Some people mispronounce it as century, but the Centaury flower (Centaurium erythraea) has a slightly different name. It’s a plant with a long history of herbal use. Unlike many hybridized and crossbred flowers widely used in the garden and floral arrangement world, the Centaury flower is an unimproved wildflower. This makes it easy to grow in a wide range of garden conditions. Some people are interested in this plant for its symbolic value, while others cultivate it for traditional medicinal purposes. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about Common Centaury flower meaning, their uses, growing tips, and suitable gifting occasions.
- Centaury Flower – The Essentials:
- About Common Centaury Flowers (Centaurium erythraea)
- The Meaning & Symbolism of Common Centaury Flowers
- Suitable Gifting Occasions for Common Centaury Flowers:
- Uses and Benefits of Common Centaury Flowers
- How to Grow Common Centaury Flowers
- Caring for Centaury Flowers
- Best Companion Plants for Common Centaury Flowers
- Common Centaury Flower Crafts
- Common Centaury Flower FAQs:
- Common Centaury Flowers – Wrapping Up
Centaury Flower – The Essentials:
|Scientific Name:||Centaurium erythraea|
|Native Range:||Europe, Western Asia, Northern Africa|
|Colors:||Pink, purple, and occasionally white|
|Characteristics:||Clusters of small, star-shaped flowers|
|Mature Height:||8 to 24 inches|
|Flowering Season:||Summer to early autumn|
|Growing Zones:||3 to 9|
|Sunlight:||Full sun to partial shade|
|Watering:||Moderate watering with well-draining soil|
|Soil:||Well-draining, sandy or loamy soil|
|Fertilizing:||Not typically required|
|Pruning:||Remove spent flowers and maintain compact growth|
|Symbolism:||Gentleness, healing, and protection|
About Common Centaury Flowers (Centaurium erythraea)
There are a few different varieties of plant called by the Centaury name, but the common Centaury flower is part of the Centaurium genus.
Part of the larger Gentian family, this genus includes about 20 plants that all feature small white to pink flowers. Many other Gentian flowers are used as herbal bitters and for various European herbal medicine remedies.
Centaury flowers are a soft pink color with a darker pink edge along the star-shaped petals. Each plant can grow about 2 to 3 feet tall, making it an ideal meadow plant.
Flowering begins in June and ends in September, at least in its native range. It’s known as European Centaury because it’s native to almost all of Europe, along with parts of Western Asia and some of North Africa. It has naturalized in many other parts of the world due to its popularity.
Since this wildflower isn’t bred for specific characteristics, no other cultivars or varieties exist.
The Meaning & Symbolism of Common Centaury Flowers
As you might assume, the name Centaury is a reference to the mythical creature known as a centaur. You might wonder what a half-man, half-horse has to do with a charming pink flower. The link comes from the Greek mythological figure known as Chiron. He was a centaur that was known for his wisdom and ability to heal others.
Since the Centaury flower was once considered a cure-all for many different conditions, it’s not surprising it earned a name that links it with the myth of Chiron. Even in cultures that weren’t informed by Greek mythology, the Centaury flower tends to carry an association with good health and healing.
One ancient claim for this plant is that burning it once dried will drive snakes out of an area. While this isn’t supported by any particular proof, it still lends a meaning of protection and assistance to the flower. The highly bitter flavor also symbolizes bittersweet feelings, such as when you’re still longing for someone you no longer see.
In the language of flowers, the Centaury flower also carries the following symbolic meanings:
Gentleness and Delicacy:
Centaury flowers are often associated with gentleness and delicacy. Their small, star-shaped blooms convey a sense of grace and vulnerability, symbolizing a gentle and tender nature.
Healing and Wellness:
Centaury flowers have long been associated with medicinal properties and healing. They symbolize healing, both physically and emotionally, and can represent the desire for improved well-being and health.
Protection and Warding Off Evil:
In some traditions, Centaury flowers were believed to have protective qualities. They were used as charms and amulets to ward off evil spirits and negative energies, symbolizing protection and safeguarding.
Perseverance and Endurance:
Centaury flowers often grow in challenging environments and harsh conditions. Their ability to thrive in challenging circumstances symbolizes perseverance, endurance, and resilience in the face of adversity.
Centaury flowers are often seen as symbols of simplicity and humility. Their modest blooms and unassuming nature remind us of the beauty of simplicity and the value of staying grounded and humble.
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Common Centaury Flowers:
Centaury flowers (Centaurium erythraea) can be a meaningful and unique gift for various occasions. Here are some of my favorite gifting occasions for Centaury flowers:
Gifting Centaury Flowers for Get Well Soon Gestures:
Centaury flowers are often associated with healing and wellness. They can be a thoughtful gift to wish someone a speedy recovery and to convey your well wishes during their healing process.
Gifting Centaury Flowers for Birthdays:
Centaury flowers can be a beautiful gift for birthdays, especially for individuals who appreciate the beauty of nature and have a fondness for delicate and unique blooms. They can bring a touch of gentleness and beauty to the birthday celebration.
Gifting Centaury Flowers for Graduations:
Celebrating a graduation or academic achievement can be enhanced with the gift of Centaury flowers. They symbolize perseverance and endurance, making them a meaningful gift to acknowledge the recipient’s hard work and dedication.
Gifting Centaury Flowers for Thank You Gestures:
Centaury flowers can be given as a token of gratitude and appreciation. Their symbolic meanings of gentleness and healing make them thoughtful gifts to express gratitude to someone supportive, caring, or helpful in your life.
