Find out how to Plant, Develop, and Look after Sticky Catchfly

Sticky catchflies, with their pink flowers and low growth habit, are easy to squeeze into any garden. They can survive a variety of soil types and light conditions. Once established, they are drought-tolerant, making them a great low-maintenance option for the water-wise gardener

The blooms attract a wide range of pollinators and butterflies, and the tubular flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds. Most importantly, this wildflower attracts native bees. It will also attract the envy of your neighbors and fellow gardeners when they see a beautiful border of them or find them dotted around your yard. 


The sticky catchfly is a perennial plant native to the Eastern United States.

Native Area

Central and eastern United States


Full sun to part shade

Watering Requirements


Pests and Diseases

Pest-free, root rot

What is Sticky Catchfly?

Sticky Catchfly, Silene caroliniana, is also known as wild pink, American pink, or Carolina campion. This flowering perennial gets its common name from the fact that it produces sticky hairs on the calyx that act just like fly paper. Small insects can become stuck.

This plant is not carnivorous, however, and does not digest the insects that get stuck as a Venus fly trap would. It is thought the plant evolved this defense mechanism to prevent insects from eating it or laying eggs on it. 


A vibrant plant, its purple flowers basking in sunlight against a backdrop of lush greenery, capturing the essence of nature's beauty.The mythological figure Silenus inspired the genus Silene.

American pink’s genus name ‘Silene’ comes from the Greek word ‘sialon’ which refers to the gummy secretions on the stems. The genus name has also been linked to the mythological figure Silenus. He was the foster father of Bacchus, the god of wine. Silenus was covered in foam, much like the sticky stems of this plant. 

Native Area

A plant displaying purple flowers and buds, contrasting beautifully against its lush green stems, creating a picturesque scene of nature's elegance and botanical charm.This plant thrives in USDA zones five through eight.

Silene caroliniana is native to the Eastern United States, where it can be found growing in USDA zones five through eight. It grows as far west as Missouri and as far south as Florida. In its native range, it grows in woodland areas where it prefers slightly acidic soil. Members of the Silene genus can be found growing on five out of seven continents in the world excluding Australia and Antarctica).  


A close-up of a purple catchfly flower glistens in sunlight against a backdrop of blurred lush greenery, its delicate petals capturing the warmth of the day.This perennial with sticky calyxes produces numerous pink flowers resembling phlox.

In addition to the sticky calyx, this perennial also produces beautiful pink flowers. A single plant can produce upwards of 50-100 flowers per plant! The flowers’ appearance is similar to phlox, with five wedge-shaped pink petals. Dense clusters of flowers sit atop lance-shaped green foliage. The foliage remains green throughout spring, summer, and fall. It will die back in the winter. 


Vibrant purple flowers bloom in a meadow, their velvety petals inviting pollinators with their rich hue and sticky texture.It attracts native bees and butterflies with its pink flowers.

Sticky catchfly is most often used as an ornamental ground cover. It has a low growing habit and grows in clumps. When planted 12-18 inches apart, it creates a carpeted effect. It tolerates partial shade conditions. For this reason, it can also be grown underneath trees where not much else can survive. The pretty pink flowers attract native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.   

Where To Buy

A close-up of a purple sticky catchfly flower basking in the sun's glow, its petals radiating under the golden light, while a soft blur of green foliage provides a serene backdrop.This plant could be located at local nurseries in its native Eastern US range.

This native plant can be found through many online retailers. Since it is more of a specialty plant, it likely won’t be available at big box stores. However, it may be found at a local nursery if you live in its native range in the Eastern United States.

Its profuse flowers also produce, you guessed it, a multitude of seeds. So, if you have a friend with an established plant, you might also consider collecting their seeds or taking a cutting (more on that later).  


Purple blossoms bask in sunlight, surrounded by verdant foliage in a soft blur, creating a serene botanical scene with hues of lavender and green.Plant catchfly by digging a hole twice as wide as its container.

