Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Cerinthe Major ‘Purpurascens’

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch
Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' flower (18/06/2011, London)

Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' flower (18/06/2011, London)

Position: Full sun

Soil: Well drained soil

Flowering period: Summer

Eventual Height: 1m

Eventual Spread: 50cm

Hardiness: n/a

Family: Boraginaceae

Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ is a deciduous annual with an upright habit. Its foliage is composed of oval, fleshy blue-green leaves, mottled with white, and rich purple-blue towards the flowers. Its inflorescence is in the form of tubular flowers held inside sea blue bracts.

Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' bract (18/06/2011, London)

Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' bract (18/06/2011, London)

C. major is commonly known as honeywort and is native to the Mediterranean region. Gerard described both Cerinthe major and minor in 1633.

Cerinthe is from the Greek keros, meaning ‘wax, and anthos, meaning ‘flower’; referring to the ancient belief that bees take their wax from the flower. Major  is Latin for ‘ancestors’ but this may in fact be from the more current usage  to refer to ‘larger’. ‘Purpurascens’ is derived from the Latin meaning ‘becoming purple’.

The landscape architect may find this plant useful as a coulourful plant that will return year after year regardless of how hard the winter may be. This plant may die off completely or be evergreen (even in some parts of the UK) depending on how cold the winter becomes but since it will self seed so easily it will remain year after year in any hardiness zone.

Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' (18/06/2011, London)

Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' (18/06/2011, London)

This plant will tolerate many soil conditions; it will be happy in neutral, acid or alkaline pH levels, in loam, chalk or sand based soils but will prefer an west or south facing, sheltered aspect in a well drained soil.

Ecologically this plant will attract pollinating insects such as butterflies and especially honey bees.

Maintenance: No maintenance required. The plant may be cut back after flowering to encourage new growth.

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