Centaury Plant Info: Learn About Growing Centaury Plants

Centaury Plant Info: Learn About Growing Centaury Plants

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

What is a centaury plant? Common centaury flower is a lovely little wildflower native to North Africa and Europe. Keep reading for more centaury plant info and see if this wildflower plant is for you.

Centaury Plant Description

Also known as mountain pink, common centaury flower is a low-growing annual that reaches heights of 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30.5 cm.). Centaury plant (Centaurium erythraea) consists of lance-shaped leaves on erect stems growing from small, basal rosettes. Clusters of petite, five-petaled, summer-blooming flowers are pinkish-lavender with prominent, salmon-yellow stamens. Flowers close at midday on sunny days.

This hardy mountain wildflower is suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 1 through 9. Keep in mind, however, that this non-native plant can be rambunctious and may become aggressive in some areas.

Growing Centaury Plants

Centaury flower plants perform best in partial shade and light, sandy, well-drained soil. Avoid rich, wet soil.

Centaury plants are easy to grow by planting seeds after all danger of frost has passed in spring. In warm climates, seeds can be planted in fall or early spring. Just sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the prepared soil, then cover the seeds very lightly.

Watch for seeds to germinate within nine weeks, then thin the seedlings to a distance of 8 to 12 inches (20.5 to 30.5 cm.) to prevent overcrowding and disease.

Keep the soil lightly moist, but never soggy, until the plants are established. Thereafter, centaury flower plants require little care. Water deeply when the soil is dry, but never allow the soil to remain soggy. Remove flowers as soon as they wilt to control unrestrained reseeding.

And that’s it! As you can see, growing centaury plants is easy and the blooms will add another level of beauty to the woodland or wildflower garden.

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Centaury – characteristics, cultivation and use

Centaury flower

The centaury is considered one of the best medicinal herbs for stomach and intestinal complaints. The small plant contains bitter substances and other herbal ingredients that can do much for our organism. Its digestive effect and the associated strengthening is so distinct that the centaury is one of the most highly valued medicinal plants. This is already clear from his name. The centaury has been a very important medicinal herb since ancient times, but it has become rare.

The centaury is under protection and must therefore not be collected in the wild.

Profile of centaury:

Scientific name: Centaurium erythraea

Plant family: gentian family (Gentianaceae)

Other names: common centaury, European centaury

Sowing time / Planting time: April – May

Flowering period: July – October

Harvest time: August – October

Location: sunny and sheltered from the wind

Soil quality: loamy, calcareous and nutrient-rich soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: loss of appetite, diarrhea, hepatitis, gallbladder problems, anorexia

Use as aromatic herb: cabbage, strong soups

What is the Century Plant?

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If ever there was a plant that had an identity crisis, it would be the Agave americana. This plant, commonly known by the nickname “century plant,” is also known by the incorrect name of American aloe. Century plants are native to Mexico, but are used as an ornamental plant all over the world and have become naturalized, growing wild in many places. This plant does not, however, live for a century or take 100 years to bloom.

The century plant’s leaves spread out from a central core, resembling a rosette. The plant, which actually takes an average of 15 years to flower, does not look like much until it comes time for it to bloom. A large stalk, 15 to 40 feet (4.572 to 12.192 meters) high and as thick as a tree trunk, shoots up from the middle of the plant and produces hundreds of clustered white or yellow flowers. The blooms remain on the plant for about a month before the stalk begins to wither and die, killing off the rest of the plant with it.

In its native Mexico, the stalks are cut to allow the retrieval of a sweet sap called aguamiel, or "honey water." This sap is then used in the production of a drink called pulque. Because pulque cannot be stored and the taste can be altered by many different factors very quickly, it is considered a regional specialty. Pulque, however, is also used in the production of an alcoholic beverage called mezcal. While Agave americana comes from the same family as the plant that produces tequila, that liquor is not produced by any product or byproduct of the century plant.

Most species produce underground shoots from which they produce several more plants. These shoots will then almost always sprout and grow to maturity, and then repeat the life cycle. Botanists have also come up with hybrids to make several different varieties of the plant that look and behave differently, but the essential life cycle remains the same.

More recently the century plant has come to the media's attention because of agave syrup, sometimes called agave nectar. It is marketed as a healthful sugar substitute. Other parts of the plant, including the fibrous leaves and stalks, are used in the production of rope and clothing, although these uses have become more rare as synthetic alternatives have become available. The leaves of the century plant can also be baked as a food source, although it is considered an acquired taste by many who have tried it.

