FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’ is a vigorous mat forming perennial wildflower. Plants have evergreen lance-shaped deep green leaves. In late spring or early summer, foliage is crowned by loose clusters of starry deep purple flowers. This cultivar is a fine groundcover for partly shaded woodlands or gardens with moist well drained soil.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: 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 ‘Sherwood Purple’ is notable for its uniform blue-purple flowers and vigorous growth.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 5-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’ 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 deep purple petals. The petals are rounded and they flare from a narrow tube.
Blooming occurs from mid-spring until early summer. Small inconspicuous oval seed capsules follow.
Foliage is about 2” tall with flowering stems rising to 8”. Plants spread to 2’ gradually forming colonies from short rhizomes and spreading stems that root at the nodes.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’ flourishes in bright shade with moist rich well drained soil. Plants prefer slightly acid pH and tolerate drought, part sun and dry shade.
This cultivar is fairly pest resistant but needs good air circulation to prevent issues with powdery mildew. 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 occasional fertilization and deadheading when flowers wane. This cultivar is low growing and shallow rooted and can accidentally be uprooted during routine garden maintenance.
LANDSCAPE USES: This is a good Groundcover for a Perennial Borders 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 ‘Sherwood Purple’ 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 ‘Sherwood Purple’ with Aquilegia canadensis, Carex albicans, Carex plantaginea, Heuchera americana 'Dales Strain', Dryopteris marginalis, Polystichum acrostichoides or Stylophorum diphyllum.
Phlox stolonifera ‘Blue Ridge’ has similar appearance and culture and could be substituted in some situations.
TRIVIA: Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’ provides valuable early season nectar for swallowtail butterflies, day flying sphinx moths (hummingbird moths and clearwing moths) and hummingbirds.
In 1990, the parent species, Phlox stolonifera, became the first plant selected by the Perennial Plant Association as Perennial Plant of the Year.