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PlantFiles: Dame's Rocket, Sweet Rocket
Hesperis matronalis

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Family: Brassicaceae (brass-ih-KAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Hesperis (HES-per-iss) (Info)
Species: matronalis (mah-tro-NAH-lis) (Info)

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

40 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Biennials
Perennials

Height:
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

Spacing:
15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
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)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Danger:
N/A

Bloom Color:
Violet/Lavender
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Foliage:
Herbaceous

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
This plant is resistant to deer

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:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 54 photos.
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Profile:

20 positives
3 neutrals
11 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Negative pawdette On Mar 22, 2014, pawdette from Two Rivers, WI wrote:

In our area here in Wisconsin , this plant is highly invasive and illegal to sell. I think it's pretty as well, but there are many areas that these have overtaken and driven out the native plants. The seeds are very easily transported from one spot to another. I've had them show up at the back of my yard where as soon as seen are taken from the ground and destroyed. They are so easily mistaken for wild phlox that I've seen people stopping along the roadside to collect some seeds. I tell them , if it's along the roadside in great numbers you can be assured that it will take over any garden you put it in without vigilant care. Also , many plants that prolific along side the road is more than likely an invasive. Be careful and check with your local authorities before planting to see if they are allowed in your area.

Positive Emma60 On Feb 4, 2014, Emma60 from Grassy Creek, NC (Zone 6a) wrote:

Hesperis is one of the most beautiful natives around. I am so tired of hearing about invasives. If someone doesn't want extra plants, just pull them up. It's a simple matter. Hesperis is colorful, long blooming, and it smells heavenly. I think a woodland garden, or a garden anywhere for that matter, full of them would be ideal.

Negative coriaceous On Feb 2, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

It's illegal to plant this species where I live and garden.

This pretty perennial self-sows aggressively and persistently in the garden, and can crowd out other more desirable garden plants if not regularly thinned. It can spread rapidly. The seeds can lie dormant in the soil for many years, only to sprout when conditions are right. Once you've let it go to seed, removing it requires a great deal of work over many years, even if you catch it before it's spread to neighboring properties. It's been five years, and I'm still trying, but it's wearing me down.

It is NOT native to North America, and is naturalized over most of the continent except the deep south. Though it isn't a North American wildflower, it is often included in cheap "wildflower" seed mixes here.

Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) and meadow phlox (P. maculata) have similar garden qualities (including fragrance) but are harmless. Money plant/honesty (Lunaria) is also similar and seems not to be invasive.

Driving across New York State on I90, I observed with mixed feelings how many shady moist wild areas had been taken over by this plant. The color was pretty, but it reminded me of purple loosestrife and the similar widespread destruction of habitat wrought by that seductively colorful intruder...

This species is prohibited or declared a noxious weed in three states, and both the US Forest Service and the National Park Service are asking people not to plant it:
http://na.fs.fed.us/spfo/invasiveplants/factsheets/pdf/dames...
http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/pubs/midatlantic/hema.htm

Negative greenneck On Nov 18, 2013, greenneck from Paoli, IN wrote:

Colorful, but invasive. There are much better native alternatives.

Negative l6blue On Sep 3, 2012, l6blue from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4b) wrote:

This is a lovely plant, but a highly aggressive invasive. It is the most noticeable woodland flower in my area.

Negative plant_it On May 21, 2012, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

This plant is native to Eurasia. I was hiking in a state park in southwest Michigan and there were huge strands of it crowding out the native plants.

Neutral vans277 On May 26, 2010, vans277 from Saint Paul, MN wrote:

I carefully gathered "woodland phlox" seeds from a nearby hillside. Last year I had a carpet of fuzzy plants, not bad looking. This year I have wonderful flowers with great smell: Dame's Rocket! Next time I gather seed, I'll bring my wildflower identification book along!
I'll miss the wonderful flowers on long, waving stalks, but this plant completely crowded out all of the biennial Colorado wildflowers planted with it. I'll enjoy this fellow on the nearby hillside, not on mine.

Positive Tropicool On Nov 1, 2009, Tropicool from Orange Park, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

This was one of our favorite plants when we lived in Ohio, especially after we moved to the country. Every spring we used to love looking at the purple or white clumps at the edge of the woods. Even in Central Ohio sunshine it seemed to like the bright shade at the edge of the woods. Dame's Rocket added a nice splash of color to the Ohio springtime. Not sure how it will do in the Florida heat, but I just added it to my "Want" list.

I love Florida, but I miss Gambier...

