suggestions-Spring blue compact flower (Lithodora nightmare)

funnthsun z7A - Southern VAApril 2, 2010

OK, so I have Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox along the edge of one of my beds and I HAD Grace Ward Lithodora kind of every other one mixed in with the phlox. Well, it was absolutely stunning the first year until I killed all of the lithodora. Thought it didn't like being watered directly on the plants, so bought all new ones the next year and started watering AROUND them. That worked for a while, another beautiful spring and I thought I had figured it all out--until they started to die, one by one. Now, the current theory, being right on the line of Zone 7a & 7b, is that when they say "Morning sunlight only", boy, they really mean it on this particular guy! Again, just a theory. I have bought one more (Yikes) and put it in morning sun only just to prove or disprove the theory. If this one croaks, I am NEVER buying one again (even though they are one of my favs). I tell you, this one is my Gardenia, whatever I do they die!

So, I need to fill in the holes that Grace Ward left behind. I so loved the purple and dark/bright blue combination. Do any of you guys have suggestions for something that looks and acts like Phlox but blooms very close to the same color blue as Grace Ward? I know I am asking for a lot but I so loved that combo! It obviously needs to be a Spring bloomer as well. FYI - I really don't like baby blue or purples that they call blue when they are really purple. Looking for a true blue here! The area gets sun from about 1 pm to 3:30 or 4 pm, typically. Dappled shade in the morning hours.

Thanks soooo, soooo much!

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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Veronica 'Georgia Blue' might work. It seems to handle most any exposure here.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 6:07PM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

I thought about Georgia Blue Veronica but Plant Delights (my local nursery) says that it blooms Feb - the 1st of April. Well, it's April 2nd now and my creeping phlox is just now starting to bloom, so I wasn't sure if Veronica would bloom at the same time here or too early to be paired with phlox. ??????

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 6:42PM
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My phlox subulata is in full bloom right now. True blue and short and early spring is a challenge. You must be near me if Plant Delights is local for you.

Bluestone Perennials shows a photo of phlox subulata Scarlet Flame, White and Blue. I can't say how blue the blue really is, but here's the link.

Cameron (in Chapel Hill)

Here is a link that might be useful: phlox collection

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 9:16PM
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brody(z7 WA)

'Georgia Blue' was what I was thinking too or possibly Omphalodes 'Cherry Ingram'. Neither is as intense in color as Lithodora, though. There are a few other Veronicas out there that might work like Veronica pectinata, but again, not as deep in color although deeper than I'd call baby blue.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 12:22AM
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tepelus(6a SW MI)

Would aubrieta (rock cress) or myosotis (forget-me-not) work for you?


    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 7:29AM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

If you don't come up with the right blue perennial, you might think about bulbs. What about grape hyacinths? Or annuals. Ultima Morpho pansies are spectacular this time of year, and they are fragrant. Or contrast. I have a golden leaved veronica that looks great all season and it is gorgeous with blue flowers.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 9:23AM
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I'm surprised about the Lithodora. Here it thrives in full sun all day but it does require very well drained soil - it does not tolerate moist winter soils very well. And it is not very happy in summer humid climates. I'd second the Veronica 'Georgia Blue' as a possible substitute - IME, it blooms sporadically beginning in early spring all though summer and into fall. The only time it is really out of bloom in my garden is midwinter and under mild conditions, can even push a few flowers then.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 10:30AM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

Bulbs is defin a no go for me, as are annuals. Definately looking for a perennial. I know this is a hard one, but I am thinking about Veronica since it sounds like it might actually bloom in the Spring here.

Aubrieta is too lavender, whatever I pick has to be true blue to be enough of a contrast with the purple beauty phlox. The Omphalodes looks promising, from what I can tell from the google pics. I'm not familiar with that one, so will have to do some research. Off to do that now!

Gardengal - Yes, VERY humid here in the summer and the soil has tons of clay in it when you dig down past 3 inches in that area. Lithodora looks great in the Spring, but just fries in the Summer. They basically start drying out and getting crispy brown from the crown and it works its way out until all is crispy. It defin. isn't from lack of water either, as I figured out the first year.

Thanks for everyone's input so far!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 4:02PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I have killed more Lithodora than I can shake a stick at. No clue why, they seem to grow like weeds there. Non gardening neighbors have them....I don't do well with Ajuga or Corydalis either. Curse of the true blues...:(

I have a spreading blue campanula that does really well but I don't know it's name. Got it at a plant swap.

I do better with Muscari than I'd like, it is taking over but other than that blue eludes me.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 5:36PM
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chills71(Zone 6b Mi)

I know you said bulbs are a no - no, but Glory of the Snow (chondoxia I think) is a blue I wouldn't be without here.

I tried with Meconopsis last year, but after blooming it lasted about a month. I am not expecting it to be back, sadly...

I've got vinca Illumination and anenome (grecian windflowers) blooming now, but they really are more of a blue-purple than the Glory of the Snow bulbs. Still looks great with the daffs, tulips such.

of course, this is very early for me to have tulips and hyacinths open. Everything else is just about on schedule.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 9:04PM
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SusanC(9b/10a Sunset 17)

Maybe Commelina dianthifolia, 'Electric Blue' would work for that spot.

