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How to Care for a Linaria Plant (Everything You Need to Know)

Beautiful bright yellow linaria flowers growing in clusters in the summer

Genus Linaria

Welcome to the genus linaria! This is a truly lovely family of flowering plants that are part of the plantaginaceae botanical family! For those of you not versed in latin (neither am I) that is the plantain family! There are some linked species out there that you can never understand why they are related, but I’m sure there are some members of your own family you feel the same way about 😉

The genus linaria contains a charming 150 species of plants, growing as either annuals or herbaceous perennials, that go by many names. Just to name a few, we’ve got: toadflax (the most common), butter-and-eggs, brideweed, bridewort, butter haycocks, bread and butter, bunny mouth, devil’s flax, or devil’s flower.

If you’re thinking that a lot of those names have nothing to do with one another, you are not alone! Regardless of their erratic naming, these are still very beloved plants.

Toadflax plants are a wonderful plant that is often used for ground cover planting, as cut flowers for bright bouquets, and they also have some other uses you may not have expected. Read on to learn all about this dainty plant, how to incorporate one into your own garden, and how to care for one of your very own!

What do Linaria Plants Look Like?

Amazing purple and white linaria flowers on long stems growing in a stand

Growth Habit

Starting under the earth, linaria plants grow from short, laterally spreading roots. This makes it them slightly difficult to transplant, though with their extremely vigorous self seeding, transplanting them won’t be much of a priority.

From these roots grow erect decumbent stems that will reach anywhere from 6 to 35 inches in height, depending on the species. These stems bear thin leaves and flower inflorescences.

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Linaria plants will grow either as annuals, experiencing their entire life cycle within a year, biennials; experiencing their entire life cycle within 2 years, or as perennials; continuing to blossom year after year as long as their needs are met.

Leaves

Linaria leaves are fine and thread-like. Narrow leaves grow all along the flower stem and are a glaucous, blue green color in most species, though that will vary from species to species. Each leaf is around 2.5 inches in length though only a fraction of an inch in width.

Flowers

Linaria flowers are said to resemble those of the snapdragon plant! The linaria flower will blossom in various shades of yellow, purple, and pink.

Linaria inflorescences are borne in terminal racemes that stand well above the foliage of the plant. These flowers will usually bloom starting in the early spring, late spring, or mid summer (depending on the region) and last well into autumn.

What are some Linaria Species?

Looking down at a patch of different colored linaria flowers

Common Toadflax (Linaria Vulgari)

Starting with the species with the largest growing range and the most commonly cultivated, we have the common toadflax. They are also known as yellow toadflax, or butter-and-eggs, and they are native to Europe, Siberia, Asia, and have become naturalized in North America.

L vulgaris is a perennial plant that be identified by its thread-like, glaucous blue/green leaves and pale yellow flowers with an orange lower petal. Racemes bloom from mid summer to early fall.

Alpine Toadflax (Linaria Alpina)

The alpine toadlax is one of those rare varieties of purple-flowered linaria plants. This plant is native to southern and central Europe, and gets its common name from the fact that it grows wild in disturbed glacial areas in the alpine.

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Linaria alpina can be identified by its purple flowers that have orange lobes. Though not very commonly grown as garden varieties, they are quite a sight when found growing in a wildflower field.

Perfect image of butter and eggs linaria flowers growing in the sunset

Dalmatian Toadflax (Linaria Dalmatica)

Dalmatian toadflax plants are native mostly to Mediterranean regions, and were introduced to North America so successfully that they’re actually considered as invasive weeds there now! They also go by the names of Balkan toadflax, or broadleaf toadflax.

Linaria dalmatica can be identified by its yellow flowers and much broader leaves than most linaria species. L dalmatica is very fast growing with deep horizontal roots, and can withstand the cold temperatures of North American regions.

Purple Toadflax (Linaria Purpurea)

The purple toadflax plant is native to Italy, though has become naturalized (and invasive) in much of western North America, with various cultivar styles being popular for garden varieties.

Linaria purpurea are herbaceous annuals that are taller than most, and can be identified by their raceme of flowers that are either light purple or medium purple in color.

Blue Toadflax (Linaria Canadensis)

The blue toadflax plant is native to eastern North America, starting from Ontario and moving west to Nova Scotia, and down into the United States. They also go by the names of Canada toadflax or old-field toadflax. They grow wild in Canadian grasslands.

Linaria canadensis will grow either as an annual or biennial plant with impressive, erect flower stems. They can be identified by their violet and white flowers that appear in the spring and last into the late summer.

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Where is Linaria a Native Plant?

