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How to Care for a Lunaria Plant (Get all the Details Here)

Single flower raceme of purple lunaria flowers around amazing young seed pods

Lunaria Annua

I’m going to be honest: I have written about many dozens of different plants now for this awesome project on Amazing Flowering Plants from all over the world, and I haven’t been as excited about a plant until I came across the lunaria plant.

The lunaria plant is one of those beautiful plants that I have always seen but have never known the name of, and I am ecstatic to have finally learned its name so that I can plant one of my very own next spring!

Lunaria annua also goes by the names of honesty plant, money plant, silver dollar plant, or moonwort. It is called an honestly plant because that is what is signifies according to the Language of Flowers, and it is called a money plant because of the seed pods resemblance to silver coins.

The latin term, lunaria, translates directly to “moon shaped” which is in direct reference to those beautifully iridescent coin shaped seed pods which are – let’s be honest – the main reason why gardeners plant these in the first place!

Part of the family brassicaceae, the honesty plant carries a lot of weight in the witchcraft community as well, as they are often used in spells to help protect, and they are also a symbol of prosperity.

If you’re keen on growing your own cut flower patch, make sure to include the lunaria plant (I did!). They make an exceptional addition to dried flower arrangements, and provide a unique and whimsical look that other flowering plants can only dream of!

What do Lunaria Plants Look Like?

Bright purple lunaria flower clusters growing above heart shaped leaves

Growth Habit

Starting under the soil, lunaria plants grow from nice long taproots. Though this is a great thing for plants to have to keep them hardy, it does mean that they are not very easy to transplant. Keep this in mind when considering planting your own, as you’ll have to be precise with where you plant them.

Lunaria plants are biennial — this means that they will experience their entire life cycle within 2 years or so. The first year they will grow their basal rosette of heart shaped leaves, and the spring of the second year, the lunaria flowers will emerge. After they have flowered, the attractive seed pods will emerge!

Each lunaria stem will grow to be an average height of 35 inches with a plant spread being around 12 inches. Though they are short lived, they provide a 3 part show of interesting plant parts, and also will seed generously if you allow them to to continue that glorious cycle.

Keep in mind that lunarias are very enthusiastic self seeders. They produce many seeds, they are fast growing, and have some seriously tough roots. All of these characteristics give this plant the potential to become an invasive species.

Focus on bright purple flower cluster of the lunaria plant

Leaves

Lunaria foliage will first emerge as a basal rosette of heart shaped leaves. As the plant matures, leaves will become larger and more coarse, and change to a more ovular shape ending in a point.

Each leaf is covered with serrations, with the lower leaves having stalks and the upper leaves being stalkless. A lunaria leaf is usually covered in small hairs at maturity.

Flowers

In the second year of growth, a lunaria plant will bear flowers. The flowers will usually emerge in the spring or early summer and last into the late summer and sometimes even autumn. Lunaria flowers are borne in terminal racemes, and flowers will range in color from white to purple flowers.

Each flower has 4 large overlapping petals with short stamens. Though without much of a fragrance, this flowering plant has a striking violet color that attracts beneficial insects and pollinators.

Seeds

Bright green young lunaria seed pods shining in the sun

Once a lunaria flower is fertilized, we come to the most interesting growth period of the lunaria plant : its seed pod! A lunaria seed is actually called a silicle.

Silicles are a type of seed capsule that is is comprised of 2 fused carpels. As the seed matures, the walls of the ovary separate and leave behind a type of partition. The seed falls away from the central membrane (partition) though the membrane persists.

All that science-y talk is basically trying to explain that it creates a circular disc that starts out as a showy green color, but as it matures it turns into a translucent and iridescent light brown color.

These disc-shaped silicles are quite stunning, and many mistake them for the leaves of the plant, though they are the seed capsule. They have the appearance of small silver coins, which is where lunaria gets its common names: money plant, or silver dollar plant.

Where is Lunaria a Native Plant?

Dried lunaria seed pods standing in an autumn scene

One of the most helpful things I’ve discovered about gardening, is that it is very important to learn about the home of a plant. If you can help make a plant feel like it’s growing in its home land by mimicking those conditions, it will be a happy plant, which in turn will make the gardener happy!

The lunaria plant is a native species to both southwestern Asia and Europe, though since then the have become naturalized in nearly all of the temperate regions of the world, especially throughout North America. They can exist happily in USDA growing zones 4 through 8.

When growing wild, they can be found in a multitude of sites, including hedgerows, throughout waste grounds and disturbed sites, and along woodland borders.

What are the Growing Conditions of Lunaria Plants?

Now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty: caring for your new lunaria plant! Before you can learn how to propagate one, you have to make sure you can achieve the proper conditions for it to exist.

