Dictionary of Flowers: Armeria Maritima

Lovely pink Armeria Maritima look great in containers or rock gardens. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Far Out Flora and Flickr
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Lovely pink Armeria Maritima look great in containers or rock gardens. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Far Out Flora and Flickr

  • Armeria Maritima 
  • Common name: sea thrift
  • Family: Plumbaginaceae
  • Category: Perennial in USDA zones 4-8
  • Height: 8” 
  • Width: 12"
  • Sun
  • Blooms: late spring to early summer
  • Attracts: birds, butterflies
  • Growth habit: clumping. Use as filler in containers
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: average, well drained. Water sparingly
  • Garden uses: front of garden beds, containers, edging plants, rock gardens. Salt tolerant, good for seaside gardens. Drought resistant
  • Diseases: root rot and blight if too moist
  • Pests: pest resistant

Sea thrift is a native of the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest and Europe. It forms a small clump of grass-like leaves from which it blooms.

The flowers are pink or white, small, and form a globe, about the size of a marble, on top of slim stems. It blooms in late spring and early summer. 

Armeria is evergreen, so it provides interest in containers and the garden year round. 

Armeria is a tough, small plant perfect for containers and difficult areas in the front of garden beds and rockeries.

It needs regular watering during the first year, then it can handle dry conditions. Once a year feeding with general purpose fertilizer before it starts blooming is all that thrift requires.

Deadheading prolongs the blooming season, but leaving a few flowers to go to seed is a good idea in order to grow new plants. 

Gorgeous Sea Thrift flowers! Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Far Out Flora and Flickr
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Gorgeous Sea Thrift flowers! Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Far Out Flora and Flickr

They are easy to grow from seed. The seeds need a period of cold stratification to break dormancy and sprout. They can be wintersown. It's ok to plant seeds and chaff. Amend the starting mix with some sand before planting seeds.

When they first emerge, they look like small blades of grass.

Separate the seedlings and pot into larger containers then plant in their permanent spot when they are large enough. Armeria can also be propagated by dividing the clumps.

Close-up of Sea Thrift. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Martin Cooper and Flickr
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Close-up of Sea Thrift. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Martin Cooper and Flickr

Sea thrift's diseases are mainly due to overwatering: root rot and blight can be avoided by making sure drainage is good and by watering only as needed. Thrift is not really affected by garden pests and it's deer resistant. However, all parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested.

Popular varieties:

  • Armeria maritima 'Ruby Glow' - with dark pink flowers, a little taller than other armeria varieties. It grows up to 10 inches
  • Armeria maritima 'Robusta' - has larger blooms than other varieties, pink
  • Armeria maritima 'Alba' - white blooms
  • Armeria maritima 'Rubrifolia' - green foliage that turns reddish in the spring. Pink blooms
Sea Thrift in its natural environment. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Dan Kristiansen and Flickr
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Sea Thrift in its natural environment. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Dan Kristiansen and Flickr

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