Polygala chamaebuxus 'Kamniski'

Common Name: milkwort 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Polygalaceae
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 0.50 to 0.75 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Best grown in humusy, sandy/gritty, moisture retentive but well-drained soils in alpine regions or along the Pacific coast. Prefers cool moist locations, peaty soils and light shade. Thrives in sundappled high canopy conditions. Tolerates full sun, but needs supplemental watering during periods of extended hot and dry weather. Generally dislikes the hot and humid conditions of the deep South where it is likely to be short-lived.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Polygala chamaebuxus, commonly called shrubby milkwort or box-leaved milkwort, is a dense, suckering, alpine, dwarf evergreen shrublet that grows to only 6-8” tall but eventually spreads to as much as 24” wide usually forming an impenetrable mat. It is native to sunny alpine regions, primarily in areas of wooded slopes, rocky ridges and higher elevation pastures in west-central Europe south to Italy and the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

Woody stems are clad with alternate, oval to narrow-lanceolate, boxwood-like, dull green leaves (to 1.5” long by .5” wide). Solitary or paired, fragrant, pea-like, creamy white flowers with yellow stigmatic lobes bloom from the upper leaf axils in late winter to late spring (March –May), but sometimes in late fall and sporadically throughout winter in mild winter climates. Tiny fruit is not ornamentally significant.

Genus name comes from the Greek words polys meaning much and gala meaning milk in reference to a belief dating back to the medieval era that ingestion of plant leaves by certain nursing mammals resulted in increased milk production.

Specific epithet comes from the Greek words chamai meaning on the ground and buxus meaning the boxwood genus in reference to the boxwood-like leaves of this spreading, shrubby ground-cover.

‘Kimniski’ is a vigorous cultivar with purple and yellow flowers. It grows slightly taller than species plants (to 10” tall).

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Best in open woodland gardens or part shade areas of rock gardens or border fronts. Ground cover.