Transplant this perennial either in spring or early fall. In areas with hot summers, a fall planting can allow the plant extra time to get established before it has to deal with the intense heat of the summer. It can also easily survive cold winters. You can also plant in the spring, but these plants will need more water and care to get them through their first summer. 

When planting your catchfly, dig a hole the same depth as its original container and at least twice as wide. Then, place the plant in the hole and backfill it with the displaced soil or compost. Mulch around the base of the plant to help the soil stay consistently moist and regulate the temperature. 

How to Grow

Once established, sticky catchfly is low maintenance and relatively pest—and disease-free. However, some growing requirements must be met to ensure that this perennial thrives. 


Vivid flowers, bathed in sunlight, stand out in a close-up, showcasing delicate petals and vibrant hues.They make excellent ground covers when provided with 3-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.

These plants prefer full sun but will tolerate partial shade. In its native habitat, it tends to grow as an understory plant. In these conditions, it might not flower as much, but it blooms so profusely to begin with that you might not even notice much difference!

Sticky catchfly has a low-growth habit. For this reason, it can be used as a ground cover to surround the base of trees or other larger flowering plants and shrubs. Just make sure that it receives at least three to six hours of direct sunlight per day on the low end and up to eight hours of direct sunlight on the high end. 


A close-up of a bloom, its delicate petals glistening with dewdrops, capturing the essence of morning freshness and nature's intricate beauty.This adaptable flower prefers dryness over excessive watering.

This flower can tolerate both moist and dry soils and becomes drought-tolerant once established. It will not, however, tolerate waterlogged soils or standing water. For this reason, you should avoid planting it in a low-lying area of your yard or near a downspout.

Avoid areas where water pools after a heavy rain. Feel the soil around the base of the plant and wait until the top few inches feel dry before watering again. It is better to underwater this plant rather than to overwater it. 


Gray soil mixed with sand, creating an arid terrain, devoid of vegetation, where only hardy plants can survive, sculpted by wind and time into rugged formations.Catchfly requires amendments for heavy clay or container growth.

Sticky catchfly prefers sandy and rocky soils. Although, they can survive a variety of soil types as long as it is well-draining. As mentioned above, these plants do not do well in overly wet or waterlogged conditions.

If you have heavy clay soil, you’ll want to amend it with some organic matter or compost to help increase the drainage. If you’re growing this plant in a container then you can amend your potting soil with perlite or cactus soil to help increase drainage. Make sure that your container has adequate drainage holes at the bottom as well. 

Temperature and Humidity

Clusters of purple flowers rise proudly amid a blurred backdrop of lush greenery, a striking contrast of colors and textures in the natural landscape.These cold-tolerant flowers prefer temperatures between 65-75°F (18-21°C).

These flowers can be grown reliably in USDA growing zones four through eight as they are quite cold-tolerant. Their ideal temperatures during the growing season range between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-21°C). They can struggle in extreme heat and will require extra water during these times.

They prefer low humidity. For this reason, you’ll want to increase airflow around plants, especially in high-humidity environments. Digging up and dividing plants in the spring will help them from becoming overcrowded and increase airflow as well. 


 A hand cradles a rich compost teeming with microscopic life, fertile ground for growth and regeneration, showcasing the unseen ecosystem within soil, a bustling world vital for nourishing plant life.Adding compost in early spring can boost growth energy.

For these plants, fertilizing is optional. They can survive in lean soils and do not need additional fertilizer. If you want to give your plants a bit of a boost, then you can add a top dressing of compost in early spring when they begin putting on new growth. This will help give them some extra energy as they break dormancy. 


Vibrant flowers gleam under the sun's rays, their petals illuminated in a sunlit meadow, with tall grasses providing a blurred backdrop, all soaking up the warm sunlight.Silene caroliniana benefits from deadheading to encourage more buds.

Once established, Silene caroliniana is very low-maintenance, but it can benefit from a few hands-on tasks. Although it is not necessary, deadheading the flowers as they fade will encourage more buds and extend the flowering season. In addition to deadheading, you can also lift and separate clumps of this perennial in early spring and spread them to other areas of your garden. 

