A family of sun loving annuals, perennials and half-hardy bedding plants. Phlox is a prolific flowering cottage garden favourite, available in a wide range of forms and colours.
Family: Polemoniaceae (Phlox family)
Botanical Name: Phlox
Common Names: moss pinks, ground pinks
Foliage: Evergreen or deciduous, simple lance-shaped, green leaves.
Flowers: Small saucer-shaped flowers in terminal clusters. Available in shades of yellow, white, pink, red, blue and purple (depending on variety). Often scented.
Flowering Period: July to early October.
Soil: Moist but well-drained, fertile soil (chalk, sand or loam). Any pH.
Conditions: Best in full sun, will tollerate some shade. Plant in an east, west or south facing aspect.
Habit: Bushy, mat-forming or erect.
Type: Annual or herbaceous perennial.
Origin: North America.
Hardiness: Most varieties are hardy in the UK.
Phlox are easy to grow plants that are perfect for borders and cottage gardens. The drummondii varieties (half-hardy annuals) make splendid bedding and potting plants. The taller herbaceous perennials are ideal for borders, while the dwarf perennials are excellent for the rock garden.
Plant in a sunny situation. Annual and herbaceous varieties thrive in deep, rich, moist but well-drained soil. Provide a moisture retentive soil for P. maculata and P. paniculata.
Add plenty of garden compost or well rotted organic matter to the soil when planting.
Water copiously in dry spells. Regularly deadhead to prolong flowering.
Stake taller varieties with twiggy sticks or canes and string.
Discard annuals after flowering. Clear away dead stems of perennials in autumn.
Divide herbaceous perennials regularly to maintain vigour.
Dead-head regularly, to extent the flowering season. Cut down to the base in late autumn.
Eelworm may infect shoots, stunting growth. Can also be affected by downy mildew and a leaf spot.
Sow in gentle heat in early spring, pot-on and plant out from mid-May once all danger of frost is past.
Cuttings of alpine species can be taken in early summer, from strong non-flowering shoots. Pot up individually when rooted, then overwinter in cold frame before planting out in following spring.
Alternatively, divide established clumps in autumn or spring or take root cuttings in winter.
A number of very good garden varieties are available:
Phlox x arendsii is a neat headed later flowering form. Good cultivars include 'Miss Mary' with clusters of large, cherry red blooms in summer. Available at Thompson & Morgan.
Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox, woodland phlox) is spreading semi-evergreen phlox that produces carpets of pale to deep lilac-blue flowers with narrow petals in summer. Good cultivars include 'Chattahoochee' - available at Gardening Express.
Phlox douglasii is a perennial alpine species that forms a spreading mat of green leaves, covered in pinkish lavender flowers in early summer. Height 6in (15cm), spread to 18in (45cm). Good cultivars include 'Crackerjack'.
Phlox drummondii is a very popular half-hardy annual bedding plant, available in a wide range of shades, including pink, salmon, crimson, violet and purple. Height 6-12in (15-30cm), spread 9in (22cm). Good varieties include 'Creme Brulee' with the large, clustered heads of dusky-pinks and peachy-creams - available at Thompson & Morgan. 'Cherry Caromel' in rich caramel flowers with vibrant cherry centres - available at Thompson & Morgan. 'Dwarf Beauty Mixed' produces large solid heads of bright rich colours on dwarf bushy plants - available at Thompson & Morgan. 'Moody Blues' provides a broad range of attractive blue shades throughout the summer - available at Thompson & Morgan. Also 'Twinkle Mixed' with clusters of flowers with star-like cut petals.
Phlox maculata (meadow phlox) a herbaceous perennial with lanceolate, mid-green leaves and tall panicles of lilac flowers in mid-summer. Height 2-3tft (60-90cm), spread 18in (45cm). Popular varieties include 'Alpha' with flower spikes of soft rose pink and 'Omega' with pale almost white flowers, tinged with purple.
Phlox paniculata (garden phlox) a herbaceous perennial with mid-green, lance shaped leaves. Dense clusters of purple-pink, fragrant flowers. Height 3-4ft (90-120cm), spread to 24in (60cm). Good garden varieties include 'Blue Boy' with packed clusters of bluish-mauve flowers over a long season - available at Gardening Express. Cultivar 'Brigadier' has salmon-scarlet blooms, 'Eventide' deep mauve blooms, and 'Harlequin' with variegated foliage and violet-purple blooms. 'Orange Perfection' bears big orange-red flowers over a long season - available at Gardening Express. 'Purple Eye Flame' has fragrant purple flowers with a pretty white centre - available at Thompson & Morgan. Variety 'Starfire' produces perfumed clusters of cherry red flowers - available at Gardening Express.
Phlox subulata (moss or creeping phlox) is a hardy low growing alpine perennial that forms mossy mats of deep-green, needle-like leaves. Small, purplish pink flowers appear in spring or early summer. Average height 4in (10cm), spread to 18in (45cm). Good varieties include 'Emerald Cushion' with soft-lavender blue flowers - available at Gardening Express. Cultivar 'Oakington Blue Eyes' with attractive pale blue blooms, and 'Pharaoh Blue Eye' with fragrant white flowers with a blue centre - available at Thompson & Morgan.