Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Maltese Cross / Jerusalem Cross

Botanical name: Lychnis chalcedonica (Caryophyllaceae)
Other name: Jerusalem Cross, Campion, Burning Love, Dusky Salmon, Flower of Bristol

Maltese Cross is native from central and eastern European Russia east to Kazakhstan, Mongolia and northwestern China. It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 35-100 cm tall with unbranched stems. The leaves are produced in opposite pairs, simple broad lanceolate, 2-12 cm long and 1-5 cm broad. The flowers are produced in clusters of 10-50 together; each flower is bright red, 1-3 cm diameter, with a deeply five-lobed corolla, with each lobe further split into two smaller lobes, which creates a general shape similar to the Maltese Cross to which it owes its name. The fruit is a dry capsule containing numerous seeds. It becomes popular ornament plant in garden.

How to grow
Maltese cross blooms in June with glowing, scarlet-red flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. It may bloom the first year from seed if started early indoors. Sow indoors 8 weeks before the last frost date. Or sow outdoors after the last frost. Barely cover the seeds. Spacing 12-18 inches, germination takes about 2-3 weeks. It grows best in partial to full sun and in any good well-drained soil, if provided with a constant moisture supply. The flowering period is extended if faded flowers are removed (Cut it back to 4" when the flowers fade to encourage repeat blooming.). Hardy in zones 4-10. Easy to grow. Excellent as cut flowers, in mass planting, meadows, mixed border, and at the back of beds.

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