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Your experiences with Maltese Cross, Lychnis chalcedonica

16 years ago

I came across this plant in a book about heirloom plants, but the description was fairly brief, and the plant was labeled hardy to zone 3, which caught my attention. The photos I have seen online are stunning and beautiful, but all the while I was thinking "why had I not heard of this before?"

For those of you with experiences with this plant, what is your frank opinion on it? Does it bloom for a long time, or not? Foliage and form? Is it drought tolerant for you? Anything else you think I or anyone else should know about this plant? I know theres some stuff on the internet about it but I would like to hear what you people think too.



Comments (21)

  • 16 years ago

    "why had I not heard of this before?" I was thinking the same thing myself a year ago! I grew the cultivar 'Dusky Salmon' this year. I only got a few blooms, but really like the way it looked for a new plant. I'm wondering if it is a strong re-seeder like other lychnis can be. Some people don't like that. Maybe that is why it isn't mentioned much? Or maybe it is just out of fashion at the moment? Plants really do go through cycles like that.
    The pic on the link is a bit blurry. I unfortunately didn't get a better shot, but hopefully you can still see how pretty it looked.

    Here is a link that might be useful: {{gwi:282161}}

  • 16 years ago

    I grow the bright red one, and it's in a raised bed. I put metal rings over the plant in early spring to keep the stems from falling to the ground. I cut off spent bloom clusters and it reblooms all summer long. I don't notice any reseeding because I cut the seedheads off, but there are two new plants right next to the original one.

  • 16 years ago

    I've had this plant for years and finally dug it up. It's only eye-catching when in full bloom and there are others that do the job much better and longer, such as silene. OTOH, at least it's not bothered by pests.

  • 16 years ago

    I like Maltese Cross, but it doesn't seem to be a heavy reseeder for me. Like everyone says, it is nice when it is in bloom, and it does rebloom periodically, but definitely not in constant bloom. I grew the dusky salmon too, rather an odd color but would be nice I think with the right combo. It didn't last for me but a couple of years, then failed to come back one spring. I have seeds now to try again though.

  • 16 years ago

    I really like Lychnis chalcedonica, it has a look that fits well into my cottage garden scheme. Its true that they dont bloom long, but they add nice color while they do. The hummingbirds like them too. Mine handle dryness well, as long as they are not in full sun. I get a million seedlings from them, but I rip out the ones I dont want. I have 'Dusky Salmon' too, but the color is rather washed-out looking. Im hoping to find the unusual white Malteese Cross 'Alba'. There are also cultivars (I believed called 'Vesuvius' and 'Orange Gnome') that have bronze leaves and orange flowers.

  • 16 years ago

    I find them to be a good plant for color but I do not care for the form. Mine have gotten tall and need staking and the bottom of the plant gets brown and ugly by mid summer. If you can plant it in a group so as to hide the bottom of the plant it helps, I find it helps to cut them to the ground after bloom and then the regrowth is nice. Last year I bought a dwarf form, which I liked, but it did not survive the winter.

  • 16 years ago

    I do like them and have the orange/red ones in full sun and the pink ones in partial shade. Mine do not require staking but can get brown on the edges of the leaves. When that happens I just cut them down. They are easy to start from seed and sometimes they re-seed. I have had the pink ones for about 7 years but I notice that some years the flowers are very small.
    They are on the lower left.

  • 16 years ago

    I really enjoy all the members of the Lynchnis family. The leaf texture and colour varies from one to the other as does their height, bloom period, and longevity.

    I have the Dusky Slamon. It is quite vigorous and will grow to 4 feet in height. Some went to 5 feet this past year. Here's a picture of them with the Lynchnis Coronaria and Hollyhocks. In another section of the gardens I have the red (Molten Lava?), orange (Vesuvius), and the white (Alba). The Alba iis the least impressive and not as robust as all others.


    A shot from the back.{{gwi:225696}}

    Surprise variations in colour...

    I have these in all areas, and some gardens are not watered due to distance. They have done well once established in the 'drought' gardens so I don't foresee a problem.

    Other Lynchnis you might happen upon and consider should they suit your zone...

    Lynchnis Flo-Jovis Peggy... Nice front of the border plant at 12+ inches in height. This one was just starting to bloom.

    Lynchnis Viscaria Splendens Fever (German Catchly).

    With a visitor.

