Beatrix Farrand Plant Profiles

Valeriana officinalis - Valerian

Valeriana officinalis, valerian

Valeriana officinalis is a hardy perennial with heads of sweetly scented flowers blooming in early summer. Valerian flower extracts were used as a perfume in the sixteenth century and the roots are still used today as a sleep aid. This common herb is rarely seen in perennial borders, but it works well to create color and volume early in the season for the back of the border. It has pale pink buds which blossom into a blush white providing a relatively long bloom time. After it blooms, it is wise to cut the flower stalks down sooner than later to prevent heavy seeding –even though one may be tempted to leave them alone as the spent blooms are still quite interesting.  It is a good idea to combine valerian with other tall plants that bloom later in the season since its size and volume diminish after the blooms are cut back. At Bellefield, we combine it with Boltonia asteroides adding fall interest in the same spot. This old fashioned plant is perfect for a loose cottage garden or potager.