Negative RosemaryA On Jun 13, 2009, RosemaryA from Toronto, ON (Zone 5b) wrote:

This is a very invasive plant in southern Ontario:
From the Invasive Exotic Species Ranking for Southern Ontario

Category 1
Aggressive invasive exotic species that can dominate a site to exclude all other species and remain dominant on the site indefinitely. These are a threat to natural areas wherever they
occur because they can reproduce by means that allow them to move long distances. Many of these are dispersed by birds, wind, water, or vegetative reproduction.

These are the top priority for control, but control may be difficult. Eradication may be the only option for long-term success.

Positive gsteinbe On Aug 19, 2008, gsteinbe from Trenton, NJ wrote:

I know that Dame's Rocket is technically an invasive exotic, but I love this plant. It blooms just as the Forget-Me-Nots and Pink Dogwood finish, filling the garden with beautiful purple blooms and wonderful evening fragrance, and they keep blooming for a long, long time. Because I grow mine in light but pretty much constant shade, I have a little trouble with flopping (but I refuse on principle to stake anything). The plants have generally lived 2-4 years, but they haven't always reseeded as readily as I'd like or as expected (especially given their reputation for invasiveness). I think that they've just flopped over, gotten their stems crimped, and not finished the process of making seed (and this lack of seed production may explain why individual plants have sometimes lived considerably longer than 2 years). This year, for the first time, they did much better, not flopping as much (because I cut and took more of the tallest early flowerheads into the house), and I think they made more seed. So, we'll see if they are more vigorous next year. If not, I'll buy seed and resow. They're hardy, pretty, fragrant, undemanding, and timely. Despite being labelled an exotic, they have also long been a staple of American gardens -- an heirloom species from the 19th century. So, while not native, they're traditional.

Negative Jsorens On May 30, 2008, Jsorens from Buffalo, NY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Contrary to popular opinion, this species is not native to the U.S. and actually invades wild areas everywhere but the Deep South. Check out the plants.usda.gov site for more info.

Negative maccionoadha On Apr 13, 2008, maccionoadha from Halifax, MA (Zone 6a) wrote:

This plant is Prohibited in Massachusetts and Banned in Connecticut.

Negative kmenzel On Jun 15, 2007, kmenzel from Saint Paul, MN wrote:

Although beautiful, this plant is an invasive exotic. It has completely taken over the woods at my parents' house near White Bear Lake, MN. I just read (June 15, 2007) that the noxious weed removal crews at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Minneapolis are switching their target this weekend from Garlic Mustard to Dame's Rocket. I have ONE left in my yard and am making sure it does not make any seeds. Mission accomplished. If you like this flower type, get some native phlox or a garden phlox cultivar.

Negative klynslis On May 30, 2007, klynslis from Grand Rapids, MI wrote:

This plant is invasive in Michigan. It completely takes over the forest's edge and roadside areas where varieties of other plants used to grow before.

They smell wonderful. They're pretty. They grow in monolithic stands that turn the soil as hard as a rock. Hmm... maybe we could use them to kill off tree-of-heaven.

Positive MitchF On Apr 3, 2007, MitchF from Lindsay, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This is a great plant - I never water and they grow like crazy - bloom nad bloom but I never ever ever have found a new baby plant away from the parent plant. At least here in North Texas a great plant.

Positive bluespiral On Jan 31, 2007, bluespiral from (Zone 7a) wrote:

Dames Rocket has colonized an overgrown road to an abandoned ruin in a nearby woods that makes the most incredible color stream in shafts of light coming down through the trees of white to pale blush pink to deeper blue-y rose to purple. Quite a sight and treat for the nose.

The deer population rules this part of the woods, so this flower must be pretty deer resistant.

A neighbor pairs the huge purple globes of this flower with another flower with giant, double, white goblets: Peony 'Festiva Maxima' and repeats this twosome all up and down a pair of matching borders along a grassy lane.

Positive Anitabryk2 On Jul 19, 2006, Anitabryk2 from Long Island, NY (Zone 6b) wrote:

This plant wintersowed nicely.

Positive bloomsbury On Jul 16, 2006, bloomsbury from Stirling
Canada wrote:

I adore this plant. The scent, the color, the height. It can do as it pleases in my garden. In April, I just move it where I want it.
I let it go to seed right on the stalk. A bit of cheesecloth wrapped around to top of the stalk will keep most of the seeds from flying around every which way. A few always have a "get out of jail free" card though and hide behind the roses. In early May, I have last years seeds saved to propagate (I don't even freeze them) and by late July, I have plants large enough to set out. They flower the following season, so it's not every other year. They are hardy little beggers and they give us a great deal of pleasure. Always an impressive display. In southern Ontario, they grow about 4' high, sometime a bit taller. Here, in the wild, it grows in shades of pale pink to deep purple, but usually about 2" to 3' high. It is a plant that needs to be kept in check, but very fine and deserving of any garden. Here it is mid July and there's still has a bit of flower left at the top. Been flowering since early May.

