Campions belong to the genus of campion plants in the carnation family. One differentiates mainly between the red campion, the white campion and the cuckoo campion. Most of these plants are found in the wild. They’re not that common in gardens, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good for that. If you have damp or wet soil in your garden or a garden pond, you are welcome to buy these campions. The care is extremely easy and uncomplicated, they are frugal and grateful plants if the location and plant substrate are right. The fact that campions are often still referred to by their old technical name, Lychnis, leads to irritation. This is outdated. Today it’s called Silene.


The red campion (Silene dioica) is also known under the name campion or forest carnation. From the second name you can already deduce part of the location. The red catchfly prefers forest edges, locations along a stream, if possible still close to a tree. It is important that the soil is sufficiently moist.

  • Deciduous, mostly biennial herbaceous plant
  • Completely hairy
  • Growth height 30 to 80 cm
  • Flowering time April to October
  • Fragrant red flowers a day on loose, forked, branched inflorescences
  • Flowers only open for one day at a time
  • There are different varieties, also with pink or double flowers
  • Thrives on calcareous, damp meadows, damp forest cuts, in swamp and alluvial forests up to an altitude of 2,400 m
  • Good hardiness
  • Versatile use, formerly in folk medicine, as soap or as a kitchen herb

The cuckoo campion (Silene flos-cuculi) also prefers soil moisture and likes wet or at least damp meadows and stream banks. It occurs quite frequently in nature and is a sure indicator of wet soil.

  • Short-lived herbaceous plant
  • Growth height 30 to 80 cm
  • Evergreen semi-rosette plant
  • Flowers Red, but there are also white and pink flowers
  • Flowering period early May to mid-June
  • Flower not as conspicuous as with red campion
  • Often attacked by the foam planthopper
  • Thrives on moist, moderately rich meadows, bogs and swamps
  • Not on over-fertilized meadows, but in nutrient-poor, wet ditches around these meadows

The white campion (Silene latifolia) looks similar to the red species, except that it has white flowers. A special feature is that their flowers only open in the afternoon. They also give off a very pleasant scent that attracts many butterflies.

  • Light and moth plant
  • Strongly scented
  • Perennial and herbaceous plant
  • Growth height between 30 and 120 cm
  • Flowers white from June to September
  • Only up to an altitude of about 700 m
  • Needs lots of light
  • Thrives on nitrogen-rich loamy soil that is not too low in bases

Other kinds

Unfortunately, I only found the old botanical names for this.

  • Jupiter campion (Lychnis flos-jovis) – old garden plant, the entire plant has gray felt-like hairs, intense pink flowers, up to 80 cm high, flowers from May to July, needs lots of sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil
  • Orange-red campion (Lychnis arkwrightii ‘Vesuvius’) – crossing (hybrid) of two species, strong orange-red flowers, dark red foliage, great contrast, flowering July/August, 20 to 40 cm high, needs sun and normal garden soil
  • Burning Love (Lychnis chalcedonica) – cottage garden perennial, intense red flowers, flowers from June to August, 40 to 70 cm high, likes sunny to semi-shady and normal soil
  • White Love (Lychis chalcedonica ‘Rauhreif’) – rare variety, cottage garden perennial with white flowers from June to August, 40 to 70 cm high, also likes sunny to semi-shady and normal soil
  • Garden campion (Lychnis x haageana) – cottage garden plant, hybrid breed, fiery red flowers in July/August, only 20 to 40 cm high, likes sun and normal garden soil

The care of the campion

If the location is right and the right plant substrate is available, both plants, i.e. both the red and the cuckoo campion, hardly need any care. Once planted, they basically take care of themselves. You hardly have to water them, fertilize them, hardly cut them once, they don’t need winter protection and they are robust, so diseases are extremely rare and pests are not common either. All in all, the campions are highly recommended, but only when the soil is moist. Otherwise you have to water a lot and always keep the substrate moist. That would be too much trouble for me.


