Plant of the Month

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Velvet Centaurea, Purple Bush Dusty Miller
Centaurea cineraria

  • Plant Form: Evergreen sub-shrub
  • Water Use: Very low, low
  • Mature Size: 2-4 ft. tall x 6-8 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May), early Summer (June)
  • Native to: Italy
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15-20°F

This drought-tolerant, low water-use plant not only complements all the plants around it, Velvet Centaurea is also a show-stopper on its own, producing brilliant purple flowers above silvery-white foliage covered in felt-like hair. Top this with its tolerance for heat, poor, dry soils, and frost, plus its resistance to browsing by deer and rabbits, and you have a winning combination that will perform for you in seemingly impossible situations.

Velvet Centaurea has been called a “Dusty Miller on steroids” due to its vigorous growth. Most garden plants either have brilliant flowers or striking foliage that complements all the plants around them. This beauty has both traits. Fluffy, purple, thistle-like flowers are held at the tips of whitish stems (great for cutting). Prized for its lacy, silvery-white foliage covered in felt-like hair, this fast-growing, shrub-like perennial looks fantastic next to bright-flowering plants or plants with dark green foliage. Thriving in heat and poor, dry soils (even clay soils), this Italian native actually prefers sun and low fertility soil for its best performance. Trim it back hard after flowering to keep it from getting leggy. While enduring drought, it also handles frost, resists browsing by deer and rabbits, and attracts butterflies and bees. Use as a groundcover or filler between plants of contrasting color, in background plantings, on slopes, in rock gardens, and even in dry, neglected side yards.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for June