Many gardeners love Phlox because of their prolonged and staggered bloom phases, easy maintenance, and versatility in the perennial garden. Despite their delicate florets, they’re actually very tough: they are extremely cold hardy and bounce back from critters nibbling on them. And beneficial bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds adore these New England natives.
Phlox can be found in three forms:
Phlox subulata, also known as Creeping Phlox or Moss Phlox, is an excellent spring-flowering groundcover. Excellent planted in masses creeping over stone embankments, slopes, under trees, and tucked into borders. Creeping phlox is the earliest phlox to bloom, often in mid to late spring, and forms a dense mound of soft-looking
foliage packed with colorful blossoms that last for several weeks. Colors and blooms styles range widely, but often include white, pink, red, purple, or blue. Most like full sun for best blooming, but can adjust to part shade. Average soil and moisture needs. No special care is required. Will often reach several feet wide, and can be massed with other colors for a fantastic patchwork effect.
Phlox paniculata, also known as Garden Phlox or Tall Phlox, is a great late-summer-blooming perennial plant for the middle to back of borders. Many gardeners appreciate it for its later bloom time, when other perennials are wrapping up their summer blooms, and
smoothes the garden’s transition into fall. It’s a great way to dot in colorful blooms at knee height, serving as a “back up singer” to the shorter perennial stars taking center stage. ‘David’ is the tallest Phlox variety, shown in picture, and shows off pure white blooms that last for several weeks. When the plant has finished its show in autumn, simply snip of the spent stems and enjoy them again next year.
Phlox stolonifera/divaricata, also known as Woodland Phlox, is a great choice for woodland borders, under trees, and part-shade gardens. An incredibly versatile and hardy perennial, Woodland Phlox adds a delicate ‘wildflower’ touch with light, airy flowers in pink, lilac-blue or white. Woodland phlox can also be grown in sunny gardens, but afternoon shade and moist soil is crucial. Pollinators include tiger swallowtails, skippers, bumblebees, hummingbirds, and clearwing and sphinx moths. You can deadhead the plant, and may see a second flush of blooms arise.
A Word on Powdery Mildew
Older varieties of Phlox can be susceptible to powdery mildew in high heat and humidity, which can eventually kill the plant. Keep the plants spaced out for good air circulation, and water at the base of the plant — not over its leaves. Err on the side of drier soil, and avoid overwatering. Many newer varieties of Phlox have increased resistance to powdery mildew, and perform very well.