Burning love – planting, care and tips

Flower of burning love
Flower of burning love

Burning love lives up to its name in the sunny herbaceous border. With its scarlet umbels, the flowering perennial trumps in summer.

Profile of burning love:

Scientific name: Lychnis chalcedonica

Plant family: pink or carnation family (Caryophyllaceae)

Other names: Maltese-cross, Maltese-cross campion, dusky salmon, flower of Bristol, Jerusalem cross, London pride, nonesuch, scarlet lightning, scarlet lychnis

Sowing time: Spring, from January on indoor

Planting time: Spring or Autumn

Flowering period: June to July

Location: sunny

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, bouquets, single position, group planting, discounts, cottage garden, flower garden, natural garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of burning love

Plant order, origin and occurrence of burning love

Burning love (Lychnis chalcedonica, formerly Silene chalcedonica) is also called scarlet lightning due to its impressive flower color. It belongs to the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) and there in the genus of the catchfly (Lychnis). Its original distribution area is between Russia and China. However, the perennial was imported to Europe as an ornamental plant as early as the middle of the 16th century, and from the 17th century there were the first color variations that resulted from cultivating. It is naturalised in some parts of North America. Thomas Jefferson sowed this plant at Monticello in 1807. To date, the scarlet lightning is not overgrown in Central Europe or America and continues to be found only in gardens.

Characteristics of burning love


As a perennial, herbaceous plant, the burning love grows bushy and clumpy between 50 and 100 centimeters (20 to 40 in) high. It forms underground rhizomes from which new shoots develop every year. A terminal, umbel-like inflorescence grows per sturdy stem.


Around the stem, the whole-edged green leaves of burning love are grouped in basic rosettes. The leaves are ovate to lanceolate and have light hair.


Burning love has the striking name because of its bright red flowers. There are about 30 to 50 small, fiery red individual flowers per inflorescence. The cross-shaped flower has also given the perennial the name Maltese-cross or Jerusalem Cross. The heyday is between June and July. The bright flowers are often visited to by bees.


The five-valvular egg-shaped capsule fruits, which have a size of about one centimeter (0.4 in), contain the one millimeter (0.04 in) small seeds. These are colored reddish brown, triangular, pointed and studded with warts.

Burning love
Burning love

Burning love – cultivation and care


The scarlet lightning usually grows in bushes, canyons and on damp meadows. The optimal location should be sunny and airy.

  • Full sun to sunny location,
  • Warm, protected from wind and rain


For healthy growth, the burning love needs a humus-rich, fresh and well-drained garden soil that should be very nutritious. The plant does not tolerate drought well.


For the cultivation of Lychnis chalcedonica, choose the one you like from the following two methods. Both are uncomplicated to implement.

By division

The best time to multiply by division is in autumn when the soil is deeply warmed. If you miss this date, you will start cultivating in spring as soon as the ground is completely thawed. How to do it right:

  • Loosen the root ball well all around with the digging fork
  • Use the spade to lift the perennial out of the ground and place it on a firm surface
  • Use a sharp knife or a spade to cut the root ball into two halves or four quarters
  • In the event of a division in autumn, leave the leaves that have not yet pulled in on the plant

As long as a bale piece has at least 2 buds, it has the potential for a new burning love. At the new location, plant the segments at a distance of 30 cm (12in) in the thoroughly raked soil, enriched with compost, and water. It is important to note that the previous planting depth is maintained.

By sowing

In order to fill the peaceful winter time with sensible gardening activities, from January to March it is advisable to sow burning love on the warm windowsill. In order to be able to handle the tiny red-brown seeds well, they are mixed with fine sand. Sowing is done like that:

  • Fill small pots or a seed bowl with holes in the bottom with potting compost
  • Spread the seed-sand mixture thinly, put or sieve substrate about 0.5-1 cm (0.2 to 0.4 in) thick on top and press on
  • Ideally, water the seed from below by placing the container in water for a few minutes

Germination in the indoor greenhouse or on the windowsill takes between 1 and 3 weeks at room temperature. Keep the substrate constantly moist during this time. If at least 2 pairs of leaves have developed on a seedling, it is pricked out into a single pot. By mid-May, they have turned into vital young plants and will be planted out in the bed or in the tub.

Tip: If you put a transparent foil over the seed pot, germination will proceed quickly in the moist, warm microclimate below. If the cotyledons break through the seed coat, the cover has done its job and will be removed. Lift the foil every day to air.


Don’t let the magnificent perennial get under drought stress, the water balance should be in balance. Water burning love whenever the surface of the soil has dried. To determine this, press a finger into the substrate. If the first 1-2 cm (0.5 to 1 in) feel dry, there is a need for water. In midsummer, this can be a daily case, as the flower evaporates a lot of liquid in the sunny location. Water the root disc immediately in the early morning or late evening. Under direct sunlight, drops of water turn into small burning glasses that can damage the leaves and flowers.

Advice: A layer of mulch protects the soil drying out too fast.


To unfold the opulent flower and leaves, burning love should be supplied with sufficient nutrients. A mineral-organic start fertilization makes the perennial get going in May. Subsequently, fertilize every two weeks from June to August with compost and horn shavings. Cultivated in a bucket, a liquid fertilizer for flowering plants should be applied every two weeks.


With the help of secateurs, experienced hobby gardeners have a lasting effect on the duration of the flowering period. Here are the occasions on which a burning love needs a pruning:

  • Regularly cut off withered flower heads
  • Optionally pruning after the first flowering period in July in order to induce a second flowering
  • In the late morning hours cut stems with just opened buds as cut flowers

It is up to you to decide at which point in time you will cut the withered flowers. A timely pruning down to the basic leaf rosettes saves the herbaceous growth of the capsule fruits with the seeds. However, if self-sowing is desired in the garden, leave the stems until the first frost or late winter.

Diseases and pests

In damp weather, mildew develops on the leaves of burning love. Aphids infest the plant in the summer months. Snails, on the other hand, have only moderate interest in the scarlet lightning.


Burning love is very hardy. It can withstand temperatures up to -34 °C (-29 °F). As a result, the perennial gets through the winter healthy and undamaged without any special precautions. This applies at least to plants in the bed.

If the plant grows in a bucket or pot, it should be protected. Due to the exposed location of the root ball, there is a risk that it will freeze. Therefore, cover the tub and planter in brushwood or bamboo matand place the containers on pieces of wood. The substrate receives a thick layer of leaves, straw, brushwood or sawdust.

Use in the garden

Like all carnation plants, burning love is a popular cottage garden plant. In the perennial border, it looks good between yarrow, baby’s breath, daisies, delphiniums and phlox. The long stems and the striking bloom make itan attractive cut flower.

Special Varieties

Burning love ‘Plena’

A premium variety with scarlet, double flowers that leaves nothing to be desired. The silvery shimmering leaves remain green in winter and decorate the otherwise bare garden.

  • Height 80-100 cm (32 to 40 in)
  • Flowering period from May to July with subsequent flowering in September
  • Due to the double flowers it provides no food for bees and other pollinating insects

Burning love ‘Hoarfrost’

The white flowers contrast wonderfully with the light red colors of their conspecifics. An indispensable variety for the creative cotton garden and natural cultivated beds.

  • Height 90 cm (36 in)
  • Flowering period in June and July as well as in September

Burning love ‘Carnea’

An impressive breed with innumerable pink star flowers that combine to form umbrella-shaped flower heads. This Lychnis chalcedonica is also an excellent cut flower for the vase.

  • Height of growth 110-130 cm (44 to 52 in)
  • Flowering period from June to August

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