Garden Phlox, An Old Favorite Making A Return
Garden phlox, botanical name Phlox paniculata, is one of those garden plants that sometimes seem to belong to a past generation. Part of this may be because for many years annuals have taken over flower gardens where once perennials held sway. Seed packets of Garden phlox for a long time have not sold as well as many of the other flower seeds on the market. This may be changing.
The Plant May Outlast You - There are numerous varieties of phlox, 50 or more at latest count, and a number of them are hybrids. Some varieties are better known than others and Phlox paniculata, Garden phlox, is the best known of all. This perennial is a tall plant, growing from 3' to 6' and, growing in clumps, will bush out anywhere from 1' to 3'. If planted in good soil, in a proper climate, and given normal care, Garden phlox is a long lived plant. One owner claims to have a plant that has faithfully bloomed every year for 50 years!
This plant is native to North America but did not become a fixture in private gardens until it had first been introduced to Europe, and then reintroduced to the United States as a "wonderful garden plant". Garden phlox grows wild in many areas of the eastern part of the country. Its blossoms are usually pink, though occasionally lavender or white, and have what is considered by many to be a "wonderful fragrance".
General Care - Like most garden perennials, phlox prefers fertile, well-drained soil, and will do best either in full sun or partial shade. The plant will do fine in soil that is mildly acidic, neutral or mildly alkaline. This plant has average watering requirements, and does not like over-watering. Powdery mildew can sometimes be a problem, but this is usually not the case if overhead watering is avoided. Garden experts recommend dividing the clumps every 5 years or so. Dividing is also a good means of propagation. Seeds can be collected from the Garden phlox, but many of the phlox varieties are hybrids and the seeds will be sterile. Propagation may also be achieved through stem cuttings.
A Tough Cookie - Garden phlox is hardy in USDA zones 4 - 8. Naturally growing in the wild, it is a tough plant, virtually indestructible according to some. During the summer blooming season, one of the main problems you may face is that the stems can sometimes be knocked down by heavy rains or strong winds, so staking the stems is a good idea, unless the plant is in a somewhat sheltered location. The blossoms can become quite large and heavy, which of course contributes to the problem. Rudebeckia, Coreopsis, and Veronica are all ideal companion plants to the Garden phlox.
Other Popular Phlox Varieties - Three other varieties of phlox worth considering are Border phlox (sometimes referred to as Summer phlox), Meadow phlox, and John Fanick Garden phlox. Growing conditions are similar for these three varieties. Border phlox is a shorter variety, growing to a height of around 3'. It features pure white flowers and is noted for its resistance to powdery mildew. It blooms from early summer to early fall, somewhat sooner than is the case with Garden phlox. Meadow phlox is even shorter, averaging about a foot and a half in height, and has blossoms ranging from lavender-pink, to lilac-pink, in addition to white. The John Fanick Garden phlox plant is noted for its bicolor lavender and pink blossoms. Of the many phlox varieties, it is particularly tolerant of heat and drought conditions. All three of these phlox varieties, in addition to Garden phlox, do a stellar job of attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.
If you place a Garden phlox plant or two in your garden, you may well be the first in your neighborhood to do so, but you'll no doubt soon start getting questions as to what kind of plant you have, and others will soon follow suit.