Dusty Miller (Centaurea cineraria) is a beautiful and versatile plant that is commonly used in both commercial and residential landscaping. The plant is native to the Mediterranean region and is now widely cultivated worldwide. Dusty Miller can grow up to 30 inches in height and 12 inches in width.
Leaves and Flowers
Dusty Miller’s leaves are silvery-gray in color, giving the plant its common name. The leaves are deeply lobed and have a soft, velvety texture, which makes them a popular choice for tactile gardens. The flowers are small and yellow. They are not particularly showy, and are often removed to keep the showy foliage, but the flowers add a subtle pop of color to the plant if wanted by the customer.
Growing and Caring for Dusty Miller
Dusty Miller thrives in well-draining soil and prefers full sun to partial shade. Plant it in a location that receives adequate sunlight to ensure optimal leaf coloration and growth. While it can tolerate drought once established, regular watering is needed during the initial stages to help the plant establish its root system. Be cautious not to overwater, as the plant is susceptible to root rot in excessively wet conditions. Applying a layer of mulch around the base of the plant can help retain soil moisture and regulate temperature.
Pruning or pinching back the plant can promote bushier growth and prevent it from becoming leggy. Deadheading spent flowers is unnecessary, as dusty miller is primarily grown for its foliage. However, removing faded leaves and spent flower stalks can keep the plant looking neat and tidy. Dusty Miller is generally resistant to pests and diseases, making it a low-maintenance addition to your garden.
Uses as a Garden Plant
Dusty Miller is a popular choice for landscaping due to its striking appearance and ability to thrive in various growing conditions. It is commonly used in mixed borders, mass plantings, and as a ground cover. Dusty miller’s silvery-gray leaves contrast with brightly colored flowers, and its soft texture adds interest and depth to garden beds. Dusty Miller is also drought tolerant, making it ideal for Xeriscaping. The plant is also a popular choice for container gardens. Due to its compact size and attractive foliage, it is a good choice for hanging baskets and window boxes. It can be paired with various other plants, including flowering annuals and perennials, to create a stunning display when planted in containers. A simple pinch will keep Dusty Miller bushy and full.
Uses in Medicine
Dusty Miller has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The plant contains several bioactive compounds, including flavonoids, tannins, and saponins, which are believed to have medicinal properties. Research has shown that some of the compounds found in the plant may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. Dusty Miller has been used to treat ailments such as digestive issues, respiratory infections, and skin conditions.
Annual vs Perennial
At Martin Garden Center, we consider Dusty Miller an annual although approximately 60% of the plants survive from one winter to the next. To prevent plants from becoming leggy or shrub-like, plants can be pinched back or severely cutback to promote fresh foliage. Also, the Dusty Miller plant is not susceptible to pests, thus making it a low maintenance choice for the landscape. Furthermore, because of its soft velvety texture, deer tend to avoid eating it … yum yum … which makes it a great plant for rural gardens where deer can wreak havoc.
Dusty Miller will be found at Martin Garden Center in the spring and the fall. The plants are usually available in 4-packs and flats, but we often have larger 4″ plants available. They tend to overwinter well in the upstate and consequently are considered evergreen … or should we say ever-gray.