Thrift

The pretty blossoms on this drought-tolerant perennial look like little pom-poms.

Thrift Overview

Description 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.
Genus Name Armeria
Common Name Thrift
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 6 to 6 inches
Width 4 to 12 inches
Flower Color Pink, Red, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Fall Bloom, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Cut Flowers, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Groundcover

Colorful Combinations

Also known as "sea thrift" or "sea pink," this tough plant promises wonderful spring color, especially when positioned at the front of a bed. Thrift flowers range from red to pink to white, although they're perhaps most appreciated for their playful pom-pom shape. If you're planting thrift in a coastal garden, pair it with other salt-tolerant plants like columbine, dianthus, or ornamental grasses. The blossoms are also appealing as a cut flower. For the prettiest results, display the short stems in small bud vases.

Thrift Care Must-Knows

This plant is native to coastal climates in Europe and North America—you'll see it growing wild on the sides of cliffs. The species Armeria maritima owes its name to those maritime climates and is different from moss phlox, also sometimes called thrift. The latter is a groundcover, while sea thrift grows in clumps.

Because thrift thrives in harsh, rocky conditions, this low-growing plant adapts well to drought and drying winds and tends to be easy to grow. The perennial's ability to stand up to salt spray is another notable adaptation, allowing you to plant it in places that receive sprays of seawater. Make sure you provide thrift with well-drained soil, because rot can be a problem when it stays too wet.

Thrift prefers full sun, which encourages the largest number of flowers and dries out the plant after rain and watering, but it can also tolerate part shade. Too much shade, however, will make thrift's foliage become lanky and the plant will bear fewer flowers.

As thrift matures, it develops 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, prompting the plant to produce new growth. Trimming will also spur new branching at the base. Cut back flowers as soon as they're finished to encourage a second round of blossoms.

New Innovations

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 the plants regularly.

More Varieties of Thrift

Armeria Pseudarmeria

Armeria pseudarmeria
Denny Schrock

Armeria pseudarmeria grows larger than sea thrift in all respects: Its leaves are wider, it springs up several inches taller, and the flowers are bigger. (Zones 6-7)

'Morning Star Deep Rose' Thrift

'Morning Star Deep Rose' thrift
Justin Hancock

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)

Pink Thrift

'Rosea' thrift
David Speer

Armeria maritima 'Rosea' has medium-pink, ball-shape blossoms that rise 6 to 8 inches above grassy green foliage. Remove old flowers to keep it blooming. (Zones 3-9)

'Ruby Glow' Thrift

'Ruby Glow' thrift
Peter Krumhardt

'Ruby Glow' features deep pink flowers on 8-inch-tall stalks. (Zones 3-9)

White Thrift

White thrift
Marty Baldwin

Also known as 'Alba' thrift, this eye-catching variety bears pure-white blossoms on 8-inch-tall stems over grassy foliage. Keep in mind that the flowers don't last long. (Zones 3-9)

Thrift Companion Plants

white iris
Dean Schoeppner

Iris

Named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, iris does indeed come in a rainbow of colors—and in many heights, too. All boast the classic, impossibly intricate flowers, which have three upright "standard" petals and three drooping "fall" petals, often in different colors. Check which species you've purchased before planting, since some prefer alkaline soil while others like acidic soil.

catmint
Peter Krumhardt

Catmint

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 the first flush 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 felines. They'll often roll around in the plants in delight.

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