Maltese Cross Flower: How to Grow and Care for it Properly

Popular for its distinctive clusters of fiery red, tubular flowers, a Maltese Cross flower (Lychnis chalcedonica) is a sight to behold. But their appeal goes beyond their visual charm. These hardy plants are surprisingly easy to grow and maintain, making them a favorite among both novice and experienced gardeners. In this guide, we’ll delve into the secrets of successfully growing and caring for Maltese Cross flowers, from selecting the right location to nurturing them through each season.

The Characteristics and Appearance of Maltese Cross Flowers

Maltese Cross flowers, also known as Lychnis chalcedonica, are herbaceous perennials native to Eastern Europe and Siberia. They belong to the Caryophyllaceae family and are prized for their stunning clusters of bright red flowers that resemble the shape of a Maltese cross, hence their name. These vibrant flowers bloom from early summer to early fall, attracting pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds. The leaves of Maltese Cross flowers are lance-shaped and arranged oppositely along the stems, providing an attractive backdrop to the striking blooms.

When fully grown, Maltese Cross flowers can reach a height of 2 to 3 feet, creating a bold statement in your garden. The flowers themselves are tubular in shape, with each cluster consisting of numerous individual flowers. The petals are a fiery red color, which intensifies as the flowers mature. The blooms are long-lasting, making them a popular choice for cut flower arrangements. Additionally, the dried seed heads of Maltese Cross flowers can add interest and texture to floral displays or dried flower arrangements.

Maltese Cross flowers are popular for their resilience and ability to thrive in a variety of conditions. They are considered low-maintenance plants that can withstand both heat and cold, making them suitable for a wide range of climates. Whether you have a small garden or a sprawling landscape, these eye-catching perennials are sure to make a statement.

Maltese Cross Flower

Growing Maltese Cross Flowers from Seeds

Seeds offer one of the most cost-effective methods of growing Maltese Cross flowers. To begin this endeavor, start by procuring high-quality seeds from a reliable source; fresher seeds have higher germination rates and increase chances of success.

Start sowing seeds indoors approximately six to eight weeks prior to the last frost date in your area, using either a seed tray or small pots filled with well-draining potting mix and lightly pressing seeds into it, before covering with plastic dome or plastic wrap to create a humid environment that encourages faster germination. Finally, place these in a warm location such as near a window or on top of a seedling heat mat so as to accelerate their germination rate.

After approximately 10-14 days, seeds should begin to germinate and sprout. At this stage, remove the plastic cover and position your tray or pots in indirect sunlight in a bright location with temperatures between 65-75F (18-24C) to promote optimal growth. Keep soil evenly damp but not waterlogged to avoid root rot occurring.

After seedlings have emerged with their initial true leaves – after two pairs of cotyledon leaves have appeared – they can be transplanted into individual pots or cell packs using well-draining potting mix, taking care not to damage delicate roots. Gently loosen each seedling from its tray or pot while being mindful not to disturb delicate root structures – placing each in its own container so that its soil level matches that found in its original tray/pots.

As the seedlings continue to grow, gradually acclimate them to outdoor conditions by placing them in a sheltered location for a few hours each day.

Planting the Maltese Cross Flower in Your Garden

Now that your Maltese Cross flower seedlings are ready for the great outdoors, it’s time to select the perfect location for planting. Maltese Cross flowers thrive in full sun to partial shade, so choose a spot in your garden that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. The soil should be well-draining, as these plants prefer slightly dry conditions. If your soil is heavy or clay-like, consider amending it with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve drainage.

Before planting, prepare the soil by removing any weeds or debris. Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the root ball of the seedling, ensuring that the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Gently place the seedling into the hole, backfill with soil, and firm it down gently to eliminate any air pockets. Water thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots.

For optimal growth and visual impact, space the Maltese Cross flowers about 12 to 18 inches apart. This allows the plants to have enough room to spread out while still creating a dense cluster of flowers. If you are planting multiple rows, leave about 2 to 3 feet between rows for easy access and maintenance.

You can also grow Maltese Cross flowers in containers, which is a great option for those with limited space or for adding a pop of color to patios and balconies. Choose a container that is at least 12 inches in diameter and has drainage holes at the bottom. Fill the container with a well-draining potting mix, leaving enough space at the top for watering. Plant one or two seedlings per container, following the same planting instructions as for garden planting.