Gifting Centaury Flowers to Commemorate New Beginnings:
Centaury flowers can be a suitable gift for new beginnings and fresh starts. Whether it’s a new job, a housewarming gift, or a new life chapter, Centaury flowers can represent the desire for healing, protection, and a positive start.
Gifting Centaury Flowers for Thinking of You Gestures:
Sending Centaury flowers to someone you’re thinking of can be a heartfelt gesture. It shows that you care about their well-being, sending healing, protection, and gentleness wishes.
Uses and Benefits of Common Centaury Flowers
Centaury flowers are non-toxic but highly bitter. This makes them less than edible for most people. However, this plant has long been used for medicinal reasons. Even today, many people take it as an extract or dried and in capsule form for conditions like:
- Liver disease or dysfunction
- Stomach and gastric issues like IBD and Crohn’s disease
- Reducing inflammation throughout the body
- Stimulating the liver and kidneys to naturally cleanse the body.
There is little to no research into its effects, but it’s considered safe if used with a doctor’s approval. Old and obviously unsafe medicinal uses for the plant included treating seizures, venomous snake bites, and infected wounds. Chiron, the healer, specifically used the Centaury plant to heal the wound caused by a poisoned arrow, a use that’s not recommended today. Pollinators, including many smaller butterflies, are also attracted to the tube-shaped flowers.
For more, see our in-depth guide to popular flowers that are toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets.
How to Grow Common Centaury Flowers
Hardy all the way down to USDA Zone 1, Centaury flowers have a fantastic range because they can also thrive in Zone 9.
Cold winters won’t stop the seeds of this flower from returning year after year. In the warmer parts of its total range, Centaury flowers may return from the roots since any hard frosts do not kill them.
Skip the rich soil and swampy areas and make sure these plants are grown in loose, sandy, low-fertility soil. Don’t add fertilizer or fertilized potting mix to the planting hole either.
Look for an area with partial shade, especially in the afternoon, so hot temperatures don’t scorch the plants. Plant in the spring after all risk of frost has passed in cooler areas or in the spring and fall in warmer climates.
Only water during drought since this wildflower has relatively low moisture needs. Try planting them along borders, in hedges, or in mixed wildflower meadow plantings.
Caring for Centaury Flowers
Deadheading the Centaury flowers once a year in the early spring is sufficient to keep it flowering. If you’re in an area with a cool summer and mild winter, try deadheading in the summer to trigger a fall round of color. There’s no other need for pruning with this plant in most cases.
Thanks to its long history of growing as a slightly invasive wildflower, few pests or diseases affect this plant. Mildew and rot issues may occur if you plant it in an area that stays too wet for its preferences.
It will form a dense patch that pushes out other plants over time, so don’t be afraid to pull up unwanted plants and trim flowers before they go to seed to control their spread in a garden.
Best Companion Plants for Common Centaury Flowers
Choose from various flowering and colored sages for dry soil companions that don’t need heavy fertilizing, either.
For another taller landscape feature that mingles well with the Centaury flower, try Pennisetum. These decorative spray-topped grasses will give the pink flowers space to shine.
Dark purple succulent foliage contrasts sharply against the blue-green color of this plant, while they both share a common pink bloom color.
Common Sea Heath:
Similar looking but even shorter growing, this ground cover sports charming pink flowers much like Centaury. The needle-like leaves are soft and fleshy, giving it a succulent appearance.
Common Centaury Flower Crafts
Centaury flowers are delicate and smaller, but they can be dried with care without pressing. Use the sprays of dried plants to decorate bouquets, paper art, and garlands.
If you want to press them, you must separate the petals from the green base and gently flatten them by hand before putting pressure on the flowers. Once pressed, they’re ideal for adding to a greeting card or framed art piece.
Common Centaury Flower FAQs:
How long do Centaury Flowers bloom for?
Centaury plants bloom from June through September without a break, but the individual flowers close up in the afternoon and only last a few days.
What is the ideal climate for growing Centaury Flowers?
They’re native to sunny meadows that get cool breezes to keep heat down. Outside of Europe and Asia, they prefer climates with cooler temperatures, even if the winters are extreme.
Can Centaury Flowers grow in containers or indoors?
Centaury flowers won’t do well indoors, aside from being started from seed for transplanting in the spring. They can thrive in containers and planters that are large and well-draining.
How often should I water my Centaury Flowers?
Water weekly when establishing the plants, then let them rely on natural rainwater unless there’s an extended drought. Water 1 inch per week if there hasn’t been any rainfall in the last two weeks or longer.
When is the best time of year to plant Centaury Flowers?
It depends on the climate. In areas with cold winters and hot summers, you’ll want to plant them out in the spring as soon as the risk of frost ends. For milder areas, spring and fall are both excellent times to plant them.
How can I protect my Centaury Flowers from pests and diseases?
Since they’re well-adapted wildflowers that can even become invasive in some areas, Centaury plants rarely need protection from pests or diseases. Simply avoid fertilizing and over-watering, which can both trigger problems with this plant.
How can I extend the lifespan of my Centaury Flowers after they’ve been cut?
There isn’t much that can make the flowers last longer, but you can try cutting them very early in the morning and keeping them cool at all times.
Common Centaury Flowers – Wrapping Up
Don’t be afraid to add the storied Centaury flower to your garden since it’s so well-adapted and able to thrive under challenging conditions. Simply set aside a well-draining and partially shaded area for it and regularly remove unwanted plants since it can spread with ease year after year. It’s a powerful symbol of good health and healing, making it a great wildflower to tuck into a bouquet for a friend who is struggling with an illness. Having it growing in your yard or garden will keep it close at hand for decorating whenever you please.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.