Phlox has been cultivated for centuries because they’re easy to grow and are American natives.
Thought of by many gardeners to be the best of all perennials, the phlox family includes some of the most widely grown garden favorites, among them varieties such as creeping phlox (P. stolonifera) and modern phlox (P. subulata). Wonderfully fragrant and long-blooming, these beauties come in a medley of colors ranging from the palest pink to ruby red.
Set out new plants in either fall or late spring. They will self-sow in late summer if seed pods are allowed to ripen on the stalks. Sow fresh seeds 1/4-inch deep in full sun, where you want them to grow, as soon as trees leaf out.
Powdery mildew often afflicts phlox, so keep your plants a few feet apart and take out about one-third of the total stalks, to allow good air circulation. Cut down the stalks in fall.
Secrets to success: Divide clumps of perennials and phlox about every three years, to keep them vigorous. Cut back the plant by one-third after flowering, and then dig it up and divide.
Many phlox self-sow, and usually revert to magenta color. To prevent this, deadhead (cut off faded blooms) often and rigorously. Always pinch back the weaker stems to prolong flowering and to encourage branching. Cut phlox make fabulous bouquets — they’re long-lasting and very fragrant.
The name phlox comes from the Greek word meaning flame. Phlox paniculata is commonly known as fall phlox or garden phlox. The low-growing variety, phlox divancata, is called Sweet William.
The soil should be moist but well-drained and deeply cultivated. Enrich with organic plant food, as phlox are heavy feeders.
Few plants demand to little attention.