All About Phlox

all about phloxall about phlox

Phlox is a large group of plants that includes native plants, annual plants and perennials, as well as both upright and creeping forms. The upright form has many different named varieties with flowers that vary from blues to reds and white; it is usually called Garden Phlox. The low-growing, mounding form is called Creeping Phlox.

When someone mentions phlox to me, I automatically picture the large blooms on the upright Garden Phlox, which work so well in romantic cottage gardens and lush perennial borders. With mid to late-summer flowers that stand out, and often above, other late summer annuals and perennials, Garden Phlox can be a well-placed design tool in the landscape.

Phlox was indeed grown by our grandparents and is frequently celebrated as an easy to grow perennial. Appreciated because of its large bloom and rich summer color, Garden phlox has been a favorite in many heirloom gardens for decades, yet still manages to look at home in 21st century gardens too.

Phlox is a Native Plant that Attracts Native Pollinators

The original Garden phloxes are those that have a native range from New York across to the Midwest and all way to the Gulf Coast. They are therefore acclimated to grow throughout the season with a tough hardiness, a multitude of blooms, and a dependable nature that allows the plants to thrive and flower for many years. All varieties of phlox attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators to the garden.

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Bumble bees, along with honey bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators are frequent visitors to Phlox blooms.

The creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) is a perennial that is native to the eastern seaboard and is not usually grown from seed. Colors vary but are similar in range to the garden phlox – blues, pinks, whites and reds. Some attractive candy stripe varieties are available as well as solid colors. Once established, this delightful edging plant thrives with very little care from the gardener. They rarely get problems with mildew but can be killed by soggy soil, particularly in late winter. A deer and rabbit resistant plant, this perennial groundcover also tolerates drought once established.

Phlox Characteristics to Look for:

Mildew resistant: With so many varieties on the market, there are plenty of choices. Finding one that is mildew resistant should be high on your list of characteristics, particularly if you are in an area of hot humid summers. Some great mildew resistant varieties include David which is a white blooming standard for any garden. Other phlox that are mildew resistant include Blue FlameBlue Paradise and Goliath.

Container Growing: Smaller garden spaces and container growers do better with some of the shorter varieties that only get to about 2 feet in height. Coral Flame does well in containers as well as at the front of a perennial garden. Other shorter phlox varieties include Blue FlameForever Pink and Pixie Miracle Grace, all of which are also mildew-resistant.

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<a href="/perennials/phlox/creeping-phlox-home-fires">Home Fires Creeping Phlox</a> spills gracefully over container edges.
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<a href="/perennials/phlox/phlox-david">David</a> is a white-blooming, phlox that looks great planted with yellow Coreopsis.

Native: Many of the garden phloxes are native and you can find ones that do best in your area. Blue ParadiseBlue Moon Woodland Phlox and Home Fires Creeping Phlox are just some of the phlox varieties that you can enjoy in your native garden.

Color: The garden phlox is available in a range of colors from white to red to purple and blue so there is one to fit almost any garden color scheme. Berry colored Red Super works well against a backdrop of quieter colors such as white hydrangeas. whereas the pretty pink of Flamingo works well with other pastel cleomes or with a backdrop of an evergreen shrub.

  1. Scarlet Flame Creeping Phlox, Phlox subulata

    'Scarlet Flame' Creeping Phlox ushers in spring vibrantly with its star-shaped, magenta-pink blooms. A drought-tolerant evergreen, this perennial groundcover creates a dense mat of 6...

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    Scarlet Flame Creeping Phlox Scarlet Flame Creeping Phlox Phlox subulata Scarlet Flame
    As low as $11.98 Sale $5.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Scarlet Flame' Creeping Phlox ushers in spring vibrantly with its star-shaped, magenta-pink blooms. A drought-tolerant evergreen, this perennial groundcover creates a dense mat of 6 inch blooms atop needle-like foliage. Plant 'Scarlet Flame' in tricky areas like steep banks and rock walls to watch its flowers skillfully spread. Very cold hardy. (Phlox subulata)
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  2. Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox, Phlox subulata

    'Purple Beauty' Creeping Phlox creates a mat of bright purple blooms paired with deep violet center eyes and grass-like foliage. This 4-6" tall spreading perennial flowers in the spr...

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    Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox Phlox subulata Purple Beauty
    As low as $12.98 Sale $6.49
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Purple Beauty' Creeping Phlox creates a mat of bright purple blooms paired with deep violet center eyes and grass-like foliage. This 4-6" tall spreading perennial flowers in the springtime under full sun, but can be planted under trees that leaf out and create shade later in the season. Drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, 'Purple Beauty' carries a sweet fragrance that attracts butterflies. (Phlox subulata)
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  3. Creeping Phlox Emerald Blue, Phlox subulata

    'Emerald Blue' Creeping Phlox is a fast-spreading, low-growing perennial groundcover that creates a carpet of pale lavender-blue flowers in spring. Extremely easy to grow, its early ...

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    Emerald Blue Creeping Phlox Emerald Blue Creeping Phlox Phlox subulata Emerald Blue
    As low as $11.98 Sale $5.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Emerald Blue' Creeping Phlox is a fast-spreading, low-growing perennial groundcover that creates a carpet of pale lavender-blue flowers in spring. Extremely easy to grow, its early season blooms last for weeks and attract butterflies. Deer resistant and drought tolerant once mature. (Phlox subulata)
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  4. Amazing Grace Creeping Phlox, Phlox subulata

    Amazing Grace Creeping Phlox welcomes spring with a flush of white blooms bearing a vibrant magenta eye. Petals may take on a flush of pink to complement the rosy highlights. Needle-...

