What is That Wonderful Pink Flower Growing in Waves by the Roadside?


Submitted 5 months ago
Created by
Henry Homeyer

What is that lovely pink flower growing by the side of the road in waves? It's a wildflower originally from England called ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) that arrived here in the 1800’s and escaped. It seems harmless enough, though the state of Connecticut has it on its invasive species list. I have no seen adverse effects, but it does colonize well.

Ragged robin is a lovely early-summer beauty.

I’ve been admiring it for several years, and have decided I want to grow it. Last year I dug up a few specimens and planted them in an environment similar to where I found it growing in the wild. This year it did not come back, or at least not yet. I was careful not to dig up any grasses or weeds with it, and may have disturbed the roots too much, though it seemed to be doing well last summer.

Close-up of ragged robin flowers

In 2017 I went to the world’s premier flower show in London, the Chelsea Flower Show. There I saw ragged robin on display, and seeds for sale. Obviously, I bought some. I only remembered the seeds recently and planted a flat of the seeds. Now have 100 babies growing under lights.

Ragged robin seedlings growing under lights in the house.

Ragged Robin seems to grow best in moist to wet places in full sun. I will clear some space near my brook and plant the seedlings there once they are well established. In the wild it often grows in low fertility soil, so I will add no fertilizer.

Rose campion, a close relative, is a common biennial sold for use in the flower garden.

Ragged robin is related to rose campion (Lychnis coronaria), a lovely biennial that I grow, and a white weedy Lychnis that just shows up from time to time.

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