Both plants are ideal for partial shade. Then the soil does not have to be quite so moist. They only get along in the sun if there is sufficient moisture in the soil. The wetter the plant substrate, the sunnier the campions can be.

When it comes to location, it depends on the ground. They are often in full sun along streams. However, if the soil is not that moist, a semi-shady place is the better alternative. Both plants have similar requirements

  • partial shade to full shade
  • Moderately warm
  • Very good on woody edges
  • Gladly at the edges of ponds, quietly also at the edge of the swamp zone.

plant substrate

When it comes to the plant substrate, the requirements differ somewhat. However, both like moist soil and do not cope well with drought. Favorable for both are loamy soils and sufficient soil moisture.

Rote Lightnelke

  • Evenly moist to wet soils
  • Not very acidic at all
  • Definitely low in nutrients
  • calcareous, loamy, moist soil, ideal at the edge or in the flood zone of the garden pond

cuckoo campion

  • Humus rich, deep, loamy soil
  • Neutral to slightly acidic
  • Preferably wet and low in nutrients
  • Definitely soil moisture


There is not much to pay attention to when planting. The plant balls should be well watered or submerged before being placed in the planting hole. Otherwise simply plant, fill up soil, press soil and water.

  • Do not plant the red campion together with the white campion (Silene latifolia). This is how crossings happen.
  • To achieve a good effect, always plant in groups. This is particularly important for the cuckoo campion with its rather delicate flowers.
  • Soak the root ball in water for about an hour.
  • Place the root ball in the planting hole so that the surface of the potting soil is the same as that of the bed.
  • Press the base down well and water it.
  • In the following days and weeks, pay attention to moisture so that the plants can grow well.

watering and fertilizing

The soil must always be sufficiently moist. After all, this cannot be achieved solely by casting. In summer, however, it is essential to help if the soil dries out too much or even dries out. Fertilizing is not only not necessary, but not cheap.

If the location is suitable, it hardly ever needs to be watered and fertilizers are left out.

To cut

When it comes to cutting, there isn’t much to do. When the plants have finished flowering, cut them off about 15 cm above the ground. Nothing more really needs to be done. Cutting off individual faded shoots would be very difficult and time-consuming. If you want to prevent self-seeding, you must cut in good time before the seeds are mature.


Overwintering is not a problem. These campions are all sufficiently hardy. If they don’t survive the winter, it’s probably due to reasons other than cold and frost. The plants usually sprout again reliably in the spring.


Both campions reproduce vegetatively by offshoots. In this way, large stands of plants can develop. Self-sowing also sometimes produces new young plants, but only if the location and substrate are right. Of course it is possible to propagate the plants by sowing. They can be planted out in the garden. However, they are also suitable for vessels. But they have to be kept very moist. It is best to place them in a deep planter that contains water.

  • Sowing is possible directly in the field
  • However, they can also be preferred
  • Use loose and humus-rich potting soil
  • Do not cover seeds with soil, light germinates
  • Just press seeds onto the surface of the soil
  • keep soil moist
  • Not too wet, no puddles

diseases and pests

Campions are usually very healthy and robust plants. Diseases are therefore extremely rare. Too much moisture can lead to fungal infestation. Pests are also rare.

Aphids – it is best to rinse them off with a jet of water. If the infestation is recognized in good time and you intervene in good time, you can save yourself the use of pesticides. This can only be a good solution in the event of a massive infestation, which is rare.

The two campions are grateful and easy-care garden plants. The prerequisite is that they get the right plant substrate. It must be pretty wet. If you have a pond, you can plant these two carnations on its banks. A stream that runs through the garden is even better, but unfortunately only very few garden owners have that. So if these conditions are in order, nothing can go wrong with the cultivation of the red campion and the cuckoo campion. They delight with flowers in strong colors and are absolutely easy to care for, so we highly recommend them.

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