Planting and Care

This highly drought-tolerant and moderately salt-tolerant plant grows well in zones 9 – 11. Agave plants are easy to grow, but they do have a few "needs" to thrive. They need at least 6 hours of direct sun and well-drained soils. Planting in well-drained soil is particularly important in preventing root rot, especially in North Florida where cooler winter temperatures may add stress to your plant. If your in-ground conditions are not ideal for growing century plant, try growing it in a container where you can control the soil conditions. Just remember that century plants can get quite large the smaller spineless century plant is a better choice for growing in a container.

Once your plant has matured you may notice multiple "pups" around the base of the mature parent plant. After the parent plant has died you can remove and transplant the pups and start the growing adventure over again.

Common Centaury Flower - What Is A Centaury Plant And Growing Info - garden

Family: Gentianaceae - Gentian [E-flora]

"Centaurium erythraea is a ANNUAL/BIENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in). It is in flower from June to October, and the seeds ripen from August to October.
The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles. The plant is self-fertile. Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil." [PFAF]

"General: Biennial herb from a short taproot stems erect, many, simple to branched near the base, 10-50 cm tall." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Leaves: Basal leaves forming a tuft, egg-shaped to oblanceolate, unstalked, 1.5-4 cm long, rounded at the tip, 3- to 5-veined lower stem leaves similar to basal upper stem leaves reduced, narrower, becoming more pointed at the tip." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat/Range: Mesic to dry roadsides, fields and waste places in the lowland zone frequent in SW and SE BC (Kootenay Lake) introduced from Eurasia." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Exotic [E-flora]

"May cause mild abdominal discomfort and cramps. Contraindicated in patients with peptic ulcers. Safety during pregnancy and lactation has not been established [301]." [PFAF]

  • Plant
    • "Used as a flavouring in bitter herbal liqueurs and is an ingredient of vermouth[268]." [PFAF]

Other Uses

  • Dye
    • "A long-lasting bright yellowish-green dye is obtained from the flowers[13, 100]." [PFAF]

  • Homeopathy
    • "A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant[9]. It is used in the treatment of liver and gall bladder ailments[9]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Centaurium erythraea for dyspeptic complaints, loss of appetite (see [302] for critics of commission E)." [PFAF]
  • Whole Herb
    • "Appetizer, aromatic, bitter, cholagogue, diaphoretic, digestive, emetic, weakly febrifuge, hepatic, stomachic and tonic[9, 13, 21, 165, 268]. It acts on the liver and kidneys, purifies the blood and is an excellent tonic for the digestive system[4, 238]." [PFAF]
    • Harvesting: "The whole plant is harvested when in flower and can be dried for later use[4, 238]." [PFAF]
    • External Use: "Externally, the fresh green herb is said to be a good application to wounds and sores[4]. It is often used in combination with other herbs such as camomile (Chamaemelum nobile), meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)[238]." [PFAF]
  • Bach
    • "The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Weak willed', 'Too easily influenced' and 'Willing servitors'[209]." [PFAF]
  • Bitter
    • "One of the most useful bitter herbs, centaury strengthens digestive function, especially within the stomach[254]. By increasing stomach secretions it hastens the breakdown of food, it also stimulates the appetite and increases bile production[254]. The plant needs to be take over a number of weeks and an infusion should be slowly sipped so that the components (their bitterness can be detected at a dilution of 1:3,500) can stimulate reflex activity throughout the upper digestive tract[254]." [PFAF]

Cultivation & Propagation

"Prefers a well-drained sandy loam with some peat[1] and a sunny position[238]. It avoids wet or rich soils[115]. Plants are not easy to grow in a garden[4]. The flowers only open in fine weather and close at midday[4]. Although the growing plant is scentless, if the cut stems are immersed in warm water for 24 hours a most penetrating odour will be observed on distillation[245]. A very variable plant, some botanists divide it into a number of separate species[4]." [PFAF]

" Seed - sow February to May in situ or as soon as it is ripe in situ[17]. Germination is usually rapid. " [PFAF]


  • Centaurium minus auct. non Moench [misapplied] [E-flora][PFAF]
  • Centaurium umbellatum. [E-flora][PFAF]
  • Erythraea centaurium. [E-flora][PFAF]


  • [E-flora] http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Centaurium%20erythraea&redblue=Both&lifeform=7, Accessed April 1, 2020 March 25, 2021
  • [PFAF] https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Centaurium+erythraea, Accessed March 25, 2021

Centaurium Sp. - Centaury

"Annual, biennial, glabrous. Stem: erect, branched or simple below inflorescence. Leaf: cauline, opposite, also basal or not. Inflorescence: cyme. Flower: parts generally in 5s calyx lobes >> tube (discounting thin membrane between lobes in Centaurium tenuiflorum), В± appressed to corolla tube corolla salverform, generally pink, lobes [Jepson]

