FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Phlox stolonifera ‘Bruce’s White’ is a lovely mat forming perennial wildflower. Plants have evergreen deep green leaves. From mid-spring to early summer, foliage is crowned by loose clusters of showy white starry 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 ‘Bruce’s White’ has clear white flowers with a golden eye. The plant was found in April 1959 by naturalist Mary Bruce Shinn of Leicester, North Carolina. Shinn’s husband who was President of the North Carolina Wildflower Preservation Society described the discovery in the winter 1978 Bulletin of the American Rock Garden Society. According to Thomas Shinn, Bruce was inventorying a site with a large stand of blooming Phlox stolonifera “… in the western part of Haywood County, N.C…. What really stood out… was a small patch of pure white. The habitat was a wide level area bordering a mountain stream. A mixed growth of hemlock, birch, and alder made it moderately shady. The soil was somewhat sandy, but very rich in humus. Other plants growing in the same area were galax, hepatica, trillium, phacelia, violets, and ferns…” The site is reportedly now the location of Walter’s Dam.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 5-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Phlox stolonifera ‘Bruce’s White’ is a diminutive stoloniferous groundcover that forms mats of semi-evergreen foliage.
The opposite leaves are oblong with smooth edges and blunt or pointed tips.
Fertile stems terminate in showy rounded 6” flower cymes. Florets are fragrant with 5 flat white 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.
Flowering stems rise 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 ‘Bruce’s White’ 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. Plants are somewhat resistant to deer but may be nibbled by rabbits.
Plants benefit from an occasional fertilization and deadheading when flowers wane.
LANDSCAPE USES: This is an excellent Groundcover for a Perennial Border or Shade Garden. Plants also provide Butterfly Nectar and attractive winter rosettes. Phlox stolonifera ‘Bruce’s White’ 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 ‘Bruce’s White’ with Aquilegia canadensis, Carex albicans, Carex plantaginea, Heuchera americana 'Dales Strain', Dryopteris marginalis or Polystichum acrostichoides.
The parent species Phlox stolonifera could be substituted in some situations but flowers would not likely be white.
TRIVIA: This cultivar was first known as ‘Shinn’s White’. It is sometimes called 'Ariane' and was listed by the National Arboretum as Phlox stolonifera v. bruceii.