High value, low cost plants Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’

Of all the garden plants which give high value for a small financial outlay, one of my favourites has to be Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’. For the price of a packet of seeds, you are unlikely ever to be without this plant as it readily self-sows, although not so much that it seems if its progeny are outstaying their welcome. How could they? With evergreen glaucous leaves and deep plum bracts, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ is a quiet low cost plant which attracts attention for its gentle beauty and high value to bees.

High Value, Low Cost Plants Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’

It grows in ordinary, well-drained soil in full sun, although I have found it seeds into gravel and flowers perfectly well there. At 30-45cm high, it makes a good ground cover plant, but it also looks wonderful with its bracts cascading gently over the side of a container.

High Value, Low Cost Plants Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’

Sow indoors between February and May and plant out after the last frost; although Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ is quite accommodating and can also be sown outdoors and between September and October. It will flower all summer long – or at least it is supposed to, but we see flowers as early as March at Le Grys Farm.

High Value, Low Cost Plants Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’

Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ can be cut for indoor arrangements as it lasts well if the stems are seared in boiling water for around 30 seconds. I prefer to leave the flowers on the plant though as they are such a valuable source of nectar. Sow now and within 12 weeks you and the bees should be enjoying blooms all summer long. Deadhead any faded flower stems, then as autumn approaches allow some flowers to go to seed and you could be enjoying this high value, low outlay plant in your garden for many years to come.

Sarah Shoesmith

Sarah Shoesmith is a garden designer with a passion for wildlife and conservation who is on a mission to grow crops beautifully. When she isn’t gardening, writing about gardens,designing gardens, visiting gardens or reading about gardens, she can be found eating chocolate and drinking coffee (probably in a garden).

Sarah has two blogs:

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  1. Woodlousehouse says:

    Thanks for the suggestion. Must pick up a packet of seeds today.

  2. Jen says:

    Wonderful plant, beautiful purple flower, fabulous self seeder. Great value I I love it,dehead it and it will keep on flowering

  3. Sarah says:

    You’re right – cerinthe is really good value for money. And it’s so easy to save the big seeds too… just in case the plant doesn’t seed itself all over the garden!

    • Sarah Shoesmith says:

      The seeds are big! I’ve never had to save them, but it’s a good idea to save some just in case.

  4. Indie says:

    I hadn’t heard of this plant before, but it is quite pretty! A more unusual plant!

  5. Shirley says:

    Hi Sarah yes a magnificent plant I grew these in 2012 Just amazing . Mine grew to 4′ tall,with masses of delicate bells .They have clusters of purple bells with 10to14 on each . They open 2at a time and when they die 2more open.So flower for months.The leaves are a bluey green with shades of brown when the sun is on them. They self seed and I have had some growing since last November.Yes surprise for me also.Weathered all the bad weather. They have now filled the container . Some are in flower. Did win a prize for a picture of them. A garden must have.

  6. Cathy says:

    That has reminded me to look out for any Cerinthe seedlings as I grew these for the first time last year and let them go to seed. That’s a good idea to put some in a container so you cn see the flowers better. I am pleased you have highlighted a plant that the bees love too!

    • Sarah Shoesmith says:

      I hope they have seeded somewhere you want to see them. I now have a small group around the base of the containers I grew them in last year. I have left them because they look rather lovely there.

  7. Sandi says:

    I’m all about helping the pollinators. This looks like it will be the perfect addition to my garden. Thanks for the great information Sarah!

  8. Barbara says:

    Thank you Sarah, for a great suggestion. I am not familiar with this plant but when I heard the bees love it, I was hooked. The word ‘accommodating’ didn’t hurt either! And so pretty too, thanks!

    • Sarah Shoesmith says:

      It is a wonderful addition to the garden. I like to have a few annuals on hand to plug any gaps in the borders and Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ is extremely useful for this as it looks good with such a variety of other garden plants.

  9. Mark and Gaz says:

    Great timing and a reminder why we ought to be growing this gorgeous plant! Saw this in a friends garden last year and was smitten by its exotic looks!

    • Sarah Shoesmith says:

      It is astonishing how this plant can look at home in different styles of garden. I haven’t seen it planted in an exotic garden, but I can imagine that it would look great there.

  10. SeagullSuzie says:

    Thank you Sarah, I’m always on the lookout for easy bee friendly plants and have a very sunny garden, so this should do nicely.

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