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    Amazing Grace Creeping Phlox Amazing Grace Creeping Phlox Phlox subulata Amazing Grace
    As low as $11.98 Sale $5.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Amazing Grace Creeping Phlox welcomes spring with a flush of white blooms bearing a vibrant magenta eye. Petals may take on a flush of pink to complement the rosy highlights. Needle-like, evergreen foliage forms a dense mat making a lush groundcover perfect for cascading over walls or across slopes. Flowers attract butterflies to the garden. (Phlox subulata)
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  5. Woodland Phlox Blue Moon

    'Blue Moon' is a lovely native Phlox groundcover featuring clouds of rich violet-blue blooms that float above green foliage. With fragrance to wake up your senses, it flowers in Apr...

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    Blue Moon Woodland Phlox Woodland Phlox Blue Moon, Wild Sweet William Phlox divaricata Blue Moon
    As low as $11.98 Sale $5.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Blue Moon' is a lovely native Phlox groundcover featuring clouds of rich violet-blue blooms that float above green foliage. With fragrance to wake up your senses, it flowers in April May. Its a perfect addition to a rock garden or any shady spot where it can slowly naturalize. Provides early season pollen for hummingbirds and butterflies. (Phlox divaricata)
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  6. Pink Phlox, Phlox Paniculata Bright Eyes

    'Bright Eyes' is a long-lasting phlox, sharing its pale pink blooms spotted with deep magenta eyes from mid summer through fall. This old fashioned variety attracts butterflies and b...

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    Bright Eyes Phlox Garden Phlox Bright Eyes Phlox paniculata Bright Eyes
    $12.98 Sale $6.49
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Bright Eyes' is a long-lasting phlox, sharing its pale pink blooms spotted with deep magenta eyes from mid summer through fall. This old fashioned variety attracts butterflies and birds to the garden with its large, perfumy flower clusters. 'Bright Eyes' produces strong stems that rarely need staking and makes an excellent cutting flower. (Phlox paniculata)
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  7. Red Phlox Starfire, Phlox paniculata, Garden Phlox

    'Starfire' Phlox is a standout variety with striking, cherry-red flowers and dark burgundy-bronze leaves. Its fragrant, showy blooms attract a variety of pollinators to the garden, i...

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    Starfire Phlox Garden Phlox Starfire Phlox paniculata Starfire
    $11.98 Sale $5.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Starfire' Phlox is a standout variety with striking, cherry-red flowers and dark burgundy-bronze leaves. Its fragrant, showy blooms attract a variety of pollinators to the garden, including hummingbirds and butterflies. With vibrant color and an enthusiastic tendency to rebloom after deadheading, 'Starfire' makes a great addition to cutting gardens and summer bouquets. Prefers full sun. (Phlox paniculata)
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  8. 'Fashionably Early Princess' Phlox

    Fashionably Early Princess' Phlox PP#28680 is the first one to the party, blooming in mid-spring before most garden phlox have even woken up. There's no waiting on this diva! Generou...

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    Fashionably Early Princess Phlox Fashionably Early Princess Phlox PP#28680 Phlox Fashionably Early Princess PP#28680
    $12.98 Sale $6.49
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Fashionably Early Princess' Phlox PP#28680 is the first one to the party, blooming in mid-spring before most garden phlox have even woken up. There's no waiting on this diva! Generous amethyst purple flower clusters attract pollinators and add charm to spring displays. Plant in rich, well-drained soil that receives sun to part shade. Exceptional mildew resistance. (Phlox paniculata)
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Scent: Phlox is famous for its perfumy aroma, lending its delicious vanilla-clove scent to the garden, and to any room where it's been cut and placed in a vase. Plant phlox where you can walk past them, sit near them, or enjoy from your window.

Growing Phlox from Seed: Some of the garden phlox varieties come true from seed, many do not. This includes both annual and perennial phlox varieties. Some that do come true from seed each year include Drummondii variety which is bright red and native to Texas, as well as the Blue Flame which is a delightful blue color.

With so many varieties to choose from you can find the perfect one for your garden and most people can find more than one for different parts of their landscape.

Growing Phlox From Seed

In warmer areas try sowing the seed in fall rather than in spring, but in areas with very cold winters (zones 5 and lower) start the seeds about two months before your last spring frost date. Annual phlox will germinate in about a week, while the perennials take up to a month to germinate. The seeds should be kept covered and in the dark to germinate (try putting the seed tray in a black garbage bag to keep it dark).

When the seeds germinate, put them in full sun just like your other seedlings and keep them moist. The perennial phlox seedlings can be put into the garden when they are large enough to handle easily. They do grow slowly the first year and usually do not bloom until year 2. Annual phlox will bloom the first year and set seed which can be collected or, in mild areas, left to self-seed for next year.

Dividing Phlox Like A Pro

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Early blooming Creeping Phlox are great additions to rock gardens.
Creeping phlox are spring-blooming, so should be divided after they have bloomed. Dig a spade vertically into the groundcover and gently lift one part up. Take this part of the plant and replant in another area of the garden.

For garden phlox, the best time to divide is early spring when the plant is coming out of dormancy and you can clearly see how large they have spread. Again, dig down and lift one piece of the plant out and plant in another area.


About the Author: Kate Copsey is a garden writer, educator and speaker. She is also the author of The Downsized Veggie Garden: How to Garden Small – Wherever You Live, Whatever Your Space.

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