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Native to the North American grasslands, silene, is prized for its brilliant early summer blossoms. Boasting flowers in shades of pink, white, red, and magenta, silene often grows as an annual plant in meadow and prairie settings but some varieties have strong perennial tendancies and come back in the same spot year-after-year. The silene that grows as annuals self-seed readily and reliably pop up every spring.
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Part Sun, Sun
Under 6 inches to 8 feet
6 to 24 inches, depending on variety
A Note About the Name
Silene has the common name catchfly. The name catchfly refers to the plant's sticky leaves and stems. It is said that the leaves and stems are so sticky they could catch a fly; however, silene does not actually catch or attract flies. It is just the lucky recipient of a memorable common name.
Into the Garden
Silene is a great plant for your landscape. Its natural ability to withstand dry conditions and preference for sun make it a good fit for rock gardens, curbside planting areas, and full-sun garden beds. Count on silene's foliage to debut in early spring and persist through late summer, but remember that a few varieties go dormant in the heat of summer. Bold flower stalks unfurl their blooms in early summer, standing tall for several weeks.
A favorite stopping place for hummingbirds and butterflies, silene is a great addition to pollinator gardens or container plantings. Pair it with bee balm, cosmos, alyssum, aster, and calendula for a color-drenched flower show from early summer through fall. Add silene to a container garden and enjoy its medium green, sometimes fuzzy, foliage for months after the plant blooms.
Silene Care Must-Knows
Silene grows best in full sun or part shade and well-drained soil. In Zones 7 and above, plant it where it will receive afternoon shade. Well-drained soil is essential. Silene suffers and dies out in wet locations. It's easy and economical to start silene from seed planted in the garden in spring or from transplants purchased at a garden center.
After silene blooms in summer, allow the flower stalks to stand to encourage the plant to self-seed. Plan to replace perennial silene in the landscape every few years—perennial cultivars have a tendency to decrease flower production as they age.