Over the garden gate

Care For Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate: Growing Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate Flower

What is Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate Plant?

Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Polygonum orientale or Persicaria orientale) used to be very popular in the U.S. Originally from China, it was a particular favorite of Thomas Jefferson. As time went on and the popularity of compact, easily transplanted flowers grew, the kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate flower fell out of favor. It’s making a comeback now, though, as more gardeners are learning about its benefits.

Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate Info

Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate is a very fast-growing annual that self-seeds in the fall. Once you’ve planted it, you’re likely to have the flower in that spot for years to come. While the plant can grow up to seven feet tall and four feet wide, it rarely, if ever, needs to be staked.

The kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate flower blooms in three inch long spiky clusters that hang pendulously in shades of red to white to magenta.

Care for Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate

Care for kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate is very simple. It grows fast and transplants poorly, so you won’t find seedlings in the store. Seeds need to be chilled before they germinate, so store them in the fridge for a few weeks beforehand in the spring, or sow them directly in the ground if you acquire them in the fall.

Sow them by pressing the seeds lightly into the soil in a place that receives full sun. Once the seedlings have sprouted, thin them to one every 18 inches. In 100 days, you should have blooms that continue to the fall frost.

Growing kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate plants have very few pest problems. The only real danger comes from Japanese beetles, which may be drawn to the leaves. If you notice that some of your leaves are skeletonized, place traps and lures around the outside of your property to guide them away from your plants.



This old-fashioned cottage garden plant has been prized for decades for its impressive, abundant hanging flowers. In recent years, kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate has seen a resurgence in popularity, often being found in heirloom plant catalogs. Generally, you can plant it once, and it will reseed for years to come.

genus name
  • Persicaria orientalis
  • Sun
plant type
  • Annual
  • 3 to 8 feet
  • Up to 2 feet
flower color
  • White,
  • Pink
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom
problem solvers
  • Good For Privacy
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers,
  • Cut Flowers
  • Seed

Colorful Combinations

With its long chains of pink blossoms, kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate is a great large-scale addition to a garden. Often beginning to bloom in midsummer, this plant will continue to bloom until fall. It’s a favorite cut flower and can be dried and used in floral arrangements. You can find varieties in dark pink and occasionally white. While not the main reason for growing kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate, its large, coarse-textured foliage can create a backdrop for other plants. This fast-growing plant can grow to 7 feet tall and can be used as a quick screen when grown densely in groups.

See our favorite fall annuals here.

Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate Care Must-Knows

Because of its height, this plant is not usually available in 6 packs in garden centers. If you are interested in growing kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate, it is best to start plants from seed. This is a fairly easy process but there is one thing to keep in mind: kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate requires stratification in order to germinate. Stratification simply means providing seeds with a cold period to simulate winter and help break their dormancy. There are a few ways this can be done. One of the easiest is to allow them to experience a natural winter by sowing seeds in the fall where you would like them to grow the following year. You can also give them a simulated winter by storing seeds in the refrigerator or freezer for a short period of time. After the seeds have gone through their chilling process and begun to germinate, it is best to thin them out since they will become quite tall and large.

Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate will achieve the most-impressive growth in fertile, well-drained soil. It can also tolerate poor soil as long as it is not too wet. The plant is best grown in full sun conditions to help plants remain sturdy and prevent floppy plants. This will also help to encourage more flowers and the densest foliage.

Even with its impressive height, kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate does not require staking. It also does not require deadheading and will continue to bloom throughout the growing season without slowing down. Be sure to keep in mind that any flowers kept on plants will reseed in the garden and grace you with their presence for years to come.

Deadhead your kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate plants with these tips.

Plant Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate With:

It’s amazing that the tall, dramatic spider flower is only an annual. Once temperatures warm up, it zooms to 4 feet or more plants very quickly and produces large balls of flowers with fascinating long seedpods that whirl out from it. Cut it for vases, but be aware that the flowers shatter easily after a few days. It typically self-seeds prolifically, so you only have to plant it once. Because it develops surprisingly large thorns, it’s best to keep spider flower away from walkways.Plant established seedlings in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Cleome does best in moderately rich, well-drained soil. Be careful about fertilizing or you’ll have extremely tall floppy plants. Group in clusters of 6 or more for best effect.

