Cupid’s Dart comes to Colorado from Europe, where its historical role as an ingredient in love potions gave rise to its common name. Clumps of slender gray-green leaves grow about a foot tall and wide. Wiry stalks extend past the foliage, supporting a myriad of striking periwinkle-blue flower heads, each set off by papery bracts behind the petals. If left to mature, the two inch blooms turn into attractive seed heads that last all winter.
Thriving on benign neglect, Cupid’s Dart requires full sun and excellent drainage. Provide supplemental water during prolonged dry spells. Although this is a short-lived perennial lasting about three years, it is easy to propagate. Plants may be divided in early spring, or started from seed. Seedlings started indoors in March will bloom their first summer. Place seeds in the freezer for several weeks prior to sowing. Removing faded flowers will prolong bloom.
Its xeric qualities make Cupid’s Dart an ideal plant for low-water gardens. The lavender-blue flowers combine especially well with orange-yellow butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberose) or torch-lily (Kniphofia). Use it as a temporary filler among slower-growing shrubs, where its short lifespan is an asset. The flowers can be used in dried arrangements.
Article and photos by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener.