With thrift’s low mat of grassy green foliage, this plant looks good even when not in bloom. Once thrift begins its floral show, featuring several wands of pink, red, or white ball-shape blooms dancing above the foliage, it looks even better! Thrift makes an attractive addition to coastal gardens, which have similar conditions to its natural habitat. It can work well in trough gardens and containers, too.
Also known as sea thrift or sea pink, this tough plant adds wonderful spring color to the garden, especially when used at the front of a bed. That's because of its playful blossoms, which resemble pompoms. It's also appealing as a cut flower. For prettiest results, display the short stems in small bud vases.
Thrift Care Must-Knows
Thrift can be very easy to grow. Just keep in mind that this plant is native to coastal climates in Europe and North America; in fact, you'll see it growing wild on the sides of cliffs. The species Armeria maritima gets its name from those maritime climates. Because thrift thrives in harsh, rocky conditions, this low-growing plant adapts well to drought and drying winds. Thrift's ability to stand up to salt spray is another notable adaptation, which means you can plant it near areas that receive sprays of sea water. Make sure you plant thrift in well-drained soil, because rot can be a problem when it stays too wet.
Thrift prefers full sun because it encourages the largest number of flowers and dries out the plant after rain and waterings. Thrift can also tolerate part shade. Too much shade, though, and thrift's foliage gets lanky and bears fewer flowers.
Related: Perennial Planting Guide
As thrift grows, it eventually forms dead spots in the center (which is typically a dense mat) due to age. Don't panic; this condition is quite normal after years of growth. Make thrift look lush and full again by digging it up and dividing it, which makes the plant put out new growth. Trimming a plant encourages new branching at the base. Cut back flowers as soon as they're finished to encourage a second round of blossoms.
Breeders have focused on creating plants that flower beyond spring. Success on this front includes a series said to bloom the entire growing season as long as the gardener deadheads plants regularly.
More Varieties of Thrift
Armeria pseudarmeria grows larger in all respects than sea thrift. Leaves are wider, the plant grows several inches taller, and flowers are larger. Zones 6-7
'Morning Star Deep Rose' thrift
This variety of Armeria maritima has rich rose flowers that last for a long time over a mound of grassy green foliage. It grows 6 inches tall. Zones 3-9
Armeria maritima 'Rosea' has medium-pink, ball-shape blooms that rise 6-8 inches above grassy green foliage. Remove old flowers to keep it blooming. Zones 3-9
'Ruby Glow' thrift
Armeria maritima 'Ruby Glow' has deep pink blooms on 8-inch-tall stalks. Zones 3-9
Thrift Companion Plants
Named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, iris indeed comes in a rainbow of colors and in many heights. All have the classic, impossibly intricate flowers. The flowers are constructed with three upright "standard" petals and three drooping "fall" petals, which are often different colors. The falls may be "bearded" or not. Some cultivars bloom a second time in late summer. Some species prefer alkaline soil while others prefer acidic soil.
Catmint is one of the toughest perennials you can grow. It's a proven performer during hot, dry weather, and the silvery foliage and blue flowers look great most of the season. Deadhead or cut back hard after first flush of bloom to encourage more flowers. Average, well-drained soil is usually sufficient. Tall types may need gentle staking; it sometimes seeds freely. As you might guess from the common name, catmint is a favorite of cats. They'll often roll around in the plants in delight.