A young flower cluster nestles amongst yellow oxalis. Detail of flower cluster & foliage position.

Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber), is also referred to as Keys to Heaven or Red Valerian, and is a flowering perennial with fragrant, dome-shaped clusters of small dark-pink or white flowers atop 2- to 3-foot stems. It grows equally well in bright shade to full sun and blooms from late spring to mid summer. A member of the Valerianaceae family, centranthus originally comes from the Mediterranean region like many other plants which do so well in Davis. Jupiter's beard is also drought-resistant enough to be used in water-saving xeric landscape designs. As beautiful as it is durable, Jupiter's beard sports blue-green lance-shaped foliage on smooth stems in opposite pairs. Each stem bears dense terminal clusters of electric, rose-red flowers throughout the growing season — it is easy to see why centranthus is sometimes know as scarlet lightning. Though it easily adapts to either dry or moist soil, occasional watering promotes heavy blooming. As flowers begin to fade, plants should be pruned back to the main clump of foliage to promote continuous blooming and keep the plant compact. Flower heads left on the plant will self seed easily in moist soil, but new starts can be easily plucked; because it self-seeds so freely and blooms with such frequency, Jupiter's Beard can be considered invasive.

For a listing of other plants found growing in Davis, visit our Town Flora.