Annual Bright Orange Plant
This bright-orange plant appears in my garden every year. Can you tell me what it is?
—Joan Langille, Truro, Nova Scotia
Melinda: Your mystery plant is commonly called Maltese cross and goes by the scientific name Lychnis chalcedonica. This perennial is relatively easy to grow in full sun and most soils. Avoid wet or poorly drained areas, since these conditions tend to shorten its lifespan. Over the years, you should see more and more of this perennial. It readily self seeds, resulting in plenty of seedlings to grow and share. Avoid cultivating the soil early in the season, which tends to "weed out" such seedlings. Letting nature do the work is the easiest way to propagate this plant. You also can dig and divide your existing plant in early spring or late summer to expand your planting.