Herbs & Plants

Red Valerian

Botanical Name: Centranthus ruber
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Dipsacales
Genus: Centranthus
Species: C. ruber

*Centranthus latifolius Dufr.
*Centranthus marinus Gray
*Centranthus maritimus DC.
*Centranthus maritimus Gray
*Centranthus sibthorpii Heldr. & Sart. ex Boiss.
*Centranthus velenovskyi Vandas
*Valeriana florida Salisb.
*Valeriana hortensis Garsault nom. inval.
*Valeriana rubra L

Common Names: Red valerian, Spur valerian, Kiss-me-quick, Fox’s brush, Devil’s beard and Jupiter’s beard

Habitat:Red Valerian is native of the Mediterranean region, Centranthus ruber has been introduced into many other parts of the world as a garden escape. It is naturalised in France, Australia, Great Britain, Ireland and the United States. In the US it can be found growing wild in such western states as Arizona, Utah, California, Hawaii, Washington, and Oregon, usually in disturbed, rocky places at elevations below 200 m. It is often seen by roadsides or in urban wasteland. It can tolerate very alkaline soil conditions. Because it can tolerate the lime in mortar, Centranthus ruber may frequently be seen growing in old walls in Italy, southern France and south-west England.

Red valerian is a perennial plant, usually as a subshrub though it can take any form from a herb to a shrub depending on conditions; the plants are usually woody at the base. The leaves are generally 5–8 cm in length. Their form changes from the bottom to the top of the plant, the lower leaves being petiolate while the upper leaves are sessile. The leaves grow in opposite pairs and are oval or lanceolate in shape. The plant flowers profusely, and though the individual flowers are small (no more than 2 cm), the inflorescences are large and showy. The flowers are small in rounded clusters each with 5 fused petals and a spur. The most typical color is a brick red or purplish red, but colors include deep crimson, pale pink, and lavender. Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’ (about 10% of individuals) has white blooms. Flowering takes place in early summer and, in cool summer areas, continues sporadically throughout the summer and into fall. The cultivar ‘coccineus’ is especially long-blooming. The blooms have a strong and somewhat rank scent. They are pollinated by both bees and butterflies and the plant is noted for attracting insects. It is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including angle shades. Seeds have tufts similar to dandelions that allow wind dispersal, and as such can self-seed freely and become invasive if not properly controlled.


Grows well in ordinary moist, well-drained garden soil and on dry walls. Prefers a sunny position, though it also succeeds in semi-shade. Thrives on chalk, poor soils and in sandy soils. Established plants are drought tolerant. This species is hardy to about -15°c. Plants are generally long-lived and grow especially well in maritime areas, where they are a common feature of hedgerows and walls. A very ornamental plant, it attracts moths and butterflies. The flowers have an unpleasant smell like perspiration. Special Features: Attracts birds, Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Naturalizing, Attracts butterflies, Suitable for cut flowers, Extended bloom season in Zones 9A and above, Fragrant flowers. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 8 through 5. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of “heat days” experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form – tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a clumper with limited spread.

Edible Uses:
Young leaves – raw or cooked as greens. Exceedingly good, either in salads or cooked as a vegetable. This differs from our own experience, whilst the leaves can be added to salads they are rather bitter and rather less than desirable. Root – cooked. Used in soups

Medicinal Uses:
Red valerian is sometimes confused in herbals and folk tradition with the true valerian (Valeriana officinalis). Whilst true valerian has a very strong action on the nervous system, this species has no known medical properties. The plant is nervine. This report possibly confuses this plant with the true valerian, Valeriana officinalis, which is a very effective nervine.

Other Uses:
The seeds were used in ancient embalming. Uses:Border, Ground cover, Massing, Rock garden, Seashore etc.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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