Pheasant’s Eye – Adonis aestivalis

Pheasant’s Eye belongs to a large group of plants which are often classified as ‘weeds’ because they seed easily and require very little care to thrive. It is an annual summer-flowering plant and the seeds are sown directly into the pots, boxes or tubs where they are to flower rather than in seed trays.

The single flowers are carried at the tips of the stems. The stamens and anthers are usually black and they provide a strong contrast against the bright red petals. The plants have an upright habit of growth with branching stems and pale, feathery leaves.

Grown singly, Pheasant’s Eye tends to be rather weak and straggly, so sow the seeds sparingly in large pots or tubs and thin the seedlings out to leave several plants growing together for support. The young plants may need some extra support from twigs or canes, especially if they are grown in windy conditions on a balcony.Pheasant's Eye - Adonis aestivalis

The genus name is taken from the name of Adonis, a god of Greek mythology. According to the legend, Adonis, the love of Aphrodite, was gored to death by a wild boar sent to him by Ares. A bright red flower sprang from the spilt drops of blood.

Pheasant’s Eye grows all summer and reaches a height of about 30-45cm (12-18in). If sown in spring, the plants will come into bud in July and flower in late July and August. In a good summer, the flowers will last until September.

Alternatively, seeds can be sown in September in order to have an early show of flowers the following May and June.

A yellow variety is available called A. aestivalis forma citrina. The flowers are pure yellow without the dark centre.

Display ideas

  • Mix the red and yellow-flowering varieties together and sow them in pots to create cheerful spring or summer colour on the kitchen windowsill or as a contrast against foliage plants.
  • On a balcony or patio, grow Pheasant’s Eye in a large tub massed together with blue Forget-me-nots or Lobelia.

Pests And Diseases

Attacks by aphids can occur, but they are not usually too much of a problem. They will appear on the flowers or at the tips of new shoots. S Treatment: Wash them off by spraying with water. For severe cases, spray with an insecticide.

Bright or pale yellow leaves, often followed by leaf and bud drop, indicates that the plants have been overwatered. Treatment: Allow the compost to dry out and water less in future.

Crown rot in spring in outdoor plants is due to cold and damp. Treatment: Heap sand round base of plants so they can grow new roots above damaged ones.


Pheasant’s Eye is very easy to grow. If you want to extend the flowering period, pinch off the dead flowers before seed heads form.

  • Potting: Use a well-draining peat-based compost in pots or tubs. Seeds can be sown where they are to grow in September or during spring.
  • Water regularly and do not allow the plants to dry out in the growing season. Water seedlings sparingly during winter.
  • Feeding: Use a liquid fertilizer every 14 days or spray outdoor plants with a foliar feed.


  • Light: These plants like the brightest possible position you can find for them. A sunny windowsill or balcony is ideal. Keep overwintering seedlings fairly cool indoors.
  • Temperature: Pheasant’s Eye will thrive in normal outdoor temperatures. The plants are frost-hardy.

Buying Tips

  • Pheasant’s Eye is rarely sold as a bedding plant, but is usually available as seed in packets.
  • Look for seeds packaged in foil sachets inside a paper packet. This will ensure that they are really fresh and will germinate successfully.
  • This is usually grown as an annual.

Pheasant’s Eye has attractive red flowers with black centres. It is easy to grow from seed and will provide a bright splash of colour indoors or on a balcony.

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