How to Grow Silene
Probably from the Greek sialon, saliva, in reference to the gummy exudations on the stems which ward off insects (Caryophyllaceae). Catchfly. A genus of 100 species of annual, biennial and herbaceous perennials of the northern hemisphere and South Africa, having a wide range of color through white, pink and red to purple. Some make good rock plants, but some can only be considered as weeds and should be banned from the garden.
Annual species cultivated S. armeria, 1-2 feet, flowers pink, summer, Europe. S. pendula, 12 inches, rose to white, summer, Europe.
Biennial species cultivated S. compacta, 1 feet, flowers pink, summer, Russia, Asia Minor. S. rupestris, 4-6 inches, flowers white to pink, June to August, western Europe, Siberia.
Perennial species cultivated S. acaulis, cushion pink, moss campion, 2 inches, flowers pink, June, northern hemisphere. S. alpestris (syn. Heliosperma alpestre), 4 inches, white, summer, eastern Europe; var. plena, flowers double. S. laciniata (syn. Melandrium laciniatum), 8-10 inches, flowers scarlet, summer, United States. S. maritima, sea campion, 6 inches, flowers white, large, July to September, Europe including Britain; var. plena, flowers double. S. saxifraga, 6 inches, flowers white and brown, summer, Greece. S. schafta, 6-9 inches, flowers pink, summer and autumn, Caucasus. S. virginica (syn. Melandrium virginicum), fire pink, 1-11 feet, flowers crimson, North America. S. zawadskyi (syn. Melandrium zawadskyi), 4-6 inches, flowers white, large, summer, Romania. Some good cultivars include S. pendula compacta, pink; rubervina, ruby red; ‘Peach Blossom’, single pink; Triumph’, crimson-rose; ‘Special Dwarf Mixture’, double white through pink and lilac to crimson.
Cultivation The soil for annual and biennial species should be light and sandy, in a sunny bed or border. For perennials a sandy loam mixed with well-rotted organic material is suitable. S. acaulis requires equal parts of loam, peat and stones and prefers a sunny crack or shelf on a rock garden, as does S. virginica. Planting is carried out in the spring, and lifting and replanting should be undertaken only when absolutely essential. Propagation for annuals is by seed sown in September, transplanting the seedlings when they are 1 inch high, and then planting them in their permanent positions in March for spring flowering, or by seed sown in April, transplanting to flowering positions when 1-inch high for summer blooming, or by sowing seed where required to grow and thinning out in May. Perennials are propagated from seed sown in spring, in pans placed in cold frames, from cuttings and by division in spring.