Maltese Cross Flower

Ideal Soil and Sunlight Conditions for a Maltese Cross Flower

When it comes to soil and sunlight requirements, Maltese Cross flowers are relatively adaptable. However, providing the ideal conditions will help them thrive and produce abundant blooms. These plants prefer well-draining soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.5, which is slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. If your soil is too acidic, add lime to raise the pH. Conversely, if your soil is too alkaline, incorporate sulfur or peat moss to lower the pH.

In terms of sunlight, Maltese Cross flowers perform best in full sun to partial shade. They require a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight each day to produce vibrant blooms. If your garden has areas with heavy shade, it’s best to avoid planting Maltese Cross flowers in those spots, as they may not receive enough sunlight to thrive. However, if you live in a hot climate, providing some afternoon shade can help protect the plants from intense heat and prevent wilting.

Proper soil preparation and choosing the right location for planting will go a long way in ensuring the health and vitality of your Maltese Cross flowers. By providing the ideal soil conditions and sufficient sunlight, you’ll get a stunning display of fiery red blooms that will brighten up your garden throughout the growing season.

Watering and Fertilizing Your Maltese Cross Flower

Watering is a crucial aspect of caring for Maltese Cross flowers, as these plants prefer slightly dry conditions. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other issues, so it’s important to strike the right balance. During the initial stages of growth, water the newly planted seedlings regularly to keep the soil moist. Once the plants are established, they can tolerate some drought, making them well-suited to regions with sporadic rainfall.

To determine when to water, check the soil moisture level by inserting your finger into the soil up to the second knuckle. If the soil feels dry at this depth, it’s time to water. When watering, aim to moisten the soil to a depth of about 6 inches. This encourages the roots to grow deeper, making the plants more resilient to drought conditions.

In general, it’s better to water deeply and less frequently than to provide frequent shallow watering. This helps prevent the development of shallow roots and encourages the plants to establish a stronger root system. Avoid overhead watering, as this can promote the spread of fungal diseases. Instead, use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to deliver water directly to the base of the plants.

Fertilizing Maltese Cross flowers is not typically necessary, as these plants can thrive in nutrient-poor soils. However, if your soil is lacking in organic matter or if you want to give your plants a boost, you can apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring. This will provide a steady supply of nutrients throughout the growing season. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the appropriate dosage and application method. Be sure to water the plants thoroughly after fertilizing to prevent any potential burning of the roots.

Lychnis Chalcedonica

Pruning and Deadheading Maltese Cross Flowers

Deadheading and pruning are essential maintenance tasks that help promote healthy growth and prolong the blooming period of Maltese Cross flowers.


Pruning involves removing any dead, damaged, or diseased stems and foliage. This not only improves the overall appearance of the plants but also helps prevent the spread of pests and diseases.

To prune your Maltese Cross flowers, start by sterilizing your pruning tools with rubbing alcohol or a 10% bleach solution. This helps prevent the transmission of any pathogens from one plant to another. Carefully inspect the plants and identify any stems or leaves that are discolored, wilted, or showing signs of disease. Using sharp pruning shears, make clean cuts just above a healthy leaf node or bud.


In addition to regular pruning, deadheading is an important practice for prolonging the blooming period of Maltese Cross flowers. Deadheading involves removing spent flowers before they have a chance to develop seeds. This redirects the plant’s energy towards producing new blooms, resulting in a longer-lasting display of flowers.

To deadhead your Maltese Cross flowers, inspect the plants regularly and look for flowers that have faded or wilted. Follow the stem down to the first set of healthy leaves and make a clean cut just above this point. If you prefer, you can also remove the entire flower cluster to encourage the growth of new lateral stems.

By regularly pruning and deadheading your Maltese Cross flowers, you’ll not only keep them looking tidy but also encourage a continuous cycle of blooming.

Common Pests and Diseases Affecting Maltese Cross Flowers

While Maltese Cross flowers are generally resistant to most pests and diseases, they can occasionally face some challenges. Being aware of the potential issues and taking preventive measures can help keep your plants healthy and thriving.


One common pest that may affect Maltese Cross flowers is aphids. These small, soft-bodied insects feed on the sap of the plants and can cause stunted growth, distorted leaves, and the development of black sooty mold. To control aphids, you can try spraying the plants with a strong stream of water or using insecticidal soap. Alternatively, you can introduce natural predators such as ladybugs or lacewings, which feed on aphids.

Red spider mite

Another potential pest is the red spider mite, which is a tiny, sap-sucking pest that can cause yellowing leaves and webbing on the plants. To control red spider mites, regularly inspect the undersides of the leaves and spray the plants with water to dislodge the pests. You can also use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control infestations.