Here is a link that might be useful: Commelina dianthifolia, 'Electric Blue'

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 11:18PM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

I should have been clearer about the bulb thing. No bulbs that I have to dig up every year, LOL! Bulbs that will overwinter in zone 7 would be welcome!

Chiondoxia is a little light in color for what I am going for, but they are pretty, thanks for the suggestion.

buyorsell - I am glad to know that I'm not the only Lithodora killer out there. I am not a novice gardener at all, but it does seem that just a look from me and they are up in flames!

The navelwort suggestion (Omphalodes) has me very interested as does the Georgia Blue Veronica. Both are low-growing (mostly) and very blue. The Cherry Ingram variety of Omphalodes doesn't seem to pose a problem with too much spread, but I can't seem to find a source for it. Looks like it's more popular in the UK. I'll keep looking but am very interested in that one.

Thanks, if anyone has anything else, I will be glad for it! You guys, as usual, are a great resource.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 9:22PM
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gonativegal(zone 5a)

Here's a few more suggestions for short spring blooming blue perennials:

Phlox divaricata - Woodland Blue Phlox - Spreads by above ground runners and sometimes seeds as well. A real eye catcher.

Phlox stolonifera - Another creeping Blue Phlox looks almost identical to P. divaricata but a little less upright.

Iris cristata - Dwarf iris which forms a groundcover. Puple/Blue with a yellow eye.

Polemonium reptens - American Jacob's Ladder. This is my favorite - sky blue flowers and will seed happily if in good soil with lots of leaf mold incorporated in.

Polemonium caeruleum - European version of Jacob's Ladder (a little taller then the native version). It's more upright and though the flowers are lovely I find it to be a little weedier looking then the native.

Pulmonaria - various cultivars. Gorgeous foliage and lovely blue flowers on some varieties.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 6:23PM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

Looking for the bright and vibrant blue that is the character of Lithodora. I have tried Pulmonaria, but it is a bit weedy looking for the front of the border for me. It's the right color, though, but not compact enough.

Thanks for the suggestions! I'll keep trudging through all the blue flowers!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 8:53PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Do you remember which pulmonaria you tried? There are a couple of different species (and hybrids between them) and while some tend to run, and look unkempt, others make nice, neat mounds. For example, for me Johnson's Blue is much better behaved than Mrs. Moon.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 9:43PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I agree, some pulmonarias are nicer than others. I'm a fan of those that don't mildew in summer. Have a new one that I really like 'Trevi Fountain'

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 1:04PM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

OK, idiot moment. I went back to find the variety of pulmonaria in my garden tag book and it wasn't pulmonaria at all! It was plumbago, LOL.

Hey, Lungwort--Leadwort, tomAYto--tomATo :)

Sorry about that. I had a hard time finding a pic of Johnson's blue, but the Trevi Fountain was very nice. I do think you guys are right, though, it is definately a mostly sun area and I don't think pulmonaria would make it in that area. But, maybe under the pear tree... ;-)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 11:49PM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

Just a suggestion - why don't you put your zone and area in your "byline". It makes it much easier for people to know your zone and where you live and what suggestions to give you. Trust me, you are still pretty anonymous even if you give out your state.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 7:11AM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

Well, I did indicate my zone in the first post very specifically. It gets kind of repetitive and annoying to type it in every time. Wish you could just add it permanently to your info, that would be much better!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 8:25AM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

OK, just went into my profile and found the spot for it to autofill each time. Finally! Now I don't have to type it-yeah!

Been on GardenWeb for a hundred years, but who remembers the options at original sign up? Yikes!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 9:06AM
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joejarvis(USDA-5b AHS-7 KS)

I'd second chills recomendation for Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa spp.). They're perennial, naturalize well, low growing, bright blue, and bloom at the same time.

You could also look for a bluer Iris reticulata. I don't think they'll naturalize as well though.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia entry for Chionodoxa spp.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 10:35AM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

I like the look of Glory-of-the-Snow, but there seems to be some argument as to if it is truly invasive or not. Maybe it's a zone thing. I am a bit worried about it taking over!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 9:43PM
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Maryl zone 7a

They've been selling Grace Ward Lithodora for the last couple of years around here at the box stores and I can guarantee that most people will end up as disappointed as you. It is not a plant that likes hot humid summers anymore then delphiniums do (and I can't tell you how many of those I've lost trying to ignore my zone). I've seen a spectacular planting of Grace Ward, but it was in New Zealand, and the southern United States has little in common with New Zealands summers. If you will consider bulbs consider Muscari Aucheri 'Ocean Magic' or one of the other bright blue Muscari (or even a combination of blue colors). Muscari's bloom just about this time of year in my area. An easier care bulb I can't imagine and they will naturalize with ease.

