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Valeriana officinalis (photo courtesy of Rob Cardillo)
Valeriana officinalis (photo courtesy of Rob Cardillo)

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Valeriana officinalis

Valerian, Garden Heliotrope
Perennials, Flowers

Hardy flowering perennial from Europe and western Asia. Grows to 5 ft. tall in bloom, spreading to 4 ft. wide. Most of the foliage remains fairly close to the ground. Light green leaves, each with 8 to 10 pairs of narrow, jagged-edged leaflets. Tall, straight flowering stems carry tiny, fragrant pink blossoms in rounded clusters at stem ends in summer; useful for cut flowers. White- and red-flowered forms exist. The strong-smelling roots are widely used in herbal preparations that are said to have sedative qualities. Roots also attract cats.

Start new plants from seed or divisions. Grow in mixed herb or flower borders, but be aware that it can become invasive; don’t let it crowd other plants.

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