Year of the Phlox
It’s the Year of the Phlox, and at Groovy Plants Ranch we’re taking phlox fandom to new levels. We’re growing 15-20 varieties including early creeping phlox and taller summer-flowering garden phlox that blooms into fall. You’ll find a phlox to fit every garden – sunny rock gardens, shade gardens and bright perennial borders. Phlox are even deer resistant and a great nectar source for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Each year, the National Garden Bureau (NGB) selects one perennial to showcase as the Perennial of the Year. The evaluation team makes selections based on a perennial’s popularity, growing ease, adaptability, genetic diversity and versatility. For 2022, we couldn’t be happier they chose phlox.
Phlox is a North American native perennial found in natural woodland, prairie, and meadow landscapes. According to the NGB, this classic perennial was one of the earliest North American natives to be grown as a garden plant. With vibrant flower colors and blooms lasting many weeks, it is easy to understand what caught the eye of so many gardeners through the years. We even remember this nostalgic plant from our grandmother’s borders. Today, phlox is enjoying a revival as plant breeders develop new hybrids that are more compact, earlier to flower, and have better disease resistance to powdery mildew and leaf spot.
While phlox may vary in size and bloom time, all have tubular flowers, each with five petals. Their colors range from white, pink and magenta to purple and blue. Luckily, pollinators find them all appealing.
To grow phlox, check garden tags for specific water and light needs. Most thrive in full sun with well-drained soil. We find creeping varieties will not grow as dense in shade. Tall garden types will tolerate light shade but will bloom more and grow healthier in full sun. Make sure new plants get at least one inch of water the first season until they’re established. When watering, water at the plant’s base and avoid overhead sprays to keep leaves dry and minimize the risk of powdery mildew. Also, try cutting back phlox after blooming for another round of later blooms.
- Spring bloomers – Creeping phlox or moss pinks, botanically known as Phlox subulata, are low-growing, ground-hugging plants. They work well as groundcovers and create carpets of living color in early spring. They’re typically native to rocky, well-drained environments. Check out the new hybrid ‘Woodlander’ -- a mounding groundcover that flowers later than the classic subulatas but before the tall garden phlox varieties.
- Summer bloomers – Tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) appears statuesque in the perennial border, growing two to three feet. They bloom for six weeks or more in the heat of the summer. Some start blooming in mid-summer, and others flower in