Here is a link that might be useful: Muscari

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 2:03PM
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Maryl preempted me by recommending Muscari or grape Hyacinth. I don't know what gave you the idea that you have to dig it up every year. Maybe after many years you pull up some bulbletsif there are too many in a given spot but otherwise they are bullet proof. I also have clay but I worked on the soil before I planted my roses there. The Muscari is a great complementary plant for the rose beds - they start blooming much earlier but keep going even when the roses start blooming. Excellent little bulbs in many shades of blue.

Another favorite plants of mine is Veronica Crater Lake Blue, a short growing edging plant that start blooming later and blooms more or less all summer. This plant is a perennial and its color is similar to Lithodora if my memory does not fail me. I killed a wonderful big plant of this a few years back when I tried to divide it but now I ordered several, they are coming this week.
(I failed with Lithodora so many times that I won't look at that plant again no matter how beautiful it is.)

Hardy geraniums in blue are also plants I treasure (but not Johnson Blue that hates the south).

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 8:00PM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

No, I wasn't saying that you had to dig those up in particular, I was just saying in general that I didn't want to put down bulbs that I would have to dig up (tulips, for instance) but I would consider a bulb that would overwinter in my zone.

I'll have to do a bit of research on muscari. I know I have one variety and it is definately too purple and a bit too aggressive (it's currently blooming in my lawn--which is not where it is planted), but I am sure there might be others that wouldn't be quite so aggressive. They definately are the right height and they do bloom at the exact same time as my phlox.

The Crater Lake Blue is gorgeous! I just googled it and that really looks like the color I am looking for. It says 18" tall, though! Does it get that tall for you? That deep blue color seems to be so hard to find, though, I may just have to deal with the height. Thanks so much for that suggestion!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 3:09PM
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No it wasn't so tall for me, maybe 12-14". There is another gorgeous blue, my other favorite, sinaloa sage. Stays low, has the same blue and the added beauty is bronze foliage and blooms all summer. Alas, it isn't hardy (though it should be) even here, so I lift up some and overwinter somewhere in a pot because it is very difficult to find a vendor that carries it. Last fall I forgot to list a few and now I don't have any:-(((( and no vendor has it.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 3:50PM
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funnthsun, I'm puzzled over your comment about bulbs that won't overwinter and must be dug up, particularly tulips. I'm also in USDA Zone 7, coastal NJ, and all manner of bulbs do just fine here (excepting the tender ones like glads, amaryllis and canna, of course, though some people claim to have overwintered the latter two in protected locations with a good mulch).

My tulips keep coming back year after year. My dad and I had a running joke about it because he kept throwing his away each year thinking they'd never bloom again. So I asked him to please throw the next bunch my way. He did. I planted. Next spring he asked about the beautiful tulips at the end of the drive ... my reply? "What tulips, you know those won't come back." He'd laugh and shrug his shoulders. It became a spring ritual.

Galanthus, chionodoxa, squill, camassia, tulips, daffodils of all sorts, muscari, allium, lilies, fritillaria (checkered lily), lycoris ... all come back year after year without being lifted or given any other special attention.

Sorry to hear the reviews on the lithodora 'Grace Ward', as I just fell in love with the evergreen foliage and awesome blue flowers and had to try one. Will place it in my sandy soil where it will get good morning sun, then dappled shade from around 11:00 on, and hope for the best; there's not much one can do about the humidity.

I wish could tell you which pulmonaria I have: neat, compact habit and that same Grace Ward blue, but it only gets a few hours of morning sun, so may not be right for your needs.

What a delightful selection of blues your post has brought forth! Hope you find one that works for your taste and situation.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 12:22AM
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I'd give Lithodora one more try. I lost my first one which turned black a few weeks after planting, thinking it was an easy plant to grow. But It is quite a fussy plant if put in the wrong soil conditions and over-watered. Here is a pic of mine below once I got it right. and here are some tips.

Lithodora is lime-hating, so if you live in a hard water area you shouldn't simply water from the tap to begin with. Plant using ericaceous soil, or add sulfur powder mixed in with normal soil. That takes 2 months to make the soil sufficiently acidic so that tap water can be used as a means for watering for establishment of the plant..If you are fortunate to live in a soft water area then you can dispense with this preparation.

The soil texture needs to be porous and well=draining, so use a peaty soil with plenty of grit mixed in. If you have a clay soil then that needs to be made porous by digging in plenty of peat and grit before planting..

Lithodora needs watering weekly for the first 2 months after planting. If you get plenty of rain in this period you can skip on the watering. Once established it shouldn't need further watering unless you have a prolonged hot dry spell. If you tend to have hot dry summers you need to mulch thoroughly so that water is conserved in the soil. Gravel placed on the surface around the plant works well as a mulch. But remember that once established Lithodora is drought-tolerant, so never over-water even when newly planted.

Finally plant in full-sun conditions or part-time shade if not possible. If planted in full time shade it won't flower much, if at all.

This post was edited by bendipa on Sat, Jun 22, 13 at 11:05

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 10:58AM
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I propagated Veronica Crater Lake Blue from seed. It is pure blue alright, but here all the superlatives end. The flowers are very short lasting is summer heat, and the whole plant is a total mess after the first rain/wind combination.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 2:04PM
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