The wind and weatherproof sea pink with its pink flower pom poms is a great addition to sunny dry stone and prairie gardens.
Profile of sea pink:
Scientific name: Armeria maritima
Plant family: leadwort family, plumbago family or sea lavender family (Plumbaginaceae)
Other names: sea thrift
Sowing time: August to September (outdoors) or February to April (inhouse)
Planting time: March or April
Flowering period: May to September
Soil quality: gritty to sandy, moderately nutritious
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower meadow, embankments, roof greening, border, dry stone walls, heather garden, rock garden, prairie garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3 (-32 °C / -25 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of sea pink
Plant order, origin and occurrence of sea pink
The sea pink (Armeria maritima) grows on many beaches in Western and Northern Europe and is therefore also known as sea thrift. It belongs to the genus of the carnation (Armeria) and which in turn belongs to the leadwort family (Plumbaginaceae). Despite its name, it is not related to the true pinks (Dianthus). The sea pink occurs on salt marshes and on beaches on almost every continent. In some countries it is rarely found in the wild, which is why it is on the red list and under nature protection. So, before picking get information about its protection status for your country.
Characteristics of sea pink
Sea thrift grows into a compact polster shrub up to 40 centimeters (16 in) high. It grows persistent and herbaceous and forms a bulbous root.
The dark green, narrow, grass-like leaves of the sea pink grow in the form of rosettes. They stay green even in winter. In addition, the foliage is slightly hairy. The sea pink expels the sea salt absorbed with the water via glands on the leaf surface, which is then deposited on the leaves.
In sunny places, sea pink shows dense hemispherical inflorescences, which appear in large numbers from May to September. The sea pink blooms in various shades of pink or white, depending on the variety, and attracts many insects as pollinators.
The sticky fruits of the sea thrift are spread by being attached or blown by the wind.
Sea pink – cultivation and care
Sea pink loves to be pampered by the sun and should therefore not be planted in a too shady spot. The location can be windy, because the plant is used to a continuous breeze from its home on the coast.
Sea thrift feels comfortable in almost any loose soil. As a coastal plant it also grows in particularly salty surroundings. This makes them a suitable planting for highway borders, as they do not mind the winter scattering. The ideal soil is dry to fresh, well-drained and sandy or gravelly and low in lime. On the other hand, it must not be too compact, acidic, dense and do not tend to waterlogging.
Planting and Sowing sea pink
You can sow sea pink from March. To do this, place the seeds in pots with potting compost and press the seeds only lightly. Do not cover with soil. In a warm place (more than 20 °C / 68 °F) they germinate after five to ten days if the seeds are kept moist. After a few weeks, the young plants can move into the garden.
Warning: It is normal for the flowering to be sparse in the first year.
Young plants from the trade are placed in well loosened soil. The best time to plant sea pink is spring in March or April. Sea pinks should be planted in large groups for a better effect of the intensely colored flowers. About 25 plants per square meter (10 sq ft.) are required for a dense carpet.
If the summer weather corresponds to the norm with a change of sun and rain, there is no need for further watering. Only plants in pots need to be watered regularly. In order to meet Armeria’s desire for a slightly acidic substrate, it is best using rainwater or decalcified tap water.
Lean, sandy, dry soil is favorable for sea pink. A too high amount of nutrients tends to have a weakening effect on the level of competition against neighboring plants. Nevertheless, the two times application of compost or horn shavings has a beneficial effect. For a start in spring on the abundance of flowers and on the other hand immediately pruning after the first flowering period.
Sea pinks thrives all summer long if withered flowers are cut off immediately. This not only creates a clean appearance, but also creates space for more splashes of color above the bushy foliage. When a plant has completed its first flowering cycle, cut back all stems to just above the foliage. A portion of compost replenishes the used up nutrient reserves. The plant then blooms a second time within a few weeks. The filigree, evergreen leaves adorn the garden until February, only to be cut off close to the ground.
The sea pink is very easy to care for. Here is a summary of all relevant measures:
- Cut off withered flower heads every few days
- After the first flowering period, cut back to just above the leaves
- Also cut off the second bloom up to the top of the leaves
- Do not remove the leaves near the ground until January / February
- Water from time to time during summer drought
- Apply starting fertilization at the end of April and after the first pruning
Sea pink can easily be propagated by dividing, cuttings or even by sowing. The young plants will very quickly form lush, spherical polster.
Sea pinks age very quickly within a few years and then turn an unsightly brown color from below – quite apart from the fact that the flowering also subsides. For this reason, the plant should be rejuvenated by division every three to four years. Sea pinks are very easy to divide, even the smallest pieces grow back reliably and quickly form new, dense polster. You can perform a division throughout the summer until the beginning of September at the latest.
- Use a spade or digging fork to loosen the soil around the plant
- Now carefully lift the sea pinks and their roots out of the ground
- Carefully examine the roots for any damaged or diseased areas and remove these
- Gently pluck the plants and roots apart with your hands
- Replant the individual plants
- Since sea pinks are hardy, the young plants can go outside straight away
The propagation by cuttings is also very successful, the best time to do is in June and July.
- For this, choose young shoots that are about 6 to 8 centimeters (2.4 to 3.2 in) long
- Cut those off right at the base
- Flowering or budding shoots are unsuitable as they have too little power to root
- Plant the cuttings in pots filled with sand
- A mixture of peat and sand is also suitable
- Slightly moisten the substrate
- Keep the humidity high up to the roots, for example, by placing the pots in an indoor greenhouse or cover with a translucent foil
The cuttings will develop their first roots after about six weeks and can then be transplanted.
If the plants are not pruned after flowering, they usually sow themselves very reliably. You can also sow the collected or bought seeds yourself, either directly in August or September or in preculture between February and April. Sea pinks need cold to germ and therefore need a cold period to break the germ inhibition.
Diseases and pests
Waterlogging leads to root rot and should therefore be avoided at all costs. If the soil is too firm or too wet, the sea thrift must be replanted.
The sea pink is equipped with a robust frost resistance. Even temperatures of -32 °C / -25 °F do not cause any problems. The evergreen foliage also acts as a natural protective cover for the root ball. In the limited substrate volume of the balcony box or pot, however, there is a risk that the root ball will freeze through. Planters with a diameter of less than 30 cm (12 in) are therefore placed in a light, frost-free winter area. Where this plan fails due to a lack of space, hobby gardeners simply put the pot on wood, away from the ground and wrap it with fleece.
Use in the garden
In addition to its suitability for rock gardens, the sea pink also looks different as a bed partner or in a bucket. Like many plants for rock gardens, it is also suitable for edging, wall joints, dry stone walls, south embankments, prairie- and heather gardens. The sea pink looks very nice in combination with thyme, viola, cinquefoil, catnip or speedwell. But sea pinks can also simply be planted in the lawn. This way you can make the area bloom blazingly fast.
In coastal regions, the plants leaves are harvested with residual sea salt and used to stimulate kidney function and treat obesity. In the past, the sea pink was even used for epilepsy.