Cupid’s dart – characteristics, cultivation and use

Cupid's dart
Cupid's dart - by H. Zell

The Cupid’s dart may not be particularly long-lived, but it does offer, for example, blue-violet flowers that last for months. This is how planting and care succeed.

Profile of Cupid’s dart:

Scientific name: Catananche caerulea

Plant family: daisy family / aster family (Asteraceae)

Sowing time: Spring

Planting time: Spring

Flowering period: June to September

Location: sunny

Soil quality: gritty to loamy, calcipholous, moderately nutritious, low in humus

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, bouquets, overgrowth, border, flower garden, natural garden, rock garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 7

Bee and insect friendly: yes

Plant characteristics and classification of Cupid’s dart

Plant order, origin and occurrence of Cupid’s dart

The blue Cupid’s dart, which is botanically called Catananche caerulea, belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae). Their natural sites are in southwestern Europe, the western Mediterranean and North Africa. As a light-loving plant, it likes to colonize tree-free, sun-drenched areas there, which can reach high altitudes. Although it is rarely seen in the gardens, it has been cultured since the 18th century. It was already known to the ancient Greeks and was a popular aphrodisiac. This is also indicated by the botanical generic name Catananche, which refers to the Latin word “catanance” and roughly means “magical love herb”.

Characteristics of Cupid’s dart


The herbaceous plants are relatively short-lived in the garden and rarely last longer than two years. They grow clustery with a basal leaf rosette from which the 40 to 80 centimeters (16 to 32 in) high, scaly stems strive upright.


The narrow, whole-edged leaves of the Cupid’s dart are almost without exception basal. They are gray-green haired and are up to 15 centimeters (6 in) long. The plants are summer green, so they turn brown in autumn and sprout again in spring.


The pretty, radial flowers that appear from June to late September are reminiscent of cornflowers. They reach 3 to 10 centimeters (1.2 to 4 in) in diameter, usually sit individually on the stems and shine blue on the edge and violet in the middle. The involucral bract of Catananche caerulea are silver-skinned with a blue central nerve. They are very popular with bees, butterflies and other insects.


The dry seed pods are responsible for the German name of the plants – rattle flower – because they make the appropriate noise in the wind.

Cupid's dart plant
Cupid’s dart plant – by Kurt Stüber

Cupid’s dart – cultivation and care


The plants need a lot of light and warmth. Very cold areas with long periods of frost are unsuitable.


The Cupid’s dart loves well-drained, rather basic soils. If it is to grow in a rather heavy soil, it needs the addition of gravel or coarse sand. In the right location, it withstands rainy phases as well as dry phases very well. Avoid waterlogging.


If you plant the short-lived Catananche caerulea in spring, you will have the most of it. It works best in small groups of three to five specimens. The planting distance of the individual Cupid’s darts should be 20 to 30 centimeters (8 to 12 in), a little more to other neighbors.


A single fertilization in spring with compost or slow-release fertilizer supplies the plant throughout the garden season.


You can often find the variety ‘Alba’, which shows white flowers with a blue center. It is less common to find the variety ‘Major’ with larger flowers.


The Cupid’s darts willingly self-seed at suitable locations and are thus preserved in the garden. If you want to sow them yourself, cover the seeds very thinly with soil. Germination takes place very quickly with even moisture (not wet) and at temperatures around 20 °C / 68 °F.


Cupid’s darts are easy to care for at the right location, which means above all a sufficiently drained soil. You may have to protect them from more competitive neighbors. Do not cut the dried plant parts until early spring, shortly before they sprout new, so that you do not lose sight of the attractive winter aspect.

Diseases and pests

The plants are actually not susceptible to plant diseases and pests, but are very sensitive to waterlogging and then die very quickly.


In winter, you may need to protect the Cupid’s dart from excess moisture by covering it with leaves or brushwood.

Use in the garden

Catananche caerulea is perfect for rock gardens, gravel and steppe beds. They fmacth great with other plants such as, lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), yellow asphodel (Asphodeline lutea), silver mountain knapweed (Centaurea bella), sea holly (Eryngium), bearded iris (Iris barbata), grey santolina (Santolina), hyssop ( Hyssopus officinalis) or atlas fescue (Festuca mairei). The Cupid’s dart is also very good as a cut flower.

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