Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Jupiter's Beard, Keys to Heaven, Red Valerian
Centranthus ruber

Family: Caprifoliaceae (cap-ree-foh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info) (cap-ree-foh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Centranthus (sen-TRAN-thus) (Info)
Species: ruber (ROO-ber) (Info)

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

46 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade


Bloom Color:
Magenta (Pink-Purple)

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
Flowers are good for cutting

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
Unknown - Tell us

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 38 photos.
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18 positives
7 neutrals
4 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral mayclinhelpmeet On Mar 23, 2015, mayclinhelpmeet from Alta Loma, CA wrote:

Easy to grow, tall (3-4') background plant with dark pink airy blossoms & grayish green foliage. Prune away flopping stems. Deadhead for continued bloom & remove easy-to-pull volunteers. Transplants easily.

Blossoms continuously with deadheading from spring (now) to fall in Southern California Inland Valley. I find it to have an unpleasant odor when pruning. I bought it thinking it would be a true red but have kept it for its dependable color.

Positive Baywood On Jan 16, 2015, Baywood from Baywood-Los Osos, CA wrote:

It's blooming now and this is January on the Central Coast of California. Butterflies and bees like it and there is not much else blooming at this time. Monarchs winter over here and I am trying to plant butterfly friendly gardens. I knew I needed Jupiter's Beard but didn't know where to find it. I took a bloom up to our Sage nursery to get it identified. Thank you for all your comments. I realize now it's all over the place! It came up in the middle of gravel and now its doing well under some trees. When it gets lanky over the path, I just cut it back and it seems to like that. It doesn't seem to need any special attention or watering, just what it gets incidentally. I find it slow to recover when planting large plant and root systems into pots. Seems to prefer the ground. However, it does come up in some of my planters from traveling seeds. I am not going to find that annoying anymore.

Neutral coriaceous On May 26, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is a handsome, long-blooming perennial. I've seen it successfully grown in my area, but not by me. Another plant just faded out after two years. I have rich acid soil, and this is said to prefer infertile alkaline soils. Perhaps that's why. I also have never had this self-sow.

The flower color is white or a pinkish red, but never near magenta. Reblooms repeatedly if spent flowers are sheared back.

I've read that this species can be propagated by division. The root is a great deep parsnip-like taproot. How can it be divided? I suspect root cuttings are a better bet.

I'll keep experimenting. Next time I'll try adding some lime.

Positive Leafhead On May 23, 2012, Leafhead from Madison, WI wrote:

Just acquired some Centranthus ruber....
We'll see what the butterflies think.

Positive greshamdadjohn On Apr 30, 2012, greshamdadjohn from Gresham, OR wrote:

I grow it in rich moist soil in half-day shade and it blooms well. Slugs (the bane of western Oregon gardeners) don't seem to bother it.

Positive Lauribob On Feb 18, 2012, Lauribob from Twisp, WA wrote:

I like this guy. It's not at all invasive in my zone 5 garden, but does a good job of being a colorful filler in front of the delphiniums. I did have to replace them after a few years as they started to peter out some.

Positive Seanmhair On Jun 4, 2010, Seanmhair from Lubbock, TX (Zone 7b) wrote:

I planted Centranthus ruber " Alba" many years ago in my meadow garden under an oak. Our climate is hot and dry and the soil very alkaline. I find the white blossoms light and airy in the mixed shade and blend with everything from roses to lilies. I am very fond of it and trying seeds to share with family.

Positive vidaprodiga On Jun 4, 2010, vidaprodiga from Milton Freewater, OR wrote:

I have this plant growing in the most convenient locations in my garden. It luckily has planted their seeds in locations between my peonies, roses, and hydrangeas- making a great contracts with all my colors.
Juniper's beard attracts all the neighborhood hummingbirds, honey bees, and on a occasion a few bumble bees.
I enjoy picking these flowers and mixing them with my roses for a centerpiece!
Great flower and I love how it seeds itself for the next year. Hassle free and fragrant!

Positive Kim_M On May 27, 2010, Kim_M from Hamburg, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

Very long lasting flower head. I like that!

Positive TexasTam On May 5, 2010, TexasTam from Plano, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I planted three Centranthus in my front no-lawn garden last year and was disappointed in the lack of blooms and vigor. This The existing plants are now robust and covered with blooms and several new plants have popped up as well. The hummers seem to love it, so it stays for now. I will probably keep an eye on its invasiveness, however.

