Dames Rocket: How To Grow and Care For Hesperis Matronalis

From the mustard family, Brassicaceae comes the Dames Rocket better known as Hesperis matronalis [HES-per-iss, mah-tro-NAH-lis] a herbaceous biennial flowering species. 

The flower’s scientific name comes from a Greek-derived genus name, which means “the evening” – reference to the evening fragrant flowers.

Flowering Dame Rocket (Hesperis Matronalis)

They have a long list of common names, which change depending on their location which includes:

  • Dame’s rocket
  • Dame’s-wort
  • Sweet rocket
  • Dame’s-violet
  • Dame’s-gilliflower
  • Damask-violet
  • Queen’s gilliflower
  • Night-scented gilloflowers

Dames rocket is native in various countries in Europe and Asia. It was introduced to North America in the 1700s where it became naturalized. The rocket is an invasive plant in some regions. 

Their popularity is for the wildflowers which put on a great show in the springtime.

Dame’s Rocket Plant Care                     

Size & Growth

The plant is an upright-growing short-lived perennial, which typically grows 2’ – 3’ feet tall with a 1.5′ to 2′ foot spread.

The foliage in the first year is a low lying rosette. 

It consists of serrated dark green leaves that lack petioles. 

These leaves are ovate to lance-shaped. The green stems have fine hair.

Rocket Flowers and Fragrance

The Rocket has a relatively short bloom time, lasting from late spring to early summer. 

Extend it by deadheading spent flowers.

When the flowers do bloom, they are borne in loose, terminal racemes. 

Mostly, these plants produce violet to purple flowers, hence the common name dame’s violet and others. 

Some rocket varieties produce white and pink flowers as well.

These phlox-like rocket flower has 4 petals and is half an inch across in diameter. 

This species is known for the fragrance the flower emits in the evening/nighttime.

In fact, it’s in the botanical name!

Light & Temperature

Native Damask violet plants are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 8. 

These plants can tolerate partial shade but thrive under the full sun. 

Provide shade when the summers are too hot and humid as it might impact the plant’s growth.

Watering and Feeding

The plants like moist soils with medium moisture. 

Water enough to keep the soil hydrated but don’t drown the roots.

The plants are self-sufficient and don’t require additional fertilizer or feeding. 

Too much fertilizer can actually be harmful to the plants and your garden.

Soil & Transplanting

Moist but well-drained soil is optimal for these plants. 

Choose an average soil mix with substantial fertility and good drainage. 

It prefers neutral to slightly alkaline soils but can tolerate very basic soils as well.

As for transplanting, the vascular plants respond well when you plant divisions or cuttings to propagate.

Grooming and Maintenance

In non-invasive regions, these plans are pretty low-maintenance. 

The main pruning required is during late summer when the flowering season is over. 

Cut back the queen’s rocket to its basal foliage to prevent self-seeding.

Some plants may require staking.

How To Propagate Hesperis Matronalis

To propagate the plants with seeds, start them outdoors in the location you want to grow them. 

They have excellent seed production. 

Collect them once the seed pods (siliques) have dried. 

Sow the seeds in late spring to early fall before the first fall frost. 

Choose a sunny location and don’t cover the seeds as the seeds germinate better with light.

Double-flowering forms of the plants are best propagated with division or terminal cuttings. 

Bury the cuttings or divisions in their permanent location and provide the abovementioned growing conditions for healthy, thriving plants.

Hesperis Matronalis Pest or Diseases 

The rocket is generally not affected by serious pest and disease issues. 

There might be some susceptibility to flea beetles, moths, slugs, and snails. 

As for diseases, viruses and powdery mildew are the ones to keep an eye on. 

Consult your local botanical garden for advice.

Invasive Species

H. matronalis is considered an invasive species in various places around the United States. 

They are legally recognized as a noxious weed in multiple Midwest states including Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.

In Canada, they are considered a weed in Alberta as it self-seeds aggressively.

Dame’s Rocket Plant Uses

Non-invasive native plants are best grown in naturalized areas, woodlands, meadows, and cottage gardens. 

Add them to your garden borders and flower bed border. 

Be cautious as the foliage tends to disappear once the plant flowers.

Replace them with annuals and other late-developing perennials until the next blooming season. 

These are also great in pollinator gardens as their showy display attracts moths, bees, butterflies, and birds.

These wildflowers are excellent cut flowers for indoor display. 

Some parts of the plants are considered edible.

JOIN Our FREE Plant Care Newsletter 

By entering your email address you agree to receive a daily email newsletter from Plant Care Today. We'll respect your privacy and unsubscribe at any time.