Abstract In plants with a wide distribution, phenological characters can be expected to vary clinally along climatic gradients, whereas other characters important for adaptation to local biotic and abiotic factors may vary in a more mosaic fashion. We used common-garden experiments and controlled crosses to examine population differentiation in phenology, life history and morphology in the perennial herb Lythrum salicaria along a latitudinal transect through Sweden (57°N to 66°N). Northern populations initiated growth and flowering earlier, flowered for a shorter period, were shorter, produced more and larger winter buds, and were older at first reproduction than southern populations. Flower morphology varied significantly among populations, but was, with the exception of calyx length, not significantly related to latitude of origin. Survival in the common garden (at 63°49′N) was positively correlated with latitude of origin and the size and number of winter buds produced in the preceding year. The results suggest that the among-population differences in phenology and life history have evolved in response to latitudinal variation in length of the growing season. Further studies are required to determine whether population differentiation in flower morphology is maintained by selection.