Centranthus Species, 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)
View this plant in a garden



Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone

Can be grown as an annual



Bloom Color:

Magenta (pink-purple)


Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are good for cutting

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

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:

From woody stem cuttings

From softwood cuttings

Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Seed Collecting:

Unknown - Tell us


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Alameda, California

Baywood-Los Osos, California

Berkeley, California

Canoga Park, California

Carlsbad, California

Clayton, California

Concow, California

Crescent City, 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

Mission Viejo, California

Nipomo, California

Oroville, California

Rancho Cucamonga, California

Redwood City, California

Sacramento, California(2 reports)

Salinas, California

San Diego, California

Simi Valley, California

Sonoma, California

Thermalito, California

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Fort Collins, Colorado

Grand Junction, Colorado

Littleton, Colorado

Keystone Heights, Florida

Barnesville, Georgia

Jackson, Georgia

Rincon, Georgia

Boise, Idaho(2 reports)

Crystal Lake, Illinois

La Grange Park, Illinois

Mount Prospect, Illinois

Spring Grove, Illinois

Crown Point, Indiana

Davenport, Iowa

Iowa City, Iowa

Olathe, Kansas

Ottawa, Kansas

Barbourville, Kentucky

Ewing, Kentucky

Hebron, Kentucky

Monrovia, Maryland

Oxon Hill, Maryland

Norton, Massachusetts

Rockland, Massachusetts

Springfield, Massachusetts

Garden City, Michigan

Ludington, Michigan

Pinconning, Michigan

Albertville, Minnesota

Saint Paul, Minnesota(2 reports)

Sparks, Nevada

Greenfield, New Hampshire

Trenton, New Jersey

Alamogordo, New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico(2 reports)

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

Southport, North Carolina

, Nova Scotia

Cleveland, Ohio

Fort Jennings, Ohio

Madison, Ohio

Ashland, Oregon

Chiloquin, Oregon

Dallas, Oregon


Mill City, Oregon

Milton-Freewater, Oregon(2 reports)

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

Concrete, Washington

Kalama, Washington

Olympia, Washington

Port Townsend, Washington(2 reports)

Puyallup, Washington

Seattle, Washington(2 reports)

Spokane, Washington

Stanwood, Washington

Twisp, Washington

Madison, Wisconsin

Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Apr 7, 2016, bobbieberecz from Concrete, WA wrote:

I've been gardening for 40 years in 3 different areas of Washington state. Western Wash. has acid soil---and at my home in the mountains, very acidic. I always hesitate to get this plant because of the numerous seedlings from dandilion-like seeds. However it has proven to be so reliable under a multitude of conditions that I can't help myself. It has grown in unwatered sandy soil for an entire 3 months of steady 90-degree weather and higher; it's grown in 1/2 shade UNDER cedar trees (where few things can survive the toxins); It's grown in the driest, hottest, hardest soil, as well as heavy clay and sandy loam. It survives 0* winters with repeated thawing and freezing episodes. AND it is a literal show-stopper for passers-by when paired with soft, blue catmint. Both repeat bloom quic... read more


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.


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. Howev... read more


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.


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

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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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

Very long lasting flower head. I like that!


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 year...wow. 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.


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... read more


On Apr 8, 2008, Witchie from Martinez, CA (Zone 9a) 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 call... read more


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 ):


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.


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.