Perennial of the Month-- April 2002
Common name: Purple-leaved Loosestrife
Family: Primulaceae, Primula
Height x width: 36" x 36"
Growth rate: fast
Foliage: opposite or whorled in 4s, ovate to lanceolate, 4-6" long, dark red for cultivar, green for species, ciliate hairy margins
Flowers: yellow, early to midsummer, single or paired from upper leaf axils, larger in species; may be confused with species fraseri which has flowers in panicles, and is a rare native to Southeast U.S.; more pronounced red basal blotches to petals of species than of cultivar
Hardiness: zones 3 to 8
Soil: moist, most, tolerates damp
Light: sun, part shade
Pests and Problems: leaf scorch from dry soil, mites, groundhog feeding
Landscape habit, uses: may be root invasive and difficult to contain, masses in borders, slopes, damp areas (not near water as root pieces can be relocated, invading habitats), cut flower or foliage, fall color, foliage contrast with silver foliage such as Artemisia, background for lower white, pink or yellow flowers such as Coreopsis
Other interest: species is native to North America, damp areas of Plains; common name is a literal translation of the Greek word lysimachia which was named after King Lysimachus of Thrace. Legend has it that he waved a plant of it in front of a maddened beast to calm it; or as Gerard in his herbal of the middle ages wrote, it was used to calm angry oxen from putting it on their yokes "appeasing the strife and unrulinesse which falleth out among oxen at the plough..."
Other culture: see notes under landscape uses, will need dividing to try and contain yearly, or maintain space with hoe between it and other plants
Propagation: division, root or stem cuttings which root quite readily, seeds
Flower Farm (2002), local and mail order complete perennial nurseries