Moonflower is one of the most romantic plants you can grow in the garden. It’s a statuesque, ideal evening-garden plant bearing large trumpet-shape flowers that unfurl in the evening (or on overcast days) and stay open until the sun rises. Some are sweetly fragrant when open. This beautiful plant is also very heat- and drought-resistant. Beware: It’s quite poisonous, especially the seeds.Moonflower can be found as an established plant in garden centers. Plant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Give it moderate moisture and fertilizer. You can also train it into a treelike plant along a stake, especially in a large container. Datura reseeds freely to the point of being invasive in some conditions.

Plant a castor bean and then stand back. This is one of the fastest-growing, giant annuals in the garden, rivaled only perhaps by giant sunflower. By midsummer, you’ll have a huge (it can hit up to 20 feet) tropical plant sporting burgundy foliage. It’s a great plant to grow with kids. Be careful, though. The seeds are extremely toxic.Wait to plant it outdoors after all danger of frost has passed; castor bean hates cool weather and won’t grow well until temperatures heat up in summer.

Antique Flowers

Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate is a delightfully named, decidedly old-fashioned flower that has been kicking around gardens for a very long time. Described in the 1917 Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture as “an attractive old-fashioned plant growing as high as the fence,” it has been in gardens since Victorian times, surviving the ages by being passed around.

The old flower, Polygonum orientale, is available in only one seed catalog, but you can still find it in gardens because many old-fashioned flowers are extra-easy to grow, especially from seed sown in spring or fall.

Most old-fashioned flowers are best planted during our spring planting season, which runs from mid-March until late May, because they are perennials that are readily available in spring or because they are summer annuals, like kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate.

It can be planted only from seed in late March or early April, but don’t fret about starting with seed; it comes up readily.


Says the Standard Cyclopedia: “It is most easy of cultivation; in fact, it usually self-sows in old gardens.”

Although an annual, it grows big and bushy, with long, droopy flower spikes of the brightest possible pink that will hang over the garden gate to welcome visitors with a buss.

It’s what might be called a floral antique, one of hundreds that gardeners are rediscovering. Whether for ease of culture, their simple unhybridized good looks or their fascinating history, these old-timers are staging a comeback.

First came the rediscovery of old roses, then the interest in ancient herbs and heirloom vegetables; now it’s the old-fashioned flowers’ turn to be appreciated and planted again in gardens.


Some gardeners are simply fascinated by the old English names. “They’re so much fun for people who like words and history,” said landscape architect Shirley Kerins, curator of the Huntington Botanical Gardens herb garden. There she grows many of the old-fashioned flowers, like love-in-a-mist and honesty, also blooming in the nearby Shakespeare garden.

Names like bachelor’s buttons, love-lies-bleeding, love-in-a-puff, ladies’ cushion and cupid’s dart “remind you of how fond people were of these flowers, and sometimes there are great stories behind the names.”

Bachelor’s button, for instance, is actually a bit of a misnomer. The name was originally applied to golden buttercups, whose flowers were like the polished brass buttons on young officers’ uniforms. Somehow the name became associated with the flowers we call bachelor’s buttons today, though cornflower is the better common name because they grew as weeds in English wheat fields.

The flower had an even earlier name, hurtsickle, because it “hindereth the reapers by dulling their sicles in the reaping of corn,” according to a 16th century herbalist. In its long history in the garden, it has also been known as blewbottle or blue bottle for its clear blue flowers.

A few gardeners are growing these antiques in an attempt to save old garden varieties on the verge of extinction, searching out ancient types and propagating them from seed or cuttings.

Others are revolting against the trend by growers and seed producers to make all flowers short and tidy, so they will be in bloom when you buy them at the nursery.

“Hybridizers have done such a disservice by making bedding plants so short,” say Mary Lou Heard of Heard’s Country Gardens in Westminster, so Heard’s has gone out of its way to offer seeds and plants of the more graceful old-fashioned varieties, as have some other nurseries.

They’ve found that many gardeners are no longer buying modern hybrids but are out shopping for antiques or good reproductions.


Sharon Milder is one. She has filled her Westwood frontyard with old-fashioned flowers, to make a convincing cottage garden full of old-fashioned charm. She has gathered old roses from obscure catalogs and scoured the nurseries for antique annuals and perennials.

