How to Grow and Care for Flower of Bristol

Tall Border Flowers That Are a Cottage Garden Classic

Maltese cross plants with bright red flowers on tall single stems in middle of wildflowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The flower's cross-shaped design contains four and five petals that grow in clusters of scarlet red blooms (and, less commonly, white or pink). Due to its intricate nature and showy blooms, this member of the carnation family is a show-stopper in any flower border or cottage garden. Flower of Bristol plants are often grown alongside yellow flowers to create striking plant color schemes. It germinates quickly in about two weeks but grows at a moderate rate after that. Add it to a wildflower meadow mix including phlox, yarrow, and alyssum to add a pop of color. Plant it in the spring, though in warmer hardiness zones, you can also plant seedlings in the fall.

Common Name Flower of Bristol, Maltese Cross, Nonesuch
Botanical Name Lychnis chalcedonica
Family Caryophyllaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous, Perennial
Mature Size 3-4 ft. tall; 1.5 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Moist but Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic to neutral
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Red, White, Pink
Hardiness Zone 3-10 (USDA)
Native Area Eurasia

Flower of Bristol Care

Choose a plot in your garden with fertile, well-drained soil and space for three to five plants. Make sure they have enough time to set roots before the first frost. Amend the soil with organic compost or peat to achieve the correct pH and soil consistency.

Flower of Bristol plants can grow tall, giving them a tendency to droop over during the height of the growing season. To avoid drooping, provide support with stakes or surround the perennial with low-lying plants like peonies. These plants are disease- and pest-resistant and attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

Maltese cross plants with orange-red flower clusters on single stems

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Maltese cross plants with orange-red flower clusters on thin stems

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Maltese cross with bright red flower clusters closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Maltese crown plant with single thin stem and red flower cluster in middle of yellow wildflowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


For the best show, grow the flower of Bristol plant in full sun. The sunnier the spot, the more flowers your plant will produce and the bushier it will become. Flower of Bristol planted in a shady area will grow leggy and long.


Good soil drainage is required to grow the flower of Bristol successfully. This plant can tolerate mildly acidic or alkaline soils with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. If your growing area is compacted, add compost mixed with peat to amend the soil and allow for proper drainage.


The flower of Bristol grows best in evenly moist soil. It requires more frequent watering during summer droughts and when propagating from seed, as the seeds need to be consistently wet to sprout.

Temperature and Humidity

Flower of Bristol favors conditions similar to those found in the Mediterranean. Mild winters and hot and somewhat humid days allow this plant to thrive best. Flower of Bristol can survive temperatures above 90 F. However, to maintain health, frequent watering during hot spells is advised.


The flower of Bristol is not a heavy feeder, but like most plants, it performs best in fertile soil, as opposed to nutritionally deficient soil. An occasional feeding of compost should be sufficient for maintaining plant health.


Deadhead spent flowers mid-summer to promote continuous blooms or forego this process and allow the plants to reseed themselves and spread. As part of your annual maintenance, cut the old stems down to the ground in the spring to allow for new growth.

Propagating Flower of Bristol

Flower of Bristol plants are grown from seeds. You can also transplant a flower of Bristol plant purchased from a garden center or nursery in the spring.

How to Grow Flower of Bristol From Seed

When starting flower of Bristol from seed, sow them directly into the ground or start them indoors in containers. Sow seeds directly into your garden in late spring, covering them with 1/8 inch of fine loam. Seeds germinate in two to three weeks.

In indoor containers, plant seeds in pots filled with sterile potting soil six to eight weeks before your region's final frost. Place the pots in a sunny window and keep them evenly moist. Once seedlings sprout, transplant them outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. They do not make good container plants; they are best grown in the ground.


This perennial plant is hardy to zone 4 and can handle the winters without any extra care. Prune dead flowers and leaves in late fall to help them grow back nicely in the spring.

  • When is the best time to divide Flower of Bristol plants?

    Clumps can be divided in spring or early fall. Lift the clump out of the grand and shake off the excess soil so you can see the roots. Use two garden forks or a sharp shovel to divide the plant into three to five sections.

  • Is the Flower of Bristol plant a good choice for a weekend gardener?

    Flower of Bristol is highly disease free and low maintenance, which makes the plant a good choice for gardeners with limited time to devote to it.

  • Do deer eat Flower of Bristol plants?

    The plant is deer and rabbit resistant.