Garden Fundamentals - Learn about plants and garden design

Erinus alpinus

Erinus alpinus by Robert Pavlis

Erinus alpinus by Robert Pavlis

Erinus alpinus has won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit for being an outstanding plant to add to your rock garden or alpine trough, or let it naturalize in the tiny cracks of a brick wall. This alpine plant is a tiny thing that produces lots of flowers.


Erinus alpinus by Robert Pavlis

Erinus alpinus by Robert Pavlis

The pictures in this blog show several small seedlings in their second year. You can clearly see two colour forms of this plant and it is also available in pink. It is known by several common names including fairy foxglove, starflower, alpine balsam and liver balsam.

It is reported to be short lived but under ideal conditions it will live for 5 years. My oldest clumps are now 3 years old. It self-seeds readily and cuttings are easy to root. It is worth a bit of extra effort to maintain this plant in the garden.

Erinus alpinus closeup, by Robert Pavlis

Erinus alpinus closeup, by Robert Pavlis

In hot climates it will appreciate some shade, but in zone 5 it grows well in full sun. For size comparison, the rock mulch under the plant is ¼” rock.

Erinus alpinus

 (EAR-rin-us  AL-pin-us)

Life Cycle: perennial– short lived

Height: 4cm (2in) for plant

Bloom Time: spring and early summer

Natural Range: North Africa and Europe. Naturalized in the UK.

Habitat: rocky alpine regions

Synonyms: none

Cultivation of Erinus alpinus

Light: full sun to part shade

Soil: well drained, scree

Water: prefers some regular moisture

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 – 7

Propagation: seed, cuttings

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Robert Pavlis
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I live in southern Ontario, Canada, zone 5 and have been gardening a long time. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes–I am a plantaholic!

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