Among the old roses are chinas, teas, noisettes and a lot of polyanthas. Growing all around them are old-fashioned flowers–Canterbury bells (including the storybook cup and saucer), sweet William, columbine, pinks, yarrow and valerian, once called Mercury’s blood by the herbalists. In the 16th century, one said that “it growith plentifully in my garden, being a great ornament to the same,” as it still does in the Southland.

One of the columbines she grows is named ‘Grandmother’s Garden,’ a new name for an ancient type of “rose” columbine. In the world of antiques, it would be called a good reproduction.

Some old-fashioned flowers are still common at nurseries, but to be truly authentic, you must search out old-time varieties.

Bachelor’s buttons, for instance, are common at nurseries in spring, but not the old-fashioned 3-foot-tall plants that made such good cut flowers. Those are harder to find and may need to be grown from seed.

English seed catalogs, like Thompson & Morgan (P.O. Box 1308, Jackson, NJ 08527-0308) often have older non-hybrid strains. Other catalogs, like Shepherd’s (30 Irene St., Torrington, CT 06790) include heirloom flower varieties along with their heirloom vegetables. They have antique strains of morning glory, hollyhocks, cottage pinks and love-in-a-puff, a quaint annual vine with balloon-like seed pods.

One seed company that specializes in antique flowers is Select Seeds (180 Stickney Road, Union, CT 06076-4617). This may be the only source of seed for kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate; the company also has the dark blue ‘Emperor William’ bachelor’s buttons, which grow to 3 feet and self-sow in the garden.

March is a fine time to plant or to sow seed. From the Victorian period, you can choose the bold and bright bedding plants that were set in elaborate beds.


These include amaranthus, alternanthera and coleus, grown for their bright foliage, plus geraniums, heliotrope, lantana, salvia and verbena. Love-lies-bleeding is a 4-foot-tall amaranthus with great dangling burgundy ropes of chenille-like flowers–pure Victoriana. Shepherd’s and Select sell seed.

Alternanthera will probably be found as an indoor plant, but try it outside as a summer bedding plant.

From the early 1800s come cottage garden flowers like busy Lizzie (impatiens), cupid’s dart (catananche), nasturtium, pincushion flower (scabiosa), sweet sultan (Centaurea moschata), painted tongue (salpiglossis) and four o’clock or marvel of Peru, to use its old name. All of these can be planted in spring to give your garden a touch of history.

This was also the Golden Age of the pansy, best started in fall, although violets go back to the earliest gardens and do well planted now.

There are plenty of flowers from Elizabethan times. Love-in-a-mist (nigella) can be planted at this time of year. It will reseed and be with you a long time. Kerins calls it “one of the most adorable weeds.”

Shakespeare’s lark’s-heel is still around as larkspur, the name referring to the pointed spur on the back of the flower. The annual is best planted in fall, but their relatives, the delphiniums, can go in now, as can another towering old-timer, the foxglove.

Sweet William was possibly named after Shakespeare (or William the Conqueror or St. William, depending on sources) and though it is seldom seen at nurseries anymore, it can be found in seed catalogs, and Select has the old velvety purple-red variety that stood 1 1/2 feet tall. It is planted in fall.

Touch-me-not (balsam) dates from the Tudors, as does honesty, with its see-through seed pods. This biennial will make flowers and pods in a few months in California.

Honesty and love-in-a-mist are two fun and extremely easy historical plants for children to grow.

Ladies’ cushion or thrift (Armeria maritima) dates to Tudor knot gardens and is still common, even sold as a ground cover. The name thrift comes from “threave,” meaning to keep together, which is what it did on sandy seaside soils.

Returning Crusaders brought back hollyhocks, which have been in gardens so long that they have disappeared from the wild. They also brought back the Cross of Jerusalem, today’s lychnis with its brilliant, magenta flowers. This unchanged perennial does extremely well in Southern California gardens.

Some of the original pinks and carnations survive, called gillyflowers or “gilofre” by Chaucer. A new seed-grown strain named ‘Velvet and Lace’ (Park Seed, 1 Parkton Ave., Greenwood, SC 29647-0001), looks like one of the old laced pinks.

Most of these old-fashioned favorites can be planted now, while calendulas (originally called marigolds), snapdragons, sweet stock, toadflax (linaria), English daisies, forget-me-nots and foxgloves are ancient flowers you can plant in the fall.

All of these have been around for a long time because they are fine plants that are still fun to grow.

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