Sometimes known as rose campion, this perennial plant from southeast Europe is one of the vestiges from my cottage-gardening days, still self-seeding regularly in my garden year after year. The self-seeding habit is the key to its longevity in Sydney - other similar perennials with a basal rosette of leaves that don't freely self-seed usually rot off in our humid summer months and we never see them again.
Lychnis coronaria has a rosette of silvery, velvet leaves that are attractive year-round; in late spring, it sends up a branched spire (ht 60-75cm) bedecked with simple, brilliant cerise blooms. The rounded flowers associate well with all the other blooms at this time - Salvia, roses and perennials, and the colour looks perfect with all shades of blue as well as with pinks, mauves and whites. There are rarer white and pink/white cultivars, but though I have grown these in the past, the seedlings that come up in my garden these days are all of the cerise variety.
It is a very drought tolerant plant and thrives in hot, dry beds with little moisture. However, it will tolerate part shade. Lychnis belongs to the Caryophyllaceae family of plants, which includes Dianthus, Cerastium, Saponaria and Silene, many of which are short lived in our Sydney climate.
Note: This plant has been renamed as Silene coronaria.