Local Species

  1. Centaurium erythraea - Common centaury [E-flora]
  2. Centaurium muehlenbergii - Muhlenberg's centaury (Moved to Zeltnera) [E-flora]

Zeltnera muehlenbergii - Muhlenberg's centaury

Red-Listed [E-flora]

"General: Annual herb from a short taproot stems solitary, simple or branched, 3-30 cm tall." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Leaves: Basal leaves forming a conspicuous rosette, egg-shaped, 5-25 mm long, rounded at the tip stem leaves narrower and abruptly pointed." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat / Range Moist meadows in the lowland zone rare in SW BC, known only from SE Vancouver Island and Chatham Island S to NV and CA." [IFBC-E-flora]



Scientific Names

  • Erythraea centaurium L.
  • Centaurii majoris
  • Sabbatia angularis, Pers.
  • Gentianaceae
  • Gentian family

Common Names

  • American centaury
  • Bitter herb
  • Bluebottle
  • Bluet
  • Century
  • Centory
  • Christ’s ladder
  • Common centaury
  • European centaury
  • Feverwort
  • Forking centaury
  • Greater centaury
  • Red centaury

Parts Usually Used

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

A small plant of the gentian family, with flat-clusters of red or rose flowers. The stem is four-cornered and grows to a height of 4-20 inches (10-50 cm). The leaves are decussate. The red, star-shaped flowers, which open only when the sun shines, are arranged in umbellike panicles.

Flower in July and seed within a month after.

The small or lesser centaury has yellow flowers. Used the same as greater centaury.

There is a centaury that has white flowers. Not found commonly in the wild.
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Where Found

Grows in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America. Found in damp meadows, pastures, and in thinly wooded areas.
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Medicinal Properties

Tonic, stomachic, aromatic, cholagogue, diaphoretic, digestive, febrifuge, emetic, stimulant
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Biochemical Information

Bitter principles, including gentiopicrine and erythrocentaurin, valeric acid, wax, etc.
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Legends, Myths and Stories

Remember the old saying “Medicine has to taste bitter otherwise, it won’t do any good” ? That applies double to centaury.

Named after the Centaur, Chiron, who was said to have discovered medicinal properties of the plant.

Culpeper says of Centaury, “Tis very wholesome but not very toothsome.”
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This is an herb that may be used for nearly any problem. A tonic for those who are unable to exercise in the open air. It is used for gas, colic, bloating, heartburn, dyspepsia, stimulate appetite, and constipation, and aids the proper assimilation and digestion of food. If taken in too concentrated an infusion, it will produce vomiting. Extract prepared with vodka is given for high blood pressure, liver and gall bladder problems. Lotions containing centaury have been used on the skin to remove different kinds of blemishes. It is used as a treatment for muscular rheumatism, gout, convulsions, tuberculosis, cramps, snakebites, helps vision. It kills worms as do most bitters.

Externally, the juice applied to the eyes will clear the vision, and applied to wounds, ulcers, old sores, bruises, will help promote healing. The decoction applied to the skin regularly will clear the skin of freckles and spots. In ancient times it was a primary cure for intermittent fevers and malaria, as well as a remedy for snake poison and other animal bites. A decoction externally applied also will destroy lice and other parasites in the hair.
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Formulas or Dosages

Use 2 tsp. of the herb to 1 cup of boiling water let steep for 20-30 minutes, cool, and take a cupful every day, one swallow at a time.

Tincture: 1 tsp. taken before meals.
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Do not collect this medicinal plant yourself under any circumstances, as European centaury, like all other members of the gentian family, is on the list of protected plants!
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Back to Eden , by Jethro Kloss Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine , by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

The Complete Medicinal Herbal , by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

The Magic of Herbs , by David Conway, published by Jonathan Cape, Thirty Bedford Square, London, England. (Out of print)

Indian Herbalogy of North America , by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

The Complete Medicinal Herbal , by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Planetary Herbology , by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

American Folk Medicine /i>, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Webster’s New World Dictionary , Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine , by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

The Healing Plants , by Mannfried Pahlow, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 250 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge, NY 11788, 1992

Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea) plug plants

Our Common Centaury plug plants for sale are priced per individual plant. This product has a minimum quantity of 10 plug plants. For orders over 500 plug plants please contact us.

All our plants are native British wildflowers grown in Peat free compost in our sustainable nursery.

