FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Phlox stolonifera ‘Blue Ridge’ is a lovely mat forming perennial wildflower. Plants have evergreen oval or oblong deep green leaves. In late spring or early summer, foliage is crowned by loose clusters of showy clear blue flowers. This cultivar is a fine groundcover for partly shaded woodlands or gardens with moist well drained soil.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: The parent species Phlox stolonifera occurs in the eastern United States in Maine and Vermont and from New York west to Ohio and south to Alabama. The parent species is indigenous to rich deciduous woodlands, stream banks, open woods and shaded rocky slopes mostly in the Appalachian Mountains.
This cultivar ‘Blue Ridge’ has sky blue flowers that are larger than the norm for this species.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 5-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Phlox stolonifera ‘Blue Ridge’ is a diminutive stoloniferous groundcover that forms tight mats of semi-evergreen foliage.
Leafy stems creep along the ground and branch to form upright flowering stems.
The opposite leaves are oblong with smooth edges and blunt or pointed tips. Blades average 3” on sterile stems and ¾” on flowering stems.
Fertile stems terminate in showy rounded 6” flower cymes. Florets are fragrant with 5 flat sky blue petals. The petals are rounded and they flare from a narrow tube.
Blooming begins in mid-spring continuing until early summer. Small inconspicuous oval seed capsules follow.
Flowering stems rise to 8”. Plants spread to 2’ and gradually form colonies from short rhizomes and spreading leafy stems that root at the nodes.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Phlox stolonifera ‘Blue Ridge’ flourishes in bright shade with moist rich well drained soil. Plants prefer slightly acid pH and tolerate drought, part sun and dry shade.
Plants are fairly pest resistant but need good air circulation and deadheading to prevent issues with powdery mildew. Spider mites can cause problems in hot dry sites. Slugs can become a pest in overly moist sites. Plants are somewhat resistant to deer but may be nibbled by rabbits.
The most difficult cultural issue with this cultivar is choosing a suitable site. In appropriate situations with some shade and very good drainage, plants are vigorous and very easy to grow.
This species often self-sows if conditions are good.
Plants benefit from an occasional fertilization and deadheading when flowers wane.
LANDSCAPE USES: This is a good Groundcover for a Perennial Border or Shade Garden. Plants are also used as Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting. In mild climates attractive rosettes provide Winter Interest. Phlox stolonifera ‘Blue Ridge’ has Showy Blooms and is appropriate for Cottage Gardens, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings and Rock Gardens.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Phlox stolonifera ‘Blue Ridge’ with Aquilegia canadensis, Carex albicans, Carex plantaginea, Heuchera americana 'Dales Strain', Dryopteris marginalis or Polystichum acrostichoides.
Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’ has similar appearance and culture and could be substituted in some situations.
TRIVIA: Phlox stolonifera ‘Blue Ridge’ provides valuable early season nectar for swallowtail butterflies, day flying sphinx moths (like hummingbird moths and clearwing moths) and hummingbirds.