Stunning yellow linaria flowers growing in an open field

Knowing where a plant is originally native to, always helps with knowing how to garden them. Knowing where they grow most prosperously in the wild, gives you the chance to properly mimic these growing conditions, which is the best way to keep a plant happy!

Linarias are native plants throughout Europe, central Asia, and North America, though that depends on the species. Since their original growing range, they have pretty much taken over the world.

Due to their enthusiastic self seeding and expansive root systems, they can very quickly become invasive in any new place where they are introduced. They can exist in USDA growing zones 3 through 9.

When growing wild, they can be found popping up in large patches anywhere where there are poor soils. They can be found growing along roadsides, in sunny woodlands, along sunny edges of forests, and in different types of disturbed areas as well.

What are the Ideal Growing Conditions for a Linaria Plant?

Now that we know all of the important introductory details about linaria plants, it’s time to learn about how to care for your very own linaria plant!

Knowing that these guys can become invasive in new areas, it is important to be aware of this when considering planting some of your own. Invasive species can be detrimental to the local ecosystem, and not to mention your other garden party members!

Lucky for you, linaria plants are almost stupidly easy to take care of. It’s the type of plant that you could plant by blindfolding yourself, chucking some seeds, walking away for a few weeks, and coming back to find a field of flowers.

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Incredible yellow linaria flowers growing in the setting sun

Soil Type

The linaria plant can handle nearly any soil type. They seem to love living in poor soils along roadsides, though since your garden isn’t the same quality as a highway edge, there are some things you can keep in mind.

Linaria plants will perform best when they are growing in well drained soil. Soil can be derived from loam, sand, or clay, and it can be acidic, neutral, or alkaline. The main thing to remember is that they should not be living in fertile soil, or else they will completely take over the world.

Sun Exposure

Linaria plants and me have a lot in common in the way that sun bathing is crucial to our health. These are sun loving creatures, and require a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. They can totally tolerate living in partial shade as well.

Water Level

Linarias have very average watering needs. The natural precipitation of the area should usually suffice, though if there is prolonged dry spells they should receive some supplemental watering.

They are more drought tolerant than they are tolerant of over watering. When overwatered, linaria plants are very susceptible to issues like root rot.

Amazing yellow and magenta linaria flowers growing in a garden bed

Temperature

Linaria plants are super duper cold hardy! They are completely tolerant of the cool weather in North America and can grow as perennials in USDA growing zones 3 through 9.

Pruning

Here is a very very very important component of linaria care. Since we already know that these plants are invasive in many areas, we have to be careful about letting them go to seed. Linaria seed is tiny, and can spread far and wide.

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If you are intent on keeping your linaria patch under control, make sure to deadhead the flowers before they go to seed. They already have pretty long flowering seasons, so they will still grace your property with beautiful blossoms before their heads have to be chopped off.

Not to mention, once you deadhead the linaria flowers, they will rebloom quickly and with vigor!

Fertilizer

DO NOT – I repeat – DO NOT give your linaria plant fertilizer. Not only does it love to live in poor nutrient soil in the wild, it will go wild if it is given fertilizer. It will become giant and leggy and grow out of control.

I mean it. No compost, no fertilizer, don’t even play it any plant music (ya, I’m taking to you Plantasia by Mort Garson).

How do you Propagate a Linaria Plant?

Just blooming purple linaria flowers growing in a cottage garden bed

Like I mentioned before, planting your own linaria patch is wildly easy to do. Here are some very simple steps to planting!

1. Either grab linaria seed from a nursery, or collect your own from an existing plant. Do this by waiting until the linaria seed capsules are hardened, then crack them open to harvest the seeds.

2. You can either start your seeds indoors in a tray, or plant them directly into their place in the garden. They are not picky about space, so just sprinkle them over the top soil. Don’t cover, as seeds require sunlight for successful germination.

3. While they are first getting established, ensure that soil is moist. Otherwise, just make sure that they are receiving as much sun as possible.

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3. If you’ve planted them in a tray, wait until seedlings are about 2 inches tall before transplanting them outdoors. Make sure to pick a spot that is sunny with poor soil!

How are Linaria Plants Used?

Low growing purple alpine linaria plant growing in a rock garden

Ornamental Plant

We already know that linaria plants are beautiful. They are the perfect specimen for your garden if you’re looking for an expansive ground cover plant. They compliment other plants wonderfully, and even make for an amazing cut flower specimen as they last a long time in a vase.

If you’re worried about keeping your ornamental linaria contained, simply plant it in a large container! This will help control their spread and create a neat and tidy look. They are also popular to plant in a rock garden.