Luckily, lunarias aren’t all that picky. The most maintenance that occurs with these plants are harvesting the seeds, but you’ll find that that is indeed an enjoyable task!

Growing wild lunaria flowers of purple growing next to small path

Soil Type

Though they are able tolerate several different soil types, there are some characteristics that your soil should have. Lunaria plants perform best when they are planted in soil that has excellent drainage and is enriched with humus.

It is also important for the soil to be rich in nutrients, and it can be either neutral or acidic. A great way to increase drainage and to increase nutrient content is by incorporating compost at the beginning of the growing season.

Sun Exposure

Lunaria plants can be rather flexible when it comes to their sun exposure. It seems that they enjoy receiving at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, though they also perform fine in partial shade.

In fact, many specimens seem to be relieved to receive some partial shade in the hot afternoons of the summer, so perhaps planting some under some deciduous trees may be the perfect compromise!

Water Level

Lunaria plants like to be moist. Their soil should remain moist all throughout their growing season, and they should be receiving at least an inch of water per week. Consistently dry soil can sometimes be detrimental.

Sometimes the natural precipitation of the area can suffice, though if there is an extended period without rain they will need watering. Just dip your finger into the earth to see if it is still moist underneath the top soil.

Looking down at bright purple flower bundles of the lunaria plant

Temperature

The only temperature requirement a lunaria plant has it when they are first being established. Seedlings need temperatures to be around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit in order to germinate, but otherwise, existing in USDA growing zones 4 through 8 will be perfect.

Fertilizer

A lunaria plant will respond very well to fertile soil. This can be achieved either through incorporating compost into the soil, or by providing your plant with a slow release fertilizer once in the early spring.

Pruning

Luckily, the only pruning that needs to happen with a lunaria plant will not only help control the spread of the plant (as they can spread very quickly) but this is also how you harvest those attractive and strange seed pods!

If you’re looking to control the spread of the plant (and want to save some seeds for the following spring planting season) simply cut away the plant at the base after it has finished flowering, but before it has dropped its seeds.

*Read the next section to discover what to do with those cut stems!

How do you Propagate a Lunaria?

Now that we know how to make a home for a lunaria plant, now it’s time to learn how to grow your very own patch in the garden! Since transplanting lunarias is almost never successful, they are strictly grown right from seed! Here are a few steps to help you along:

Harvesting Seeds

Close up image of drying lunaria seed pods with seeds still inside

Continuing right on from our pruning section: you’re going to take those cut stems with the still young seed pods and hang them upside down in bundles. Keep them in a dry and dark place, and those green cell membranes should mature into translucent screens in about 3 weeks.

The seeds should fall away with ease, so keep those in an air tight container through the winter so that they’re ready to go come early spring.

Sow Seed

The best time of year to plant your lunaria seed is in the spring, after the final threat of frost has passed, or once the soil temperature reaches over 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Plant each seed about 2 inches apart from one another, and sprinkle a light layer of soil, but not completely as they need light in order to germinate.

Maintenance

Other than maintaining soil moisture, those seeds won’t need much from you to get established! They are fast growers and seedlings should start to emerge in about 10-14 days.

The next step is being patient! They will only grow foliage in the first growing season, and the flowers and seeds will come the following spring.

How are Lunaria Plants Used?

Gorgeous dried lunaria seed pods shimmering in the sun

Ornamental Plant

Lunarias make for wonderful ornamental plants because they provide 3 different stages of beauty as they are growing. Though most gardeners grow these for those amazing seed pod bundles, they also are lovely as garden specimens.

They can be grown in pots or containers, and they can even be grown indoors if you can ensure they receive direct sunlight in the morning and afternoon shade.

Additionally, thanks to those beautiful purple flowers, they also attract beneficial pollinators like bees, butterflies, and moths to your property.

Dried Arrangements

Though they do make lovely border plants, lunarias are mainly grown for those beautiful seed pods. Those iridescent discs are a show stopper in all dried flower arrangements, and just like I mentioned in the introduction, I literally squealed once I learned the name of this plant!

It is a very exciting though to dream about creating your very own dried flower bouquets for loved ones. Though they won’t last for decades, dried arrangements last a heck of a lot longer than fresh ones!

Beautiful iridescent lunaria seed pods shimmering in the winter sun

FAQs

Are lunaria plants deer resistant?

Unfortunately for us and for lunaria plants, they are not at all deer resistant. If you’re worried about grazing deer, they can always be grown in high pots or in covered containers where they can’t be reached.

What are the damaging agents to lunaria plants?

Lunaria plants are also somewhat susceptible to damage from insect infestations, like from aphids and spider mites. Simply use a mixture of insecticidal soap and water can help get ride of those!

Are lunaria plants an invasive species?

Keep in mind that lunarias are very enthusiastic self seeders. They produce many seeds, they are fast growing, and have some seriously tough roots. All of these characteristics give this plant the potential to become an invasive species outside of its natural growing regions.

Do lunaria plants grow from bulbs?

Lunaria plants don’t grow from underground bulbs, but instead from very long and strong taproots! These taproots make them quite difficult to transplant, so keep that in mind when deciding on their permanent home!

Can you grow a lunaria plant indoors?

Lunarias make for wonderful ornamental plants because they provide 3 different stages of beauty as they are growing. Though most gardeners grow these for those amazing seed pod bundles, they also are lovely as garden specimens.

They can be grown in pots or containers, and they can even be grown indoors if you can ensure they receive direct sunlight in the morning and afternoon shade.

What do lunaria seeds look like?

Once a lunaria flower is fertilized, we come to the most interesting growth period of the lunaria plant : its seed pod! A lunaria seed is actually called a silicle.

Silicles are a type of seed capsule that is is comprised of 2 fused carpels. As the seed matures, the walls of the ovary separate and leave behind a type of partition. The seed falls away from the central membrane (partition) though the membrane persists.

All that science-y talk is basically trying to explain that it creates a circular disc that starts out as a showy green color, but as it matures it turns into a translucent and iridescent light brown color.

These disc-shaped silicles are quite stunning, and many mistake them for the leaves of the plant, though they are the seed capsule. They have the appearance of small silver coins, which is where lunaria gets its common names: money plant, or silver dollar plant.

What does lunaria mean?

The latin term, lunaria, translates directly to “moon shaped” which is in direct reference to those beautifully iridescent coin shaped seed pods which are – let’s be honest – the main reason why gardeners plant these in the first place!

How often should a lunaria be watered?

Lunaria plants like to be moist. Their soil should remain moist all throughout their growing season, and they should be receiving at least an inch of water per week. Consistently dry soil can sometimes be detrimental.

Sometimes the natural precipitation of the area can suffice, though if there is an extended period without rain they will need watering. Just dip your finger into the earth to see if it is still moist underneath the top soil.

How do you dry lunaria seeds?

Take a lunaria plant and cut it at the base. Take those cut stems with the still young seed pods and hang them upside down in bundles. Keep them in a dry and dark place, and those green cell membranes should mature into translucent screens in about 3 weeks.

The seeds should fall away with ease, so keep those in an air tight container through the winter so that they’re ready to go come early spring.

Are lunaria plants annual or perennial?

Lunaria plants are actually neither annual plants nor perennials, but they are biennials. This means that they will experience their entire life cycle within 2 years or so. The first year they will grow their basal rosette of heart shaped leaves, and the spring of the second year, the lunaria flowers will emerge. After they have flowered, the attractive seed pods will emerge!

Do lunaria plants need fertilizer?

A lunaria plant will respond very well to fertile soil. This can be achieved either through incorporating compost into the soil, or by providing your plant with a slow release fertilizer once in the early spring.

What are some other names for a lunaria plant?

Lunaria annua also goes by the names of honesty plant, money plant, silver dollar plant, or moonwort. It is called an honestly plan because that is what is signifies according to the Language of Flowers, and it is called a money plant because of the seed pods semblance to silver coins.

What do lunaria flowers bloom?

In the second year of growth, a lunaria plant will bear flowers. The flowers will usually emerge in the spring or early summer and last into the late summer and sometimes even autumn. Lunaria flowers are borne in terminal racemes, and flowers will range in color from white to purple flowers.

Each flower has 4 large overlapping petals with short stamens. Though without much of a fragrance, this flowering plant has a striking violet color that attracts beneficial insects and pollinators.

When should you harvest lunaria seeds?

Lunaria seed pods should be harvested after the plant has finished flowering, but before it is able to drop its seeds – this is usually in late summer or autumn. This way you can control the spread of the plant, and can also save the seeds to plant a new patch every year!

What USDA growing zones do lunaria plants grow?

The lunaria plant is a native species to both southwestern Asia and Europe, though since then the have become naturalized in nearly all of the temperate regions of the world, especially throughout North America. They can exist happily in USDA growing zones 4 through 8.

What is the ideal soil type for a lunaria?

Though they are able tolerate several different soil types, there are some characteristics that your soil should have. Lunaria plants perform best when they are planted in soil that has excellent drainage and is enriched with humus.

It is also important for the soil to be rich in nutrients, and it can be either neutral or acidic. A great way to increase drainage and to increase nutrient content is by incorporating compost at the beginning of the growing season.