How to Grow Red Campion

Learn How to Care For This Cottage Garden Flower

Red campion flower with small pink star-shaped flowers and buds closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

In This Article

Red Campion (Silene dioica) is an easy-to-grow herbaceous perennial. A native to Europe, and viewed as a weed in many native areas, this plant's commonly known cultivar in the United States is Clifford Moor Variegated Catchfly, although other varieties of Silene thrive throughout the U.S.

Red Campion is identifiable by its star-shaped, pink-red flowers and green and white variegated leaves. The campion is drought-tolerant, shade-loving, and grows approximately 24 inches tall with a three-foot spread.

This flower is a popular inclusion in the "spiller-filler-thriller" style of potted plant design, as the spiller feature. It also fares well when grown in clumps, as a border plant, in rock gardens, and in meadow and cottage garden settings. Red campion is also known to be attractive to pollinators. When it is in bloom from May through July, in most zones, you could see bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds being drawn to it.

Botanical Name Silene dioica 
Common Name Clifford Moor Variegated Catchfly, Morning Campion
Plant Type Herbaceous evergreen perennial
Mature Size Up to 24" high, 3' wide
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH 7-10
Bloom Time Late spring through early summer
Flower Color Pink-red
Hardiness Zones 6 - 9, USDA
Native Area Europe, United Kingdom

Red Campion Care

The first decision to be made is whether or not a gardener wishes to grow Silene in the ground or as a potted plant.

This is not a fickle plant and will grow well in drought and low-watering conditions, in a variety of soil types. Campion thrives in full sun to partial shade and is low maintenance with seasonal fertilization and minimal pruning.

The cultivated Clifford Moor variety of the Silene dioica is not considered invasive, however, the original species from Europe is categorized as invasive in some areas of the U.S. Check with your local Extension to ensure the variety you select is approved. Just to be sure, it is always a good idea to plant it in an area where it won't negatively impact native plant habitats.

Campion has showcasing variability and can highlight the garden as an edging feature.

Red campion plant with small pink flowers and buds on thin dark red stem in garden

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Red campion plant with small pink star-shaped flowers on thin stems closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Red campion flower with small pink star-shaped flower and bud on end of thin stem closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Red campion plant with small pink star-shaped flowers on thin stems closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Red campion varieties flourish in full to partial sun. When selecting placement locations, focus on an area with southern exposure where the plant can receive at least six hours of sunlight.

If you only have a partial shade location, though, not to worry. This plant will still grow in a more shady spot. In its native habitat, red campion is associated with growing along semi-shaded woodland edges and hedgerows.

Soil

Red campion grows best in dryish sandy and gravel-laden soils and it won't do well in heavy clay. While the plants prefer moisture, the soil must have excellent drainage. They can thrive in a range of soil pH levels. Once the plant has established in the soil, it is best to leave it alone.

Water

Silene dioica is drought-tolerant but does prefer moist soil. However, it can succumb to root rot if left in standing water, so care needs to be taken not to over-water. This plant is a perfect addition to a xeriscape landscape due to its versatility for water needs.

Temperature and Humidity

Red campion is hardy in zones 5 through 8. It can tolerate cold but when temperatures are excessively hot this plant will need some type of shade and soil moisture.

Fertilizer

This plant can grow in a wide variety of soils and does not need any type of additional fertilizer to help it grow.

Pruning

Silene dioica doesn't need much pruning. To keep it blooming, deadhead on a regular basis. Once this plant stops blooming gardeners can decide if they want to prune these evergreens down to the base.

Growing Red Campion From Seeds

Plant Silene dioica seedlings in early spring for late spring to summer blooms or in late autumn for early spring blooms. If conditions are right, you should see good success as red campion germinates easily from seeds.

Dig for width, not depth, since this plant will spread and clump as it grows. Plant so the crown is even with the soil but do not cover the crown. Sow seeds six to 20 inches apart, and lightly cover with soil.