Not only we humans, but also bees and other insects enjoy the graceful flower clusters of the purple toadflax. With these tips the plant will also thrive in your garden.
Profile of purple toadflax:
Scientific name: Linaria purpurea
Plant family: plantain family (Plantaginaceae)
Other names: red toadflax
Sowing time: October – March
Planting time: spring or autumn
Flowering period: July to October
Soil quality: stony to sandy, calcipholous, nutrient-poor to moderately nutrient-rich, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower beds, flower meadows, group planting, overgrowing, flower garden, natural garden, rock garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of purple toadflax
Plant order, origin and occurrence of purple toadflax
The purple toadflax (Linaria purpurea) is native to southern Italy, but it has escaped from gardens in many parts of Europe. Thus, the plant is considered naturalized on the British islands for example. Its preferred habitat is open, undeveloped areas and rocky fields. The perennial belongs to the plantain family (Plantaginaceae) and is sometimes called red toadflax because of the color of its flowers.
Characteristics of purple toadflax
The perennial species grows as a herbaceous plant with upright, top-branched stems. Its growth height is between 60 and 80 centimeters (24 to 32 in).
The narrow, slightly grayish leaves of the purple toadflax sit in whorls on the stems and in the upper section mainly alternately.
The asymmetrically structured flowers of purple toadflax resemble the blueprint of the figwort plants, to which they were formerly assigned in botanical systematics. Their purple-colored, fused corolla grows to about 1 centimeter (0.4 in) long and has a curved spur appendage. Numerous individual flowers form a terminal, dense cluster. The long flowering period extends from July to October. The flowers attract many insects and butterflies.
The fruits of the red toadflax are spherical capsules containing numerous flat seeds.
Purple toadflax – cultivation and care
The purple toadflax should be given a warm, sunny spot in the garden.
As in its natural habitat, the plant appreciates dry, well-drained soils. Moreover, the soil should not be too nutritious for the perennial, but should be calcareous.
Ideally, the purple toadflax should be planted in smaller or larger groups. The planting distance should be about 25 centimeters (10 in), and nine to eleven plants per square meter (10 sq ft). It is recommended to plant the plants in spring or autumn.
At the right location, red toadflax develops into magnificent clusters without any special care measures. By cutting off wilted inflorescences, one promotes a second flowering. If the wild shrub spreads too much, cut back the wilted flower stems before the seeds ripen. Otherwise, you should always leave some of them.
The rootstock does not have to be divided, the perennials take care of their own rejuvenation by self-sowing.
The purple toadflax can be propagated very well by sowing or by cuttings. Sowing is done from October – March, as the seeds need cold to germinate. Only press the seeds slighly into the soil.
Diseases and pests
The plant shows no susceptibility to diseases and pests. The plants are even spared from snails.
The red toadflax is hardy down to -20 °C / -5 °F. Only young plants, in their first year after planting, should be protected from the winter cold with brushwood.
Use in the garden
The purple toadflax is best used in open spaces with wild herbaceous character, in stone and gravel gardens as well as on natural steppe plantings.
From Linaria purpurea there are some known color varieties. ‘Alba’ and ‘Springside White’ have pure white flowers, ‘Marion’ and ‘Canon J. Went’ have pale pink flowers.