The shrubby milkwort - Polygala chamaebuxus var. grandiflora

The shrubby milkwort - Polygala chamaebuxus is an extremely tough ornamental alpine plant native to the mountains of west-central Europe. So hardy is it that given the right environment it will tolerate cold spells down to -20 degrees Celsius!

Image credit - Seboth, J., Graf, F. (1839)
Commonly found on the slopes of the French Alps Polygala chamaebuxus produces fragrant, creamy white flowers tipped with yellow flowers from April until June. However the cultivar of 'Angustifolia' and natural variety grandiflora are purple with yellow tips.

The leaves are dark-green,glossy and no more than an inch long but are almost hidden from view when the plant is in full flower.

Polygala chamaebuxus has been grown in cultivation since 1658 and was first illustrated by Carolus Clusius (1526 – 1609) a Flemish doctor and pioneering botanist, and perhaps the most influential of all 16th-century scientific horticulturists.

Polygala chamaebuxus forms low-lying, evergreen clumps up to 6 inches high and 20 inches in spread. It prefers a very free-draining soil, slightly acidic soil so avoid planting on chalk unless you have added a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Soil-based Ericaceous'.

Polygala chamaebuxus image credit - Aelwyn
While they will always do best in a alpine bed or specialist container they will also grow quite happily in a borders or containers so long as they are sited in full sun avoiding waterlogged conditions.

They will however tolerate partial shade but this will result in a reduction of flowers produced. Do not plant under deciduous trees as they will not cope well with leaf litter over the autumn and winter.

Polygala chamaebuxus var grandiflora was previously known as Polygala chamaebuxus var purpurea and also as Polygala chamaebuxus var. rhodoptera.

Polygala chamaebuxus can be propagated from softwood cuttings taken in early on in the growing season.

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