Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Jupiter's Beard: A Mystery Finally Solved

Jupiter's Beard: A Mystery Finally Solved
Jupiter's Beard  © B. Radisavljevic
For many years Jupiter's Beard was a mystery plant to me. I saw it everywhere I went in gardens, but when I'd ask the owners of the gardens what it was, no one knew.   One day I saw it in a large pot at Nature's Touch in Templeton and I was sure I would finally find out its name, but even they couldn't tell me. I posted photos in gardening email groups, but no one knew there, either, what my mystery plant was.

Then one day a few months ago I was looking either online or in a gardening book and I finally found it. I could finally call it by its name -- Jupiter's Beard (AKA Red Valerian). Scientists call it Centranthus ruber. According to Becca Badgett, of the Gardening Know How Site in her article on Jupiter's Beard, parts of this plant are even edible. Yes, you can eat the leaves and roots.

Jupiter's Beard, in spite of also being called Red Valerian, is not the same as the Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) used in herbal preparations people use to help them sleep. That has very different leaves and is also known as garden heliotrope. Nevertheless, Jupiter's beard is considered an herb.

Whatever you call it, you can find it all over North County gardens. It is popular because it needs almost no care, has an attractive flower, and will grow in places many other flowers won't. You can use it on slopes, in poor soil, and in parts of your garden that are hard to irrigate. It can usually survive on rainfall alone. What it does not like are wet, shady places. It needs sun and good drainage.

My neighbor uses Jupiter's Beard at the very edge of her flower bed to add color. That is a red sage behind it.

Jupiter's Beard: A Mystery Finally Solved
Jupiter's Beard Hanging over My Neighbor's Garden Wall, © B. Radisavljevic

Jupiter's beard is considered a pest by some. It tends to be invasive. It reseeds in a way similar to dandelions. I know my neighbor is often tearing out her excess plants. Most of my photos here were taken of her garden. Next time she starts thinning her plants, I'm going to ask her for one.  I just learned they are very easy to root in water if you have a slip. If you would like to grow Jupiter's Beard and you don't know anyone you can get a slip from, Amazon has an amazing variety of seeds available that will give you many colors from which to choose.

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Jupiter's Beard: A Mystery Finally Solved

This is my tenth post for the 2016 AtoZchallenge, a Blogging Challenge for the month of April, 2016. My theme is plants, since this is a gardening blog. Here are links to the other posts if you missed them.

A is for Apple Blossoms
B is for Bottlebrush
C is for Carnations
D is for Daisy

E is for Elderberry
F is for Flowers
G is for Gazania
Hollyhocks are Edible
Irises Are Garden Survivors


Linda Jo Martin said...

Good detective work... after so long, to find out what the plant is, well, that's remarkable. I've had similar experiences while living in Happy Camp. Like you, I like to know what a plant is called. I love these red flowers and would not consider them a pest. I love the cottage garden feel of this plant and the color of the flowers.

BarbRad said...


I've always liked the cottage garden look, and that's another reason I like hollyhocks, as well as Jupiter's Beard.

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