Garden Phlox is a colorful mainstay of the late summer garden. A dependable perennial, it is basically a wildflower which has become as at home in residential yards and gardens as it is along roadsides and stream beds throughout the North. Thanks to European breeders, American homeowners can choose from a wide range of colors and sizes of hybrid forms of this type of phlox. They are a favorite of butterflies. Properly cared for, these plants, (also called summer phlox, perennial phlox or border phlox) will give many years of delight.
As a wildflower garden phlox grows from the eastern side of the Appalachian Mountain range to the western banks of the Mississippi River. It can be seen in fields and at woodland edges as far North as the Great Lakes and south to Tennessee. Its cultivated cousins are hardy in areas where temperatures go no lower than -20°F in the winter.
Size: Wild growing phlox are likely to reach 6 feet in height, whereas varieties developed for the residential yard are usually 3 or 4 feet tall. Phlox grow from clumps of massed fibrous roots which spread from 18 to 24 inches, eventually needing dividing.
Foliage: The leaves of garden phlox are 3 to 6 inches long, smooth and light green. They are narrowly oval to lance-shaped with finely toothed edges and pointed ends. The lower leaves on each stem grow individually at different heights on the stem, while the upper leaves near the flowers grow in pairs opposite each other on the stem.
Flowers: Garden phlox bloom from mid-summer to early fall. Their bloom is extended if their spent flower heads are clipped off before they develop seeds. Individual 1 inch wide flowers with 5 petals grow in dome-shaped 3 or 4 inch wide clusters at the ends of the tall, upright stalks. Flower colors range from the familiar rose-magenta of the wild forms, to the pink, red, blue, purple and white of the many cultivated types. Some have "eyes", or centers, of contrasting colors. Most kinds of garden phlox have fragrance.
Garden Phlox Choices
Phlox with reddish, orange and salmon flowers tend to be scentless and more prone to problems. However, they are also most attractive to hummingbirds.
Some good varieties which are supposed to be somewhat resistant to powdery mildew include:
‘Dodo Hanbury Forbes’ (light pink)
‘Harlequin’ (purple), has variegated leaves, takes light shade
‘Mt. Fuji’ (white), reliable late season bloom
‘The King’ (deep purple), good late season bloomer
‘David’ large-headed white, disease resistant
‘Nora Leigh’ (lavender) has variegated green and cream leaves; less vigorous