Positive MalvaFan On Apr 28, 2006, MalvaFan from Morrice, MI wrote:

Dame's Rocket has an exquisive fragrance and it is trying to take over sections of my lawn/garden though mowing keeps it at bay. Being a biennial you don't get to enjoy the display every year though.

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

This is very pretty and sweetly scented. It does self-seed, but I have not found it to be a problem as long as I keep ahead of them.

Positive paste592 On May 27, 2005, paste592 from Westminster, MD (Zone 6b) wrote:

I'd heard Dame's Rocket described as invasive, too, so I was careful not to plant it in my loamy beds -- instead I planted it at and just inside the edges of the woodlands. It's flourishing, but not invading. Matter of fact, it is so well-behaved that I just ordered some more. The white makes a wonderful companion for woodland phlox, and the blue is gorgeous against the celadine poppy. My woodland garden is prettier than my beds -- and this great plant pulled it together! Please invade, anytime!

Positive Baldwin On May 22, 2005, Baldwin from Newtown, PA (Zone 6a) wrote:

It's growing wild in my yard. Thought it was a weed. But it is already (late May) 4 feet tall and the flower is beautiful. As nice as anything that I paid for and planted in my perennial bed. I am thinking I should dig some up and move into the bed, but if it is invasive that would be a stupid thing to do.

Positive berrygirl On May 13, 2005, berrygirl from Braselton, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

I am growing this for the first time this year. I don't remember planting it, and I almost pulled the plants up in the spring before they bloomed. I only recently found out what it is. I am so glad I didn't trash them! The fragrance is great and the flowers are pretty.

Positive Toxicodendron On Jul 6, 2004, Toxicodendron from Piedmont, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

I have grown Hesperis matronalis for several years now, and really like it.
Invasiveness can be controlled by deadheading after blooming and therefore eliminating the excessive seed production. This also encourages a second bloom period, if you leave most of the flower stalk and only cut off the old flower heads. Aphids like this plant, but can be knocked off with a strong blast of water from the garden hose. If grown in shady areas, the tall plants will lean toward the sun and may need staking. If you desire more plants, harvest some seed pods before they split open and just toss them in the vicinity...they usually sprout by late winter and might bloom by the next year (biennials or short-lived perennials). I have also propagated them from small plants that arise on the flower stems occasionally.

Negative Joan On Jul 4, 2004, Joan from Belfield, ND (Zone 4a) wrote:

Beautiful flowers, but it is a bit invasive in my gardens. I started with one plant and now have them growing everywhere. I am getting it under control by digging up the unwanted plants and making sure that the ones left don't go to seed. For that reason, I gave it a neutral instead of a negative

Update June 14, 2009 Apparently digging the unwanted plants isn't enough to control them. The seeds seem to have the ability to lay dormant for many years and germinate when the conditions are right. I had this plant eradicated from my garden, but they are back again this year in full force after adequate rainfall. I'm changing my rating from neutral to negative.

Positive CatskillKarma On Jun 18, 2004, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:

This plant is a common wildflower here in the Catskills. It grows by roadsides, ponds, in meadows, etc. and self seeds into stunning colonies. I have some in semi shade in my wild garden where it self-seeds nicely in wet clay soil, and competes with grasses, asters, and goldenrod quite successfully.

Positive Raider On Jun 17, 2004, Raider from Williston, ND wrote:

After plucking one of these stunning flowers from a small coulee east of my home, I took it to my county extension agent for identification. He had to contact ND State University to get an ID. I first noticed the plant last year on a walk around our property. It was just one 10'x10' spot where it was growing and it was a gorgeous blast of color in an otherwise grass dominated coulee. I was pretty thrilled to find out that is only classified as an invasive weed and not a noxious one. Bottom-line...it gets to live!! The plants are very robust, very bright magenta and about 3-4 feet tall. I have yet to see any others in North Dakota, but I'll be keeping a keen eye out for them now.

Positive gardenwife On May 1, 2004, gardenwife from Newark, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

Heavenly fragrance! It arrived as a volunteer and I've been enjoying it ever since.

Positive GU34C34 On Jun 11, 2003, GU34C34 from Lynchburg, VA wrote:

I love this plant in my garden, however now that it seems to have stopped blooming.

Positive whitejade On Jun 10, 2003, whitejade wrote:

I first saw sweet rocket growing wild by the roadside and transplanted some to my garden. I love the fragrance and they have reseeded themselves quite nicely in wilder areas of my property. I would be careful in a formal bed as they can be strong growers and can take over when conditions are to their liking. They are best used for naturalizing on slopes and in wooland areas. They like a well drained soil and once established will reseed and come back for years.