    Just introduced Lynchnis Haageana Lumina Red Shades this past year. Nice plant with deep burgundy leaves and the biggest, brightest Lynchnis flower I've seen. The orange is stunning. This plant is only 6 inches high and we have another Haageana which is a salmon with lime green leaves. Nice!

    Pardon the gardening hands...

    Unless you want seeds, cut them back after they bloom and they will rebloom all summer. The new flush of foliage is also nice as the old can get ratty looking.

    Overall a nice cottage plant with so many variations - many more than I have.

  • 16 years ago

    Tiffy, thank you for sharing your gorgeous photos! I have been considering adding Maltese Cross, but the comments from folks about the foliage getting ratty looking had me unsure about it. I just ordered seed for Lychnis x haageana Lumina Bronzeleaf Red'. Is that the same as the one in your last 2 pictures?


  • 16 years ago


    I would definitely think so. I got my seeds from Jelitto one or two years ago but had misplaced them. Winter sowed them last year and they did great. I'll be anxiously watching them in their second and third year. Did get a few more seeds this year.

    The pictures don't do justice to the leaves in regards to both their texture and colour. The leaves are actually a bit fuzzy and have a nice burgundy hue. My camera isn't the best at times.

  • 16 years ago

    Tiffy, I was planning on wintersowing them too, so I'm glad to hear that you had success with them. How tall did yours get? I was planning to put them towards the front of a bed, and hope they are in the 12 - 15" range.

    Thanks for the info,

  • 16 years ago


    I would place them at the front of the bed. Mine were about 6 to 7 inches tall this year, but I expect a bit more height next year.


  • 16 years ago

    Thanks everyone for the very valuable information. It seems to me that this is not a plant for my current garden (too hot and dry) but I hope, in the future, in the new garden I will be able to place these plants in the back of the border. I might even try my hands at the white, being a white collector of sorts.

  • 16 years ago

    I have the common red Maltese X and love it! Bloomed first year from seed for me too, but this year they were really showed themselves! It does ok with some drought but foliage looks lusher and greener with regular watering. They will flower all season long if you deadhead. I have the common pink Rose Campion also...but is a biennial that does reseed if allowed...beautiful dusky fuzzy rosettes year one.
    Not the best pics with a camera phone, but notice the scorch on leave tips in August...drought caused. It could have been prevented but I'm not a big waterer; our avr. annual precip. is 17" so plants in this garden must be adaptable lol! Well these are pics from June and August. They were blooming in July too, but didn't get a pic...
    June 21st..
    June 29th...
    August 21st...
    A Rose Campion pic in June...

  • 16 years ago

    My chalcedonia died out on me, but the L. arkwrightii planted right next to it turned out to be very prolific and blooms on and on.

  • 13 years ago

    I grow Orange Gnome. It has bronze leaves, and it is beautiful. The first time I bought it, it died on me because I planted it where the soil holds the water. Last year, I bought one, and decided to take no chances, so I put it in a pot. She went through a very heavy winter, and came back gorgeous. Now, this year I bought two more plants. I am not taking any chances loosing such a beauty!!!

  • 13 years ago

    I live near Charlotte, N.C. and can't find any of the red Maltese Cross or German Catchfly. Does anyone know a place in the area that I can obtain either. I truly appreciate all the post and the beautiful pictures. Thanks!

  • 6 years ago

    I introduced this plant to my garden this spring, and quite enjoyed it, even though I was originally informed at the plant sale that it was a "rare" red milkweed! Anyway, it had a few blooms, which I did not deadhead as I wanted to see what it would do. It did not rebloom, but today I noticed it has produced seed pods with many seeds therein. Is this very proliferous?

  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Think it's been reorganized into the Genus Silene now.

    Have only grown the species Silene ( = Lychnis) chalcedonica and tend to think of that as a beginner's perennial. Found it large and untidy (especially for the time when it flowers here) with a lot of leaf and stem for the size of the blooms. I'm guessing it might be otherwise with cultivars of the species.

    I think I always cut the species back after flowering; however, unlike Silene coronaria, I don't think it would continue to bloom with deadheading.

  • 6 years ago

    I regretfully planted rose campion (the shocking pink flower with silvery furry leaves-image above entitled “a rose campion pic in June” in my Connecticut garden, and all I can say about it was that it was invasive. It sprouted everywhere and it’s too tall and lanky to be permitted to do that in a rock garden. I fought it for years (until we moved LOL). I have to admit I did not deadhead, though, since we were frequently traveling.