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What is Limonium?

B. Turner
B. Turner

Limonium is a genus of perennial plant known for its brilliant purple flowers. More than 100 species of flowers belong to this genus, which are primarily found in saltwater marshes and wetlands in their natural habitats. While the limonium is native to the Mediterranean region, a few species grow in the wild as far away as Australia and North America. Many people mistake this plant for lavender due to the similarities in color and appearance, but these two types of plants are not related.

Part of the popularity of the limonium can be attributed to its everlasting flowers. During the spring and summer months, each plant produces many small flowers in shades of purple, white, pink, or yellow. Once the winter comes and these primary flowers die off, small seed-bearing flowers called calyx remain. Each calyx holds a single seed, and features small white or yellow petals that bloom year-round in most areas. Even when most other plants have lost their blooms, the limonium displays these hardy flowers.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Because of their small size and the number of blooms they produce, some limonium species offer an alternative to traditional baby's breath in bouquets and centerpieces. The flowers act as filler among larger blossoms, and are available in a number of colors to create the desired look. Limonium also serves as an excellent plant for drying, and can last for years if protected from damage.

Garden-variety species of this genus are often referred to as statice or thrifts, though their scientific name is limonium perezzi. These plants feature a bushy shape, and tend to grow in clusters. The leaves and stems feature a gray-green hue, and the branched sections of flowers can take on many colors. This species often takes several years to flower, and requires plenty of drainage and sunlight. A bit of fertilizer can be added at the first sign of flowers to add vital nutrients during this high-growth phase.

In the wild, the limonium carolinianum, or sea lavender, can be found near coastal areas. This hardy species blooms late in the year, producing pale purple or white flowers. It tends to cover more ground than many other species, but stays relatively short. Its blooms are much more spread out than statice varieties, giving it a sparse look. When soil conditions are properly maintained, this species is easy for most gardeners to grow, even outside of its native region.

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