The similar orange ones mentionned above are English wallflowers, Erysimum cheiri, some of which are biennal. They too have a wonderful frangrance.

Positive asturnut On May 17, 2003, asturnut from Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b) wrote:

Hellooo.... can you say agressive!!! I have hesperis in two parts of my garden, one side clay, the other loamy. In clay the plant is pitiful and small, about 12" tall, but in the loam it is almost 5 feet tall by 4 feet wide and it's choking out my other plants. I don't think it's wise to let it set seed unless you want it to take over.

Neutral Kelli On Apr 8, 2003, Kelli from L.A. (Canoga Park), CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

Supposedly this was the favorite flower of Marie Antoinette.

Positive rrizzi28 On Apr 7, 2003, rrizzi28 from Knoxville, TN wrote:

This is a great garden plant in Tennessee. It gets quite tall - I had one that was about 5 ft. tall last year, but most are a bit shorter. It deals with the heat and dryness of summer very well.

Mine originally grew from a wildflower seed mix purchased at Walmart. I swear that I also had one that was a bright orange, but I can't find out anything about it online. The foliage was similar, and the blossom was the same shape and size. The plant was much shorter, though, only about 2 ft. tall. Sadly, I don't have it anymore because *someone* weed-wacked it one too many times... Does anyone know what this plant may have been?

Neutral jody On Jan 4, 2001, jody from MD &, VA (Zone 7b) wrote:

The genus Hesperis has 60 species. Matronalis is grown for its flowers that are very fragrant on humid evenings. The leaves are smooth, narrow and oval. The flowerheads are branching, colors are white to lilac and blossoms in summer. Grows 12" to 36" high and spreads about 24". Best grown in full sun with moist well draining soil, soil should be neutral to slightly alkaline. Propagate by seed, or cuttings. Hardy zones 3-9. Plants sometimes lose their vigor and are best renewed every 2-3 years. Check for slugs and snails.

Regional...

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

, (2 reports)
Tuskegee, Alabama
Juneau, Alaska
El Sobrante, California
Elk Grove, California
Menifee, California (2 reports)
Merced, California
Redwood City, California
San Leandro, California
Santa Clara, California
Santa Rosa, California
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Woodland Park, Colorado
Keystone Heights, Florida
Tallahassee, Florida
Braselton, Georgia
Carrollton, Georgia
Valdosta, Georgia
Boise, Idaho
Aurora, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois
Machesney Park, Illinois
Mundelein, Illinois
Fishers, Indiana
Jeffersonville, Indiana
Shoals, Indiana
Warren, Indiana
Ames, Iowa
Kalona, Iowa
Derby, Kansas
Osage City, Kansas
Oskaloosa, Kansas
Louisville, Kentucky
Ellicott City, Maryland
Westminster, Maryland
Halifax, Massachusetts
Bay City, Michigan
Erie, Michigan
Fort Gratiot, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Morrice, Michigan
Stephenson, Michigan
Thompsonville, Michigan
University Center, Michigan
Minneapolis, Minnesota (2 reports)
Saint Paul, Minnesota (2 reports)
Florence, Mississippi
Mathiston, Mississippi
Ava, Missouri
Piedmont, Missouri
Trego, Montana
Imperial, Nebraska
Millville, New Jersey
New Milford, New Jersey
Trenton, New Jersey
Whitehouse Station, New Jersey
Woodbury, New Jersey
Hillsdale, New York
Himrod, New York
Ithaca, New York
Jefferson, New York
Ogdensburg, New York
Ronkonkoma, New York
West Kill, New York
Kernersville, North Carolina
Whitsett, North Carolina
Belfield, North Dakota
Dayton, Ohio
Gambier, Ohio
Glouster, Ohio
Jamestown, Ohio
Tipp City, Ohio
Zanesville, Ohio
Enid, Oklahoma
Portland, Oregon
Salem, Oregon
Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania
Milford, Pennsylvania
Millersburg, Pennsylvania
Newtown, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
West Newton, Pennsylvania
Tiverton, Rhode Island
Conway, South Carolina
Fort Mill, South Carolina
North Augusta, South Carolina
Simpsonville, South Carolina
Brookings, South Dakota
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Abilene, Texas
Arlington, Texas
Fairview, Utah
Newfane, Vermont
Locust Dale, Virginia
Winchester, Virginia
Wytheville, Virginia
Cle Elum, Washington
Everett, Washington
Kalama, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Spokane, Washington
Sprague, Washington
Vancouver, Washington
Deerfield, Wisconsin
Delavan, Wisconsin
Ellsworth, Wisconsin
Onalaska, Wisconsin
Porterfield, Wisconsin
Two Rivers, Wisconsin
Watertown, Wisconsin
Jackson, Wyoming



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