Powdery mildew

In terms of diseases, Maltese Cross flowers can occasionally be affected by powdery mildew, a fungal infection that appears as a white, powdery coating on the leaves and stems. To prevent powdery mildew, ensure proper air circulation around the plants by spacing them adequately. Avoid overhead watering, as this can create a humid environment that favors fungal growth. If powdery mildew does occur, remove and destroy affected plant parts and apply a fungicide if necessary.

Crown rot

Another disease that can affect Maltese Cross flowers is crown rot, which is caused by excessive moisture in the soil. This can lead to the development of rot at the base of the plants, resulting in wilting and eventual death. To prevent crown rot, ensure that the soil is well-draining and avoid overwatering. If crown rot does occur, remove and destroy affected plants, and consider improving the drainage in that area of your garden.

Regularly monitoring your Maltese Cross flowers for signs of pests or diseases and taking appropriate action can help ensure the continued health and vitality of your plants. By staying proactive and implementing preventive measures, you can minimize the impact of potential issues and enjoy a thriving garden.

Lychnis Chalcedonica

Propagating Maltese Cross Flowers

The first step in cultivating a stunning Maltese Cross garden is to understand the various propagation methods that can be employed to expand your collection. One of the most common methods is through seed propagation. Start by selecting high-quality Maltese Cross seeds from a reputable supplier or source. These seeds are usually small and dark in color, resembling tiny specks of magic waiting to burst forth into life. To ensure successful germination, it is recommended to sow the seeds indoors during early spring.

Once you have your seeds, prepare a seed tray or small pots with well-draining soil. Lightly press the seeds into the soil, ensuring they are covered with a thin layer of soil or vermiculite. Water the seeds gently, making sure not to overwater, as excessive moisture can lead to rotting. Place the tray or pots in a warm, bright location, ideally with temperatures ranging between 70-75°F (21-24°C). Within a few weeks, you should start to see tiny seedlings emerge, ready to embark on their journey towards becoming majestic Maltese Cross flowers.

As the seedlings grow, it’s important to provide them with adequate care and attention. Transplant the young plants into larger pots or directly into the garden once they have developed a few sets of true leaves. Ensure they are planted in a sunny spot with well-draining soil. Water the plants regularly, keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer every four to six weeks to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

With proper care and attention, your Maltese Cross seedlings will grow into thriving plants, ready to dazzle with their vibrant blooms.

Showcasing the beauty of Maltese Cross in floral arrangements

Once your Maltese Cross garden is in full bloom, it’s time to showcase the beauty of these stunning flowers in floral arrangements. The vibrant hues and unique shape of the Maltese Cross petals make them a standout choice for creating eye-catching bouquets and centerpieces. Whether you’re hosting a special event or simply want to add a touch of elegance to your home, incorporating Maltese Cross flowers into your floral arrangements is sure to make a lasting impression.

When harvesting Maltese Cross blooms for floral arrangements, it’s important to choose flowers that are fully open but not yet showing signs of wilting. Cut the stems at an angle, using sharp and clean pruners or scissors. Immediately place the cut stems in a bucket of warm water, allowing them to hydrate for a few hours before arranging. Remove any leaves that would be submerged in water, as this can lead to bacterial growth and shorten the lifespan of your arrangement.

To create a stunning floral arrangement with Maltese Cross flowers, start by selecting a suitable vase or container. Choose a vessel that complements the colors and style of your blooms. Fill the container with fresh water and add a floral preservative to prolong the life of your arrangement. Begin arranging the Maltese Cross flowers by inserting them at varying heights to create depth and dimension. Mix in complementary foliage or other flowers to add texture and visual interest.

Remember to change the water in your floral arrangement every few days and trim the stems at an angle to allow for better water absorption.

Conclusion: The rewards of nurturing the Maltese Cross Flower

As we conclude our exploration of cultivating and caring for the stunning Maltese Cross flower, we are reminded of the immense rewards that come with tending to these mesmerizing plants. From the humble beginnings of seeds to the vibrant blooms that grace our gardens and floral arrangements, each step of the journey offers a sense of fulfillment and joy.

By following the propagation methods outlined in this guide, you can expand your Maltese Cross garden and witness the transformation from tiny seeds to radiant blossoms. And once your garden is in full bloom, the beauty of the Maltese Cross flowers can be showcased in stunning floral arrangements that captivate the senses.

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