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Centaurea (Knapweed)
at Digging Dog

Including Centaurea atropurpurea, Centaurea macrocephala, and Centaurea pulcherrima



Centaurea’s heritage extends all the way back to ancient Greek mythology when Achilles’s wise teacher, Chiron the Centaur was wounded by one of Hercules’ poisoned arrows and subsequently cured by this herb’s miraculous healing powers.

Equally at home in a present day border or a more naturalized setting, our hardy undemanding selections paint a bright picture inside as well. The long lasting boisterous blooms are celebrated cut flowers, bringing high-spirited accents to both fresh and dried arrangements.

Appreciative of well draining “sweet” soil, the ever amenable Knapweed withstands some drought, but not wet, wintertime feet.

View a slideshow of plant images from this genus

Centaurea atropurpurea  full sun

Milling about the mountainous meadows of Europe’s Carpathian Range, this garden rarity spotlights large ruby red thistle-styled blooms bolstered by impressively tall sturdy stems. Even before the marvelous flowers appear, intricately detailed buds with brown-tipped green scales and curvy white spines beg a closer glance. A delicate-looking rosette of long feathery leaves—silver-gray and narrowly cut—completes the picture, while yellow blooming Centaurea ruthenica makes an ideal companion.

Blooms June – August.

Size: 4' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 5.

Centaurea atropurpurea (P-1646)
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Centaurea hypoleuca ‘John Coutts’  full sun
Centaurea hypoleuca John Coutts

Cradled by silvery, paper-thin bracts, a vivacious summertime showing of deep rose-pink thistlelike blooms with pale centers promises a fall encore when deadheaded regularly.

Long green leaves—deeply divided, lobed and powdery white beneath—line stiff-backed stems, bolstering the fragrant high energy performance.

A magnet for butterflies and gardeners alike, this carefree Centaurea exhibits a compact, not-so-tall profile that can be featured atop a wall or near the border’s front, obliges dry soils and keeps us coming back well after the flowers have faded to relish its long lasting, decorative seed heads.

Blooms July–August.

Size: 2' high x 18" wide; hardy to zone 4.

Centaurea hypoleuca ‘John Coutts’ (P-1392)
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Centaurea macrocephala  full sun
Great Golden Knapweed
Centaurea macrocephala

An overgrown, sun-struck relative of the Bachelor Button, this “big-headed” native of the Caucasus Mountains has so many good qualities you’ll soon be inviting it into your garden. A medium green, rowdy mass of oversized, wavy-edged lanceolate leaves attached to stout stems gives way to intriguing, rust-colored buds as big as a chicken’s egg.

Scaled by papery bracts, the bud’s rotund profile opens to offer a large, bright yellow thistle, a cheerful mop of threadlike petals bursting with sunshine and color. Back this easy-to-grow cut flower with Cotinus ‘Grace’ and surround it with Nepeta ‘Pool Bank’.

Blooms late July–mid-September.

Size: 3'–4' high x 2-1/2' wide; hardy to zone 4.

Centaurea macrocephala (P-0834)
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Centaurea montana ‘Jordy’  full sun

Ringed with spidery ultra-fringed tubular florets, the dark-as-midnight blooms are presented singularly, strutting sumptuous reddish purple shades on tall staunch stems. Black embroidered buds, intriguing seed heads and silver felted new growth further enhance the tidy clump of broadly lanceolate green leaves that sport minute pearly hairs. A fan of lean chalky sites, this fanciful bloomer appreciates periodic pruning and works best as a filler in a Mediterranean planting, cottage garden or a naturalized setting, where it will bring on the bees, butterflies and other admirers.

Blooms May–June.

Size: 18" high x 18"–2' wide; hardy to zone 3.

Centaurea montana ‘Jordy’ (P-1797)
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Centaurea pulcherrima  full sun  new plant
Pink Bachelor Button

Touted as one of the prettiest species of the genus, Centaurea pulcherrima celebrates brilliant rose-colored flowers with silvery yellow bracts unfurling from large papery buds. This rarely offered robust perennial hosts handsome narrow pinnate grayish green leaves with hairy white undersides. Endemic to the Caucasus Mountains, Pink Bachelor Button makes a sterling prospect for stone walls, sun bathed rock gardens or even a bouquet.

Blooms June-August

Size: 16" high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 4.

Centaurea pulcherrima (P-1876)
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Centaurea ruthenica  full sun
Centaurea ruthenica

“A border flower of the highest merit,” is how British horticulturist, William Robinson once described this awe-inspiring Centaurea, and we couldn’t agree more! Crowning long straight green stems, the fluffy thistle-style heads in unique pale citron yellows and tissue-thin buff-colored bracts will attract more than a few admirers. These ample-sized, sublime-for-cutting blooms heighten a graceful ferny pedestal of rich green pointed leaves with gray undersides, narrow silhouettes and a refined countenance. Appreciative of adequately draining soil, the ever amenable Knapweed withstands some drought, but not wet winter feet.

Blooms July–September.

Size: 3'–4' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 5.

Centaurea ruthenica (P-1329)
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Latest News

Digging Dog Nursery's borders recently featured in the new Garden Conservancy's book

We are proud to announce that we are among "50 of America's most beautiful gardens" in the Garden Conservancy's new book "Outstanding American Gardens"

Current Staff’s Favorite Plant

staff favorite plant

Our favorite plant this week: We love Tricyrtis 'Empress' for its unique, late blooming flowers. Renowned for its extra large and wider open flowers, this exquisite, newly introduced Toad Lily is a formosana hybrid. Ornate, spidery spaced petals are inscribed by occasional darkened tips and irregular velvet-rich deep purple spots, stipples and mottling on a creamy white background. An enticing fall beacon amongst the shadows, ‘Empress’s showy terminal blooms are supported by an upright robust gathering of lustrous, semi-clasping dark green foliage that stays dapper all season.

Tricyrtis 'Empress'

More news, events, and favorite plants

Customer Comment:

“Ordered a selection of plants from Digging Dog earlier this year: campanula, ajuga, columbine, etc. All looked great, with healthy root systems. They've all settled in well and are thriving. I will order from them again.”

~Kim in California

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