by Matt Gibson
Garden catchfly flowers are grown as a perennial in USDA zones 5-8. But they cannot survive severe heat or a frigid winter, so they are more commonly grown as an annual in colder climate areas. The garden catchfly is a flower native to Europe, and it is also known as Sweet William catchfly, None-So-Pretty, and Campion, but its scientific name is silene armeria. Blooming from late spring to early summer in red, white, pink and rose, the garden catchfly stands 12 to 18 inches tall and between six and nine inches wide when fully grown. It is not to be confused with Sweet William dianthus, which is a different flower also native to southern Europe.
Clusters of bright, colorful half-inch blooms with rounded petals sit atop upright stems that are adorned with oval-shaped leaves tinged from silver to green. The garden catchfly gets its name from the white, sticky sap that oozes from its stems and tends to entrap an array of small insects. Because of this trait, garden catchfly is often mistaken for a carnivorous plant. The garden catchfly does not consume its prey after trapping it, though, so it’s not carnivorous. It’s just an unforgiving foe of small insects.
Popular due to its low maintenance care needs and hardiness when it comes to tolerating drought, the garden catchfly is a great fit for beds, borders, meadows, containers, rock gardens, cottage gardens, and any other place that could use a self-spreading carpet of flowery mounds of color and charm. The garden catchfly’s popularity is also due to its ability to thrive in places that other flowering plants cannot. Rocky terrain and poor quality soils are not the best habitats for most flowers, but the garden catchfly thrives in areas like these and will deliver great results no matter what the conditions are like.
Garden catchfly is also a favorite of many different kinds of wildlife, especially birds and butterflies . Its plentifully available nectar offers wildlife a food source, which is a delight to both the hummingbirds and the butterflies, while birds mostly snack on the seeds that the catchfly flowers create.
Varieties of Garden Catchfly
The genus Silene includes more than 700 different species of flowering plants. There is certainly no way we’d have the space to give details on each different cultivar in this article, so we’ve picked out a few standouts to highlight here.
German catchfly (L. viscaria): This varietal is even more drought tolerant than most other species of catchfly. It has rosy pink-colored blooms and is perfect for rock gardens.
Rose campion (L. coronaria): This type is available in purple, magenta, white, and even bicolor options. The Abbotsford Rose variety is taller than most catchfly species, sprouting up to two feet in height and boasting magenta to purple plumage. The Alba species is another favorite rose campion, known for its lovely white flowers.
Maltese Cross (L. chalcedonica): The Maltese Cross garden catchfly produces flower petals in the shape of a cross in hues of deep red, rose, and white. Popular species of the Maltese cross cultivar include Alba in white and Flore Plena, which produces beautiful scarlet red double blooms.
Growing Conditions for Garden Catchfly
Garden Catchfly enjoys full sunlight to partial shade. In warmer climates, the partial shade becomes essential, as the plant does not flourish in extreme heat. Catchfly doesn’t need a lot of water to survive and actually prefers slightly moist to dry well-draining sand or gravel-rich soil. For garden catchfly to thrive, your soil pH needs to be between six and eight.
How To Plant Garden Catchfly
Start seeds indoors, in flats with a high-quality potting soil, at a minimum of eight weeks before the last expected frost. Allow 15 to 25 days for the seedlings to sprout up before transferring them into your garden beds or the larger containers that will be their homes. In moderate climate areas, you can sow garden catchfly directly three weeks prior to the last frost.
Care for Garden Catchfly Plants
Fertilize once or twice a season with a general purpose fertilizer engineered for flowering plants. Provide even moisture as your plants start to mature. Once it’s established, water garden catchfly only in cases of elongated drought or during periods of extreme heat. Mulch around the base of the plants to keep weeds from encroaching. Stake as needed if the flowers start to droop or fall.
Deadhead the blooms before they start to form seeds, unless you want them to spread out their territory, or you may choose to collect the seeds for next year’s use. If you want to collect the seeds for next year, harvest them just after they form, and allow them to dry. Once the seeds have fully dried, place them in a sealed glass jar and label them so you don’t forget what they are. If left to seed, garden catchfly will spread itself out as far as it is allowed, bringing with it a lush carpet of small but colorful blooms that can bring a dull garden to life.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Garden Catchfly
Garden catchfly is free from pest concerns—aside from the concern of the unlucky few who get trapped in its sticky sap, that is. Unfortunately, the flower is susceptible to some fungal diseases, especially in soggy, poor-draining soil or improper growing conditions. Keep an eye out for rust, root rot, and leaf spot during and after heavy rains.
Videos About Garden Catchfly
Watch this video for growing tips for the ‘none so pretty’ variety of the garden catchfly:
For a more in-depth video tutorial on growing garden catchfly at home, click here: