Wildflowers UK, bringing the British Countryside to you.

Perfect for pollinators
Red Valerian- centranthus ruber Red Valerian is a naturalized plant that will grow well in full sun and is very useful for growing on walls or rocky places. Red Valerian plants have showy rose-red flowers that appear between June and August. Plants provide a valuable source of nectar for Bees and other insects and look nice growing close to other summer flowering plants such as oxeye daisies.
How to grow Red Valerian from seeds:
Sow Red Valerian seeds in spring or autumn either outside where it is to flower, or in seed trays and cover lightly with compost. It is usually easy to germinate and the seedlings, which are quick to develop, can be pricked out and grown on, for planting out later in the year.
RHS Perfect for Pollinators.
The RHS Perfect for Pollinators mark is only given to plants that support pollinating insects in gardens. Bees, butterflies, moths, hoverflies and many others visit flowers to feed on nectar and pollen; while doing so they transfer pollen and increase seed set and fruit development. Find out more at: rhs.org.uk/plants
To discover more plants for Bees, simply enter the word “pollinators” into the search box above.
To buy Red Valerian seeds
To purchase Red Valerian seeds, please select a quantity above and click add to cart. To ensure the best chance of success, we sell all of our wildflower seeds by weight, which ensures each wildflower seed packet contains a good quantity of seeds. The recommended sowing rate is 1 gram per square metre. All of our Wildflower seed packets contain seeds of Native British provenance.
type – perennial,
colour – Red,
height – 30 to 90cms,
flowers June, July, August,
habitat – Dry Grassland (clay, loam), Walls

Weeds of Australia – Biosecurity Queensland Edition Fact Sheet

Centranthus ruber subsp. ruber

Scientific Name

Centranthus ruber (L.) DC. subsp. ruber


Centranthus ruber (L.) DC.Valeriana rubra L.



Common Names


Naturalised Distribution

Widely naturalised in southern Australia (i.e. in south-western and southern Western Australia, south-eastern and eastern South Australia, southern Victoria, some parts of eastern New South Wales, ACT and Tasmania).

Also naturalised on Lord Howe Island and overseas in western USA and Hawaii.


Red valerian (Centranthus ruber subsp. ruber) is regarded as an environmental weed in Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. It is gorwn as an ornamental and escapes cultivation to invade firebreaks, roadsides, granite outcrops, open woodlands and coastal environs, where it can from dense monocultures and displace native herbs.

In Porongurup National Park, in south-western Western Australia, rangers have been battling this species as it invades karri forests. In the same region, red valerian (Centranthus ruber subsp. ruber) has invaded the tuart and banksia woodlands of the Paganoni Swamp. It has also invaded conservation areas in South Australia (i.e. Naracoorte Caves Conservation Park, Black Hill Conservation Park and Ferguson Conservation Park). In Tasmania and Victoria, red valerian (Centranthus ruber subsp. ruber ) is primarily a problem in coastal habitats, where it invades sand dunes.

This species is also regarded as being invasive along parts of the west coast of the USA, and is potentially invasive in Hawaii.

Fact sheets are available from Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) service centres and our Customer Service Centre (telephone 13 25 23). Check our website at www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au to ensure you have the latest version of this fact sheet. The control methods referred to in this fact sheet should be used in accordance with the restrictions (federal and state legislation, and local government laws) directly or indirectly related to each control method. These restrictions may prevent the use of one or more of the methods referred to, depending on individual circumstances. While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of this information, DEEDI does not invite reliance upon it, nor accept responsibility for any loss or damage caused by actions based on it.

Centranthus ruber – Red Valerian

Phylum: Magnoliophyta – Class: Equisetopsida – Order: Dipsacales – Family: Caprifoliaceae

A walk on the wild side is not necessary if you want to enjoy the sight of masses of Red Valerian, because this wildflower is very much at home in urban settings too, although it saves some of its most spectacular displays for rocky limestone-rich sites such as south-west Ireland’s famous Burren (shown above)..


A perennial plant with braching stems and opposite grey-green lanceaolate leaves, stalked near the base of the plant and unstalked further up, Red Valerian grows to a height of 80cm. Stems are topped by dense panicles of red, pink or white flowers. (White and red forms often grow together – there is an example further down on this page.)

Individually the flowers are 8-10mm long and comprise a corolla in the form of a slender tube with five lobed petals of unequal length and a small spur at the base.


Originally a wildflower of the Mediterranean region, this European wildflower has been introduced into the wild in northern Europe, mainly via garden escapes. In parts of Australia and North America where Red Valerian occurs it is an introduced alien species.