Growing In Containers

A potted plant sits, its leaves lush and vibrant, adorned with a cluster of vivid purple flowers, adding a pop of color to any space.This is achieved through quality soil and avoiding water accumulation in drip trays.

Yes, they can be grown in containers. As mentioned above, the most important thing to consider when growing in containers is to provide good drainage. Use quality potting soil cactus soil or a combination of the two.

You can also amend your potting soil with perlite to help increase the drainage. Avoid setting the pot on a drip tray that will hold water around the base of the pot. You want the water to drain away freely.  


Clusters of vibrant catchfly flowers nestled amidst lush green foliage, bathed in warm sunlight, creating a serene natural scene.Propagate plants through cuttings by taking a 4-6 inch long cutting in summer.

Sticky catchfly can be propagated by division. In early spring, dig up clumps, divide, and replant them in other areas of your garden. This will also help keep your patch from becoming overcrowded. Follow the planting instructions mentioned above when transplanting. 

Cuttings and seeds are two additional propagation methods. Take a cutting in the summer, just below a leaf node. Make sure your cutting is at least four to six inches long. Do not take a cutting from a stem that is already forming buds. This part of the plant focuses on flowering and will not have enough energy to produce new roots. Remove foliage from the bottom two inches of your cutting and place it in a glass of water. You should see new roots appear in one to two weeks. 

To propagate by seed, you’ll need an already blooming plant. Flowers will be replaced by seed heads as they fade. Let them dry completely on the plant. Once dried, you can remove them and collect the seeds. Sow the seeds the following spring at least three weeks before your last frost date. These seeds benefit from a period of cold before germination. The small seeds also require light to germinate, so be sure to sow them on the surface of the soil and gently press them into place. The seeds should germinate within two to three weeks.  

Common Problems

Silene caroliniana is relatively trouble-free. It can grow in a variety of soil types and with a variety of light requirements. Too much water causes the most common growing problems. Here’s what to watch out for. 


A broad-bordered bee hawk hovers gracefully, its wings a blur, seeking nectar among vibrant purple sticky catchfly blooms, a delicate dance of pollination in the midday sun.Its sticky stems deter pests, while pollinators like Sphynx moths remain unaffected by the adhesive properties.

Sticky catchfly has no major pest issues. This is partly due to their sticky stems, which cause small insects to get stuck. It is thought that for this reason, most pests avoid this plant. Any insects that are unlucky enough to crawl across the calyx will get stuck. Pollinators, for the most part, are unaffected since they are only interested in the flowers and stay away from the sticky stems. 


Vivid purple blossoms illuminated by the sun's warm rays, inviting pollinators with their sweet nectar and intricate petals.Save the plant by replanting in dry soil and adjusting watering practices.

As mentioned above, sticky catchfly prefers well-draining soil and low humidity. In adverse conditions with poor drainage, root rot can become an issue. Root rot is a harder type of rot to recover from, but if there are still fresh white roots, then the plant can be saved. Even though the plant is being watered, the signs of root rot will appear. The most common symptoms are wilting, mushy stems, and black and rotten roots. 

If growing in a container, you’ll want to dig it up and move it to a new container with dry soil. Moving forward, let the soil dry out before watering it again, or assess if you need to increase the drainage of your pot or potting soil mix. If your plant is in the ground, cease all watering until the soil surrounding your plant has dried completely. 

Frequently Asked Questions

This common name comes from the fact that portions of the stem below the leaf nodes are sticky, and small insects often get stuck.

It is considered to be slightly toxic. However, it has an extremely bitter taste, which prevents most pets and small children from consuming them.

It begins blooming in late spring and continues to bloom throughout the summer.

Final Thoughts

This native perennial makes an excellent addition to rock gardens, pollinator patches, and wildflower meadows. It is highly versatile, low-maintenance, and attracts beneficial bugs to your garden. Not to mention it will come back year after year and is easy to propagate. This means that once you have it in your garden, you potentially have unlimited plants! 

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