Cerastium arvense

Common Name: field chickweed 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Native Range: Temperate N. Hemisphere
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 0.50 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to August
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil

Culture

Best grown in dry, sandy, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates a somewhat wide range of soils except poorly-drained ones which inevitably lead to root rot. Grows well in cool summer climates. Intolerant of the high summer heat and humidity of the deep South. Plants will easily self-seed in the garden. Best to shear off flower stems after bloom in order to prevent self-seeding, reduce future foliage decline, and shape/neaten the foliage mat. Divide every year if needed to help maintain compact size. Starter plants may be planted 9-12” apart to quickly cover large areas.

As is the case with many of the different species of chickweeds, this plant has the potential to spread rapidly in the landscape, particularly after invading lawn grass areas, to the point where many gardeners consider it to be more of a troublesome weed than a valued flowering perennial.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cerastium arvense, commonly known as field chickweed, meadow chickweed or field mouse-ear, is a multi-stemmed herbaceous perennial. It grows in a variety of different forms, ranging from (1) strongly rhizomatous (taproot absent), long-creeping, mat-forming plants to (2) tap-rooted (sometimes shortly rhizomatous), clumping, and more upright plants. Height ranges from 2-18” tall. Field chickweed is endemic to North America, Europe and some areas of South America. It typically thrives in open sunny habitats at elevations ranging from sea level to 12,000 feet. Common growing habitats include rocky alpine areas, valleys, meadows, fields, plains, grassy areas, and, in particular, human disturbed areas such as lawns and roadsides. Many subspecies of this plant have been identified, but experts are in disagreement as to how many of those subspecies should be recognized given its worldwide distribution, highly variable plant form and diversity of habitat. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish this plant in the wild from similar species of chickweed.

Field chickweed is an upright tap-rooted plant that typically forms a foliage mound to 8” tall, with flowering stems rising well above the foliage in spring to 14-18” tall carrying clusters (cymes) of white flowers. It is a rhizomatous plant that produces lengthy creeping shoots which often form densely matted colonies. Plants are usually somewhat hairy in texture. Linear to lance-shaped to oblong leaves are 1” long and 1/4” wide. Each open inflorescence typically has 3-5 flowers, with each flower (1/2” to 3/4” wide) having five 2-lobed petals and five green sepals. Flowers bloom April-August. Fruit is a seeded capsule to 5/8” long.

Genus name comes from the Greek word keras meaning horn in reference to the seed capsule which in some species is bent slightly like a cow’s horn.

Specific epithet means growing in or pertaining to cultivated fields.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Damping off may occur in climates with high humidity or locations with too much shade. Root rot can be a serious problem if plants are grown in poorly-drained soils or in soils that remain wet. Often becomes a troublesome difficult-to-control lawn weed which can spread easily in the landscape.

Garden Uses

Ground cover for informal sunny areas. Cottage gardens, edgings, or bulb cover. Small areas of rock gardens.