Dame’s rocket – planting, care and tips

Dame's rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
Dame's rocket (Hesperis matronalis) © Baumschule Horstmann

Blooming wonderfully during the day, bewitchingly fragrant at night: This is how the dame’s rocket presents itself. Here you can read how you can successfully plant the summer flower in your garden.

Profile of dame’s rocket:

Scientific name: Hesperis matronalis

Plant family: mustards, crucifers, or cabbage family (Brassicaceae)

Other names: damask-violet, dame’s-violet, dames-wort, dame’s gilliflower, night-scented gilliflower, queen’s gilliflower, rogue’s gilliflower, summer lilac, sweet rocket, mother-of-the-evening, winter gilliflower

Sowing time: late summer after flowering

Planting time: spring

Flowering period: May to July

Location: no direct sun to partially shaded

Soil quality: gritty to loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich., tolateres lime

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, bouquets, garden fences, group planting, rose companion, underplanting, overgrowth, borders, apothecary garden, cottage garden, flower garden, natural garden, rose garden, forest garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3 (-40 °C / -35 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of dame’s rocket

Plant order, origin and occurrence of dame’s rocket

From the botanical point of view, the dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) belongs to the mustard family (Brassicaceae). The plant has a long tradition in the garden, especially in the cottage garden. Because of its pretty flowers and its remarkable fragrance it has always been a popular ornamental plant. It has been cultivated for about 500 years and naturally occurs from Europe to Central Asia. There it grows in sparse forests, on rivers, under hedges or on fallow land. In the past, the Hesperis was often used as a medicinal plant and was particularly valued for its diuretic and diaphoretic effects. The flowers are edible at least in small quantities and are suitable raw or sugared as a fancy decoration for desserts.

Characteristics of dame’s rocket

Plant

The dame’s rocket usually reaches heights between 60 and 70 centimeters (24 and 28 in), and it becomes about 30 to 50 centimeters (12 to 20 in) wide. The short-lived perennial grows very dense and upright. It forms a lead rosette in the first year and a long flower stem from the second year. Some plants die after the first flowering, others continue for a year or two. Early pruning before seed formation usually extends the life of the plants by one year.

Leaves

The mid-green leaves of the night violet grow off the stems and are elongated oval in shape. Their edges are sawn, at the front they converge. They are about 25 centimeters (10 in) long.

Blossoms

The flowering period lasts from May to July. Then the violet or white, cup-shaped flowers of the night violet appear in terminal racemes. Depending on the variety, they can be single or double flower. Although very small, at a maximum of 2 centimeters (0.8 in) in diameter, they exude an intense and very pleasantly spicy fragrance from evening and all night.

Dame's rocket
Dame’s rocket © Baumschule Horstmann

Dame’s rocket – cultivation and care

Location

For the dame’s rocket, it is best to choose a position in the garden that is not direct in the sun or partially shaded. To be able to enjoy the fragrance and the beautiful flowers, it is recommended planting them near the terrace or near a seat.

Soil

The ideal soil for the Hesperis is both rich in nutrients and humus. In addition, it should be well drained and may need to be loosened up with a little sand or gravel. The dame’s rocket is relatively lime tolerant.

Sowing

It is best to sow night violets in late summer after flowering on the spot in the bed. If plants are already present in the bed, they usually seed itself without the gardener’s intervention.

Planting

Purchased young plants will flower in the same year if planted early in spring. When planting, keep a planting distance of at least 40 centimeters (16 in) and always plant in groups of five to ten plants so that they can develop the desired color effect in the bed.

Care

When it comes to care, the Dame’s rocket is quite frugal and easy to care for.

Watering

Regular watering is only necessary when it is dry.

Pruning

The perennial can be cut off in late autumn after flowering, but it can also be left to stand for the winter. As already mentioned, a timely pruning works like a rejuvenation with the withering of the first flowers and lets the short-lived plants bloom again in the following year. This measure also prevents seed formation and thus self-seeding.

Fertilization

The dame’s rocket never has to be fertilized.

Propagation

The varieties with single flower of the night vial reliably seed themselves under suitable conditions, provided that you allow the formation of seeds. The simplest type of propagation is therefore by sowing.

However, since varieties with double flower do not form seeds, they must be propagated using cuttings. You can either remove them from the fresh buds in spring or cut off the stems towards the end of flowering.

Diseases and pests

Occasionally the night violet is infested with the caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly, which feed on various cruciferous vegetables. They eat the leaves of the Hesperis, but can easily be picked up by hand in case of a heavy infestation. Otherwise, the plant has proven to be very resistant to plant diseases and pests.

Wintering

Since the dame’s rocket is very frost-resistant down to -40 °C / -35 °F. Thus, the perennial plant can easily overwinter in the garden. Even in winter, the dame’s rocket retains its green color.

Use in the garden

The dame’s rocket has always been found in cottage gardens. It looks great next to roses, but can also be combined excellently with other perennials. Together with other fragrant plants such as pinks (Dianthus), it can be arranged for real fragrance experiences. In addition, the Dame’s rocket is a bee pasture and attracts with its intense fragrance especially hoverflies and moths into the garden at night.

The dame’s rocket can also be used as cut flowers and tied into natural floral arrangements.

Tip: Cut them off in the evening to take as much fragrance as possible into the vase.

Varieties

There is the dame’s rocket with white or purple flowers, single or double.

  • The white flowers of the subspecies Hesperis matronalis var. Albiflora form a particularly nice splash of color in the bed.
  • The flowers of the variety ‘Alba Plena’ are white and double flowers.
  • ‘Lilacina Flore Pleno’, on the other hand, has purple and single flower.

All varieties are robust and easy to care for.

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