaded, flowers give way to dandelion-like seed heads which are typically disbursed around the landscape by wind. Fleshy, sessile, oval to lanceolate leaves (to 4" long) are gray-green.

Genus name comes from the Greek words kentron meaning a spur and anthos meaning a flower for the spurred flower.

Specific epithet means red in reference to flower color of species plants.


No serious insect or disease problems. Mealy bugs and aphids are occasional visitors. Crown rot may develop in overly moist soils. Invasive spread can be troublesome in some areas.


Cottage gardens. Naturalized areas. Stone walls. Slope or bank cover to help combat erosion. Borders, particularly as specimens or in small groups where planting can be more easily managed. Effective ground cover.