Positive gsteinbe On Sep 25, 2008, gsteinbe from Trenton, NJ wrote:

I had a tough spot. My backyard swimming pool is bounded by my house on one side and surrounded by a retaining wall on the other, and on top of the retaining wall, there isn't really any soil -- just rocks and very poor, dry dirt. On the house side of the pool, there's a rocky, dry strip that gave me fits. I tried growing Russian Sage there, and it didn't do very well at all. I tried growing Sempervivem, and it died. Feverfew would grow, but I wanted a little variety. So, I tried Red Valerian. It wasn't quick to establish (and I thought for a while that it wasn't going to make it). I had to water it fairly regularly at first. But now, it's thriving and spreading. One negative comment here said that the flower isn't very impressive, and I guess it's not, but the flowers are pretty and red and profuse. Actually, I just like the plant's leaves. They're a cheerful green and, even in the hottest, driest, dustiest summertime, look lush and shiny, except at the ends of stems, which sometimes get ragged and black along the sidewalk around the pool edge. They do self-seed a fair amount, and while I only planted Red Valerian on one side of my pool, they've somehow self-seeded onto the other side across the expanse of the pool itself. They also sprawl (as one negative comment here said). But they still get some height to them -- enough in my case to screen my house's foundation from view. Overall, from my experience, they're an ideal plant for really tough, dry spots.

Neutral Witchie On Apr 8, 2008, Witchie from Belle Chasse, LA wrote:

This plant is very prolific and has a tendency to spread rapidly;hence will fill in a barren area.However, in warmer zones will show invasive properties.I have experience with this plant in Wichita, Kansas as well as in California.

Negative Zyrs On Apr 30, 2007, Zyrs from Seattle, WA wrote:

This plant is very hard to get rid of if you do not want it. Besides seeds, it can grow back if enough root is in the ground.

Positive Bellisgirl On Jan 31, 2007, Bellisgirl from Spokane, WA wrote:

HI! Ive had this plant for almost five years. It grows great in my droughty conditions. Its a short lived plant, but there are always new seedlings to replace it. It does reseed profusley, but I have no trouble just plucking up the unwanted seedlings. The flowers do smell bad, as do the roots. By the way I think its relitive Valerian officinals is the one that was an herb, I believe it was used as a seditive.

Neutral JACQTODD On Jul 11, 2006, JACQTODD from San Diego, CA wrote:

Just planted it this year - and agree it is a "takeover" plant. I have cut back pretty agressively as I have a small space. Intend to relocate it to an area where it may roam freely and provide better service to my landscape as a filler.

Positive Gabrielle On Jan 7, 2006, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

I like this plant because it does really well under a maple tree where many other plants die. I have not found it invasive there, though it does do some easy to control self-seeding.

Other names for it are Drunken Sailor, Fox's Brush, and Pretty Betsy. My information says it is hardy in zones 4-11. Blooms June-October in my garden.

Positive isom On Oct 22, 2005, isom from Mission BC
Canada (Zone 8b) wrote:

I find that few plants are perfect for all conditions & all have something that aren't right for us, but I love Centranthus ruber. I like the look of a semi-wild or informal garden & the ease with which it grows suits me perfectly. Given a bright sunny location, I don't find it sprawls that much. Perhaps the soil is too rich for those who find this or it doesn't get enough hours of sun? Trimming the plants back & weeding out weak plants help keep it bushier. It looks particularly nice as a background plant with other low flowering plants in front. Butterflies & bees love it & I love to help them out as it's still flowering when most other flowers are finishing.

jermainiac mentioned that valerian root is a potent herb but this is not the same plant. While Centranthus is called red valerian, it's not the same as true valerian which has white flowers. Nor does this draw every cat in the neighbourhood to roll on the ground where the roots are like true valerian does.

Positive nevadagdn On Apr 22, 2005, nevadagdn from Sparks, NV (Zone 7a) wrote:

Centranthus ruber is NOT "too invasive" in the Reno-Sparks, NV region. It does reseed moderately, and spreads a little, but it's nothing that can't be controlled by a quick tug on plants that emerge where they shouldn't. It's far less invasive than Euphorbia 'Chameleon', for example. It tolerates dryish clay soil and shade, so even though it's not the most beautiful of perennials, it rates as "very serviceable", and grows where little else will.

Negative pokerboy On Jan 29, 2005, pokerboy from Canberra
Australia (Zone 8b) wrote:

I don't really like this plant as it is too invasive. It invades my whole garden, including the concrete paths. It appears through the cracks in them. Self seeds readily. drought tolerant and has pretty intense red or pink flowers. When pulling it out of the ground if you do not get every piece of root out bad luck, quadtriple the amount of plants turn up. Great for a place where it can be easily controlled or and open field so it can naturalise. Not for the average garden, especially not the smaller ones. pokerboy.

Positive cghoover8 On May 27, 2004, cghoover8 from Albuquerque, NM wrote:

Sprawling and invasive, best suited where chaos is desirable. Although it reseeds regularly, I have not found that the seedlings are difficult to remove - thinning once or twice a year doesn't seem like that bad a chore. It will smother less aggressive companions. In our dry conditions (New Mexico), I have seen it used, strangely but effectively, with red yucca - the colors blend nicely, and the valerian can't overwhelm the yucca because it needs a lot more water.

Positive champignonvert On Apr 30, 2004, champignonvert from Berkeley, CA wrote:

Centranthus grows wild all over the San Francisco Bay area. Some botanists that I know say that is native to this area. It comes in red, pink, and white. It's such a joy to see hills and fields overflowing with these festive flowers.

