Purple Phuopsis stylosa flower clusters
(Image credit: Ottochka)

Ornamental ground cover plants have many uses. Most are planted in landscapes which are otherwise inhospitable, such as in deep shade or to cover very steep hills or embankments. These low-growers help gardeners keep an aesthetically pleasing and tidy appearance, even where growing conditions are less than ideal. In learning more about various species of ground cover plants available, you may want to explore Phuopsis stylosa purpurea, also known as Caucasian crosswort. Though creeping crosswort plants can be quite beautiful, there are several key points to consider for their successful growth.

What is Crosswort Plant?

Crosswort plant is a fast-growing perennial ground cover. Reaching only 6 inches (15 cm.) in height at maturity, Phuopsis stylosa spreads to form a dense, tangled mass of plant matter. Thick, ornamental growth works to prevent light from reaching the soil, and ultimately, prevent the growth of weeds. Lush, green leaves spread the length of each stem and are arranged in a circular pattern. Commonly referred to as “skunk plant,” plants are known for their noticeable musky odor. Once in bloom, each stem will produce clusters of very small violet-purple blooms. Depending upon the region, the bloom period of this plant will usually last several weeks, spanning from late spring into mid-summer.

What Crosswort Requires

Established plantings of crosswort are highly adaptable to various soil types, but require a planting site that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. Though the plant is able to withstand prolonged periods of drought, it’s important to carefully consider its requirements for growth before planting. Despite being hardy to USDA growing zones 5-8, crosswort grows best in regions with cool summer temperatures, rather than those which are hot and humid. In fact, plants commonly show signs of sun damage in the form of leaf burn, premature leaf drop, and overall stunted growth in regions with especially warm weather.


Phuopsis stylosa seeds germinate readily and can be planted in either spring or fall. Where conditions are ideal, some growers have found success in sowing directly into the garden. Those who wish to start the seeds indoors, under grow lights, should do so at least 4-6 weeks before the arrival of the last frost. Once the seedlings have 2-3 sets of true leaves, the plants can be slowly hardened off and moved into their final location outdoors. Crosswort plants may also be propagated through soft rooted cuttings that have been taken in early summer.

Once planted into the garden, this species requires very little care. Since the plant is known to volunteer in flower beds, growers may need to deadhead frequently if they wish to prevent the plant’s spread. As it is resistant to most pests and diseases, crosswort seldom needs additional attention. If ornamental beds should happen to become overgrown, your plants can be trimmed or pruned to maintain the desired size and shape. As the season comes to a close in autumn, crosswort plants will begin to die back to the ground naturally, where they will remain dormant until the following spring.

Tonya Barnett

Tonya Barnett has been gardening for 13 years. Flowers are her passion. She has trasformed her backyard into a cut flower garden, which she regularly chronicles on her YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/@tonyawiththeflowers.