LYTHRUM Loosestrife

This water-loving plant is at its best in boggy ground by the poolside or in the wild garden, but it will grow quite happily in humus-rich soil in the herbaceous border. The leaves are dark green and elongated – above them rise the narrow flower spikes, densely packed with pink or red starry blooms. These spikes are colourful, prolific and long-lasting – Lythrum is a good choice if you have moist soil. Mulch in spring, water copiously if the ground is dry and cut the stems down to ground level in autumn.

VARIETIES: The basic species is L. salicaria – it can reach 5 or 6 ft. but the named varieties are shorter and generally more attractive – height 2.5-4 ft. Spacing 1.5 ft.

Flowering period: June-September. One of the brightest is ‘The Beacon’ (3 ft. crimson) – other popular types are ‘Lady Sackville’ (4 ft. rose-pink) and ‘Firecandle’ (3 ft. rose-red). For the middle of the border choose ‘Robert’ (2.5 ft. pink). L. virgatum is a smaller species with daintier spikes – named varieties include ‘Rose Queen’ (2 ft. rose-pink) and ‘The Rocket’ (2 ft. deep pink).

SITE AND SOIL: Any moisture-retentive garden soil will do – thrives in sun or partial shade.

PROPAGATION: Divide mature clumps in autumn or spring. Alternatively plant basal cuttings in a cold frame in April.

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