Positive yamamanama On Apr 29, 2004, yamamanama wrote:

Doing fantastically well at taking over whole sections of my garden here in South Australia. Our temperatures vary from around 0 in winter with mild frosts (32F) right up to 47 (116F) in summer and it copes very well in full sun and full shade even in these temperatures.

Positive ericlmorris On Dec 12, 2003, ericlmorris wrote:

This lovely plant thrives in the Pacific Northwest. It blooms thru the Summer and Fall. So far this Fall, it has withstood several frosts in the 25-30 degree range. The foliage is still green and the plant appears healthy.

It is "invasive". One sees it all over England growing in the wild.

Still, we feel that it is a wonderful part of our garden.

Neutral jermainiac On Oct 10, 2003, jermainiac from Seattle, WA (Zone 8a) wrote:

I have heard the roots are good for the soil... fixing nitrogen maybe? Anyway, the plant is invasive here. I once cut the flowers because they looked so pretty. Then I could figure out what that smell was. Aha! The cut flowers smell like cat pee!

Valerian root is a potent herb. Please be careful.

Negative clantonnaomi On Oct 7, 2003, clantonnaomi from Iredell, TX wrote:

I have grown this plant for about three years, and I am not impressed with it. There is little scent and the flowers are not that impressive. I have replanted it once but I will not continue with it. It does come back every year, and, if deadheaded the flowers will repeat, but it just does not do very well in central Texas.

Neutral debi_z On Oct 6, 2003, debi_z from Springfield, MA (Zone 6a) wrote:

Well, I'm going to say neutral so far - it is my first year with this plant. I planted them Spring 2003. I found the stems tended to lay on the ground while the blooms stood upright.

I posted to the DG forums, asking others for their experience with this plant, and found that the folks who answered had experiences similar to mine.

I don't mind it laying around, but I think I'll try pinching it back next year to see what happens.

Negative violabird On Oct 4, 2003, violabird from Barnesville, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

Too floppy for me, moved it to various locations with no notice of better habit. Scent and flowers not enough for me to keep it going either. This is it's last season ):

Positive karo123 On May 16, 2002, karo123 wrote:

Can be invasive in mild climates, such as Sunset Zone 24 in the coastal areas of southern California (U.S.) Helpful to cut it often and remove volunteers. This is a beautiful flower, lovely cut flower (for one day) but it will grow through concrete and thrive on benign neglect. In Sunset Zones 7 and 8, the heat beats it up somewhat and is lovely and quite manageable. I am wondering how it will do in Zone 1...

Also available in white.

Neutral Terry On Mar 8, 2001, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

Easily grown from seed; may even bloom the first year (mine did.) Produces rosy-red, fragrant flowers in clusters 2-3 inches across from June-October. The flowers attract bees and butterflies. Self seeds vigorously; should be deadheaded to encourage re-bloom. May not bloom as vigorously in the heat of the South.

On the downside, it tends to flop - perhaps a full-sun site, with lower plants to help prop it up would help.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, (2 reports)
Alameda, California
Baywood-los Osos, California
Berkeley, California
Canoga Park, California
Carlsbad, California
Clayton, California
Concow, California
Crockett, California
Encinitas, California
Eureka, California
Fairfield, California (2 reports)
Fremont, California
Fresno, California
Gilroy, California
Irvine, California
Long Beach, California
Martinez, California
Menlo Park, California
Merced, California
Rancho Cucamonga, California
Redwood City, California
Sacramento, California (2 reports)
San Diego, California
Simi Valley, California
Sonoma, California
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Denver, Colorado
Fort Collins, Colorado
Littleton, Colorado
Keystone Heights, Florida
Barnesville, Georgia
Rincon, Georgia
Boise, Idaho (2 reports)
Crystal Lake, Illinois
La Grange Park, Illinois
Mount Prospect, Illinois
Spring Grove, Illinois
Davenport, Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
Olathe, Kansas
Barbourville, Kentucky
Ewing, Kentucky
Hebron, Kentucky
Monrovia, Maryland
Oxon Hill, Maryland
Norton, Massachusetts
Springfield, Massachusetts
Garden City, Michigan
Ludington, Michigan
Pinconning, Michigan
Albertville, Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota (2 reports)
Sparks, Nevada
Trenton, New Jersey
Alamogordo, New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Farmington, New Mexico
Roswell, New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Coram, New York
Elba, New York
Himrod, New York
Rochester, New York
Wallkill, New York
, Nova Scotia
Cleveland, Ohio
Fort Jennings, Ohio
Madison, Ohio
Ashland, Oregon
Chiloquin, Oregon
Dallas, Oregon
Mill City, Oregon
Milton-freewater, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Springfield, Oregon
Norristown, Pennsylvania
York, Pennsylvania
Christiana, Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Belton, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Iredell, Texas
Lubbock, Texas
Magnolia, Texas
Plano, Texas
Salt Lake City, Utah (2 reports)
Lanexa, Virginia
Mineral, Virginia
Bellevue, Washington
Kalama, Washington
Port Townsend, Washington
Puyallup, Washington
Seattle, Washington (2 reports)
Spokane, Washington
Stanwood, Washington
Twisp, Washington
Madison, Wisconsin
Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

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