http://powerfulperennials.com/how-to-stake-perennials/Maltese Cross (Lychnis Chalcedonica) is an International traveler across the colder sections of the Northern Hemisphere, but sadly, is a relatively unknown perennial. Maltese Cross is one of those rare perennials who not only enjoy cold climates but has a natural affinity for alkaline clay soils. Red is a rare color in perennials (especially the clear brilliant red of Maltese Cross), so along with its height, it is an attention-getter. The round-shaped red clusters bloom on stem tips of lanky bright green foliage. Maltese Cross blooms in June and the addition of its red flowers to the other primary colors of blues and yellows is a heat-seeking energy force in a garden.
Maltese Cross is one of the first perennials to break spring dormancy, and pinching back these stems now will shorten and strengthen the tall skinny perennial. In Western gardens, staking isn’t really necessary for the climate and soils of the west keep this perennial shorter and more stocky in size.
Lychnis Chalcendonica’s foliage collapses after it finishes blooming so needs to be cut back to the ground. A gardener may choose to trim it back before the blooming has stopped for Maltese Cross is a prolific self-seeder and starts dropping seeds long before the blooming has finished. These seeds will usually germinate before winter starts and many seedlings will winter kill, but enough will survive to insure that its brilliant scarlet colors will light up the garden next spring. Seeding is easy but divisions are difficult because Maltese Cross sends deep masses of fibrous roots that become so huge they are difficult to dig and divide. Lychnis, Maltese Cross, performs reliably year after year without division, so allowing Maltese Cross to reseed is the easiest and best way to propagate. Maltese Cross may be underused but is so hardy it dares grow where other perennials dare not grow.
History of the Maltese Cross
The Maltese Cross flower is aptly named, but there’s more to its history than just a title. The shape of the flower petals resembles the Maltese Cross, which is the honorary symbol of firefighters. So not only the shape, but also the scarlet color and the common name of this outstanding flower tell its story. According to hpfirefighter.com, a news and media website in High Point, North Carolina, the Maltese Cross was originally worn by a band of Crusaders known as the Knights of St. John who fought for possession of the Holy Land.
“As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were struck by glass bombs containing naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens would hurl a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths.”
And so this symbol was awarded to the Knights as a badge of honor, which was worn in battle to identify those who wore it as soldiers who were on the battlefield to help save lives. The crusaders who wore it often placed themselves in harm’s way in order to help their fellow men.
“The Maltese Cross is our symbol of protection. It means that the Fire Fighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you.”