Between the stonework of walls, bridges and other vertical surfaces seem to be very attractive to this pretty wildflower, which is most commonly seen in coastal districts. Red Valerian is a common sight on railway embankments and coastal paths and on some reservoir dam walls.

Blooming Times

The flowers first appear towards the end of May, andyou will find red valerian (which also has a white variety, as shown above) in flower right through to the end of September and in sheltered places right through to the end of the year.


The leaves of Red Valerian and roots can be eaten – the leaves either fresh in salads or lightly boiled, and he roots boiled in soups. Opinions differ as to whether either makes particularly good eating. Although Red Valerian is reported by some sources to have medicinal properties, this is probably due to confusion with Common Valerian, Valeriana officinalis.

(We strongly advise against eating or using as medicines any plants without first obtaining qualified professional advice.)


Centranthus, the generic name, comes from the Greek words kentron, a spur, and anthos, a flower.

The specific epithet ruber means red – a reference to the colour many but certainly not all of the flowers of Red Valarian.

Similar Species

Common Valerian Valeriana officinalis has very similar but much paler pink flowers; it usually blooms from June until the end of August. The leaves of Common Valerian are pinnate, pointed and toothed, whereas the leaves of Red Valerian are oval or lanceolate.

We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would find our books Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales, vols 1 to 4, by Sue Parker and Pat O’Reilly very useful too. Buy copies here…

Other nature books from First Nature…

Valerian, Red-Spur

Botanical.com Home Page

Botanical: Centranthus rubra (D. C.)
Family: N.O. Valerianaceae

—Synonyms—Pretty Betsy. Bouncing Bess. Delicate Bess. Drunken Sailor. Bovisand Soldier.
—Habitat—England, Scotland and the Mediterranean countries. The Red-Spur Valerian, a plant with lance-shaped, untoothed leaves and red flowers with a spur at the base, grouped in dense clusters, must not be confounded with the true medicinal Valerian, though the mistake is often made. It is destitute of the properties of the official Valerian, and is not usefully applied in England, though in some parts of Continental Europe the leaves are eaten. They are exceedingly good in salad, or cooked as a vegetable, and in France there is a sale for the roots for soups.

This plant is not truly British, but is perfectly naturalized in the south of England, being found quite often growing on rocks or walls, in old chalk-pits, railway cuttings and waste places in Kent and Devonshire, though less frequently in the northern counties and only in a few places in Scotland. It is naturally a native of the Mediterranean countries, and was probably originally introduced as a decorative plant. It is mentioned by many of the older writers as a garden flower. Gerard, writing in 1597, saying: ‘It groweth plentifully in my garden, being a great ornament to the same.’ Parkinson (1640) says that it grows ‘in our gardens chiefly, for we know not the natural place.’

—Description—The root-stock is perennial and very freely branching, enabling it to take a firm hold in the crevices in which it has once gained possession. The stems are stout, somewhat shrubby at the base, between 1 and 2 feet long, hollow and very smooth in texture. The leaves 2 to 4 inches long and pointed, opposite one another in pairs, are somewhat fleshy, their outlines generally quite entire. The very numerous flowers are in masses, either of a rich crimson colour, a delicate pink, or much more rarely white, and are in bloom from June to September. The spur to the long, tubular corolla is a marked feature. Each flower only contains one stamen. The fruit is small and dry, the border of the surrounding calyx forming a feathery rosette or pappus.

Linnaeus included this species with the Valerians, as Valeriana rubra, but De Candolle assigned it to a separate genus, Centranthus, in which all later botanists have followed him. The name of the genus comes from the Greek kentron (a spur) and anthos (a flower), in reference to the corolla being furnished with a spur at the base, which absolutely distinguishes it from the true Valerian, apart from other differences.

‘Pretty Betsy’ and ‘Bouncing Bess’ are popular names for the Red Valerian. Near Plymouth, we find the names ‘Drunken Sailor’ and ‘Bovisand Soldier,’ and in West Devon, the smaller, paler kind is known as ‘Delicate Bess.

Purchase from Richters Seeds
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) Seeds
Anthos Valerian (Valeriana officinalis ‘Anthos’) Seeds
Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber) Seeds
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) Plants
Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber) Plants

Common Name Index

Bear in mind “A Modern Herbal” was written with the conventional wisdom of the early 1900’s. This should be taken into account as some of the information may now be considered inaccurate, or not in accordance with modern medicine.

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