Common name: Common Centaury

Latin name: Centaurium erythraea

Description: Common Centaury largely inhabits grassland in a wide range of areas, including heaths, clifftops, dunes, road verges and woodland rides. The delicate pink flowers can form large, dense clusters of up to fifty flowers on a single plant.

Height: 10-30cm

Flowering time: June to October

Colour: Pink

Management: Common Centaury is very variable in size depending on its growing conditions and levels of competition for light and moisture.


It’s not all white sand and red rock in the deserts of the Southwest! Desert plants add their splashes of color across the dry landscape of bottomlands and mesas. Some flowers are large and showy: hedgehog cactus set the table with claret cups prickly pear serve up large yellow flowers soaptree yucca send up a tall centerpiece stalk lined with large creamy flowers.

In the spaces between white sand dunes—the interdunal flats—the flowers are smaller, and maybe even hardier than the cacti that grow beyond the dunes or the yuccas that grow up through the dunes. Little sand verbena sprouts tiny clusters of purple petals. Centaury plants bloom brightly pink. Blazing star shoots up its tiny firework of yellow on a foot-tall stalk.

There are many more wildflowers to look for on the dunes’ edges and in the interdunal flats, dotting White Sands National Park with their seasonal colors.

Colorado Four O’clock
Mirabilis multiflora

Large, showy, five-lobed, magenta-purple flowers open in late afternoon and close in the morning. The foliage is dark green. It has a rounded profile, growing approximately three feet high and spreading three feet in diameter. It blooms nearly half the year, from April to mid-September.

This plant has a long and varied history with many native peoples with uses that differ even among tribes. It has been used for everything from light purplish-brown dye for wool to medicine to treat rheumatism, indigestion, eye infections, and colic in babies.

Desert Mentzelia
Mentzelia multiflora

The two-foot-tall stems of this weedy-looking plant produce brilliant yellow, star-like flowers that close during the heat of the day. It is common in sand dunes and along dry streambeds throughout the western United States. Blazing star is also called “stickleaf” because the leaves are covered with tiny barbs that grab onto the fur and pants of passers-by.

Globe Mallow
Sphaeralcea angustifolia

Mallows are wide-spread across the Southwest. They thrive as three-to-four foot tall straggly weeds in the alleys of Southwestern towns. In spring and after summer rains, foot-high plants can blanket sandy stretches of the Navajo Reservation with orange-colored blooms below red cliffs.

Their small leaves generally have three lobes but can vary in shape, from rounded to pointed. The stems are woody and have star-like hairs. The petals of the flowers open like a vegetable steamer and almost form a globe or sphere. Besides orange, the flowers can be shades of pink and red and apricot.

It is a common belief that the tiny hairs of the plants cause eye irritation—hence the name sore eye poppy. However, there are some medicinal uses for globe mallow. It can be used as a tea for bronchitis and as a poultice to reduce swelling from injuries. At White Sands National Park, globe mallow is rare in the dunefield but quite common around the visitor center and in the brushy approaches to the dunes.

White Sands Missile Range Photo

Thelesperma megapotamicum

Greenthread does indeed have two-to-three foot long stems that seem threadlike, or at least too thin to support its knobs of yellow flower heads. The knobby flower heads look a bit like opium poppies. The leaves of Greenthread are thin and hard to see on the stems and they sprout opposite of each other. Greenthread is found all over the western and southwestern United States.

American Indians have used the plant to make dyes for fabrics. The dyes produce yellow or brownish-orange colors.

White Sands Missile Range Photo

Gyp Nama
Andropus carnosus

The name Gyp Nama indicates that this low growing plant—only a couple inches high—doesn’t just tolerate soils high in gypsum. Rather, it may actually need the sulfur in gypsum—calcium sulfate dihydrate—to grow and thrive.

In interdunal flats, look for a small cluster, or tangled coil, of thin green leaves edged in white. The tight coil of leaves gives the impression of a succulent plant. Gyp Nama is in fact a member of the waterleaf family.

Gypsum Centaury
Centaurium calycosum

Also known as rosita, or “little rose,” centaury is a low branching plant that blossoms from April to October. Look for five pink petals arranged around a white center.

Although this plant is usually found near springs or streams, the variation that grows here is gypsum-loving and thrives in the interdunal area—the low areas between the dunes.

Purple Sand Verbena
Abronia angustifolia

The perennial purple sand verbena is a member of the Four o’clock family and is often the only conspicuous wildflower in the heart of the dunes. This low-growing plant produces pale pink to purple flowers with white centers and blooms from late April into May. Sand grains stick to its oval hairy leaves, giving it a silvery appearance. The purple sand verbena was used by American Indians as a mild sedative, which had a calming effect and was useful in reducing nervousness, anxiety, and tension.

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