Another great aspect to planting a linaria is that pollinators love them! Beneficial insects like bees, moths, butterflies, and wasps will frequent a linaria patch because of their many flower blooms that last many weeks.

Medicinal Plant

Despite having a reputation as being a bit of a noxious weed, there are some serious beneficial qualities to linaria plants! They have this misconception in common with dandelions.

Linaria leaves have been a long time staple in folk medicine. Herbal tea can be made from dried leaves that are steeped, and it is said to help with issues like digestion and various skin issues.

Natural Pigment

Something that is not commonly known about linaria plants is that they have traditionally been used for natural pigment dyeing! You can obtain a delicate yellow or purple color from steeping their leaves.

Beautiful orange and purple linaria flowers growing in a field

FAQs

Is linaria an invasive species?

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Because of their tough root systems, enthusiasm about self seeding, and overall gusto about growing, linaria is a species that can very quickly become an invasive species outside of their growing region. They are considered as a noxious weed in many areas as well.

Are linaria flowers edible?

Linaria vulgari is a species of linaria that has edible flowers, leaves, and flower stalks. Any one of these plant parts can eaten dried or fresh.

Are linaria plants annuals or perennials?

Linaria plants can grow as an annual plant or a perennial plant depending on the species and the growing range. An annual plant will experience its entire life cycle within one year (and will perish after flowering) and a perennial plant will continue to blossom year after year as long as its growing requirements are met.

Are linaria plants deer resistant?

Another great component about linaria plants is that they are completely deer resistant as well!

What are the damaging agents to linaria plants?

Much of the issues that a linaria plant will face are due to being over watered and living in soil that is not properly drained. However, these things are easily avoided.

When do linaria flowers bloom?

Linaria flowers are said to resemble those of the snapdragon plant! The linaria flower will blossom in various shades of yellow, purple, and pink.

Linaria inflorescences are borne in terminal racemes that stand well above the foliage of the plant. These flowers will usually bloom starting in the early spring, late spring, or mid summer (depending on the region) and last well into autumn.

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How tall do linaria plants get?

Starting under the earth, linaria plants grow from short, laterally spreading roots. This makes it them slightly difficult to transplant, though with their extremely vigorous self seeding, transplanting them won’t be much of a priority.

From these roots grow erect decumbent stems that will reach anywhere from 6 to 35 inches in height, depending on the species. These stems bear thin leaves and flower inflorescences.

Do linaria flowers make for good cut flowers?

Linaria flowers make for great cut flowers because they grow from sturdy, erect stems, and they have flowers that last a long time in a vase as well.

Should linaria flowers be deadheaded?

Here is a very very very important component of linaria care. Since we already know that these plants are invasive in many areas, we have to be careful about letting them go to seed. Linaria seed is tiny, and can spread far and wide.

If you are intent on keeping your linaria patch under control, make sure to deadhead the flowers before they go to seed. They already have pretty long flowering seasons, so they will still grace your property with beautiful blossoms before their heads have to be chopped off.

Not to mention, once you deadhead the linaria flowers, they will rebloom quickly and with vigor!

How often should a linaria plant be watered?

Linarias have very average watering needs. The natural precipitation of the area should usually suffice, though if there is prolonged dry spells they should receive some supplemental watering.

They are more drought tolerant than they are tolerant of over watering. When overwatered, linaria plants are very susceptible to issues like root rot.

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Do linaria plants need fertilizer?

DO NOT – I repeat – DO NOT give your linaria plant fertilizer. Not only does it love to live in poor nutrient soil in the wild, it will go wild if it is given fertilizer. It will become giant and leggy and grow out of control.

I mean it. No compost, no fertilizer, don’t even play it any plant music (ya, I’m taking to you Plantasia by Mort Garson).

Can linaria plants be grown indoors?

Technically any plant can be grown indoors (if it’s small enough) but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be happy there. Linaria seedlings can be started indoors, though it is best to transplant them outside once they are big enough.

How do you stop linaria flowers from self seeding?

The only way to stop a linaria flower from going to seed is by snipping away its flower head before it is able to go to seed.

What is the ideal soil type for a linaria plant?

The linaria plant can handle nearly any soil type. They seem to love living in poor soils along roadsides, though since your garden isn’t the same quality as a highway edge, there are some things you can keep in mind.

Linaria plants will perform best when they are growing in well drained soil. Soil can be derived from loam, sand, or clay, and it can be acidic, neutral, or alkaline. The main thing to remember is that they should not be living in fertile soil, or else they will completely take over the world.

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