How to Plant and Grow Thrift

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

Also known as "sea thrift" or "sea pink," this tough perennial, hardy in Zones 3-9, 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.

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.

With thrift's low mat of grassy green foliage, this plant looks good even when not in bloom.

Thrift Overview

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

Where to Plant Thrift

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 seawater sprays.

Thrift makes an attractive addition to coastal gardens, which have similar conditions to its natural habitat. It can work well in rock gardens, trough gardens, and containers. Plant it in a sunny spot with well-draining soil.

How and When to Plant Thrift

Scatter thrift seeds in the soil in late spring, leaving them exposed to sunlight. While new plants may not bloom and only have foliage, they'll return the following year with flowers.

Thrift Care Tips

Thrift is a low-maintenance plant that needs little care once it's established.

Light

Thrift prefers full sun for six to eight hours a day, 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.

Soil and Water

Make sure you provide thrift with well-drained soil, because rot can be a problem when it stays too wet. Don't add too much organic matter when planting and don't use any fertilizer. If the soil is sandy, add peat moss for improved drainage. Thrift grows in soil with all levels of pH.

New thrift plants need moderately moist soil until they're established, but they don't like soggy soil.

Temperature and Humidity

Thrift needs lots of sun, but the sun can come and go periodically throughout the day. Cool fall weather can kill off thrift.

Fertilizer

Established plants should be fertilized once early in the growing season and once in summer.

Pruning

Trimming thrift will spur new branching at the base. Cut back flowers as soon as they're finished to encourage a second round of blossoms.

Pests and Problems

Thrift is mostly disease-free, and pests don't bother it. Threats to thrift come from too much moisture in the soil, like crown rot or root rot. Rust can also be a problem.

How to Propagate Thrift

Sea thrift can be propagated by taking cuttings in summer or by removing the plants and dividing the roots in the spring or fall. It can also be planted from seed.

Make thrift look lush and full by digging it up and dividing it, prompting the plant to produce new growth.

Types 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

Iris

white iris
Dean Schoeppner

Named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, iris comes in a rainbow of colors—and in many heights, too. All boast the classic, 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. Zones 3-9

Catmint

catmint
Peter Krumhardt

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. As you might guess from the common name, catmint is a favorite of felines. They'll often roll around in the plants in delight. Zones 3-9

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does thrift attract wildlife?

    Deer stay away from thrift, but pollinators like hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies are drawn to its colorful flowers and nectar.

  • Why does my thrift look like it's dying?

    As thrift matures, it develops dead spots in the center (typically a dense mat) due to age. This condition is quite normal after years of growth. When this happens, it can be divided and replanted.

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