University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Perennial Plant Feature--Sea Pink
By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
The Sea Pink, which is also called Sea Thrift, has pink flowers and grows along the sea as its name indicates. This habitat also gives clues to its culture.
Growing by the sea, it is very salt tolerant. It prefers infertile soils, or ones with low fertility. High fertility, as well as water-logged soils, causes it to rot. Otherwise, it is very adaptable and low maintenance. Hardy in zones 4 through 8, it likes full sun in the North and part shade in the South.
The foliage is attractive, forming tufted clumps five to 12 inches high, and spreading up to 12 inches across. The flowers are in dome-shaped heads, held above the foliage. The leaves are linear, up to four inches long, and evergreen.
As the leaves are grass-like, ambitious and unknowing gardeners often mistake it during spring weeding for grassy weeds! It tends to move slowly about by means of its seeds falling and germinating. Seeds, and clump division, are means for its propagation.
It is useful in many landscape situations including rock and scree gardens, edging fronts of borders, dry wall plantings, and troughs and other containers. Some cultivars with longer stems, such as the Bee's hybrids and 'Ornament,' also are good as cut or dried flowers.
Medicinally, this genus has been used as a sedative, as a weight reducer for obesity, and to treat epilepsy. The species maritima has various minerals and the irritating and antibiotic substance plumbagin.
Of the about 80 species of this plant, about 10 are more commonly found. The one most commonly seen, and with the most cultivars, is named Common Thrift (maritima). This species, as well as most of the others, is native to Europe and in particular, Spain, Portugal, and France.
There are about a dozen and a half cultivars of Common Thrift that you might run across, but five in particular are more choice with some winning the award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticulture Society in England.
'Bee's Ruby' has bright cherry red flowers, is 18 inches tall, and has smooth flower stems. 'Bevan's Variety' has deep pink flowers, is a compact two to four inches tall, and is actually a cultivar of the Pyrenee's Thrift (juniperifolia). 'Ornament' is a hybrid with large, white to rose flowers, six to nine inches tall. 'Splendens' has deep red flowers, and is eight to 10 inches tall. 'Vindictive' has rosy red flowers, and is a compact six inch tall tuft.
For more details on Sea Pinks, as well as on many other choice perennials, check out Perry's Perennial Pages (http://www.uvm.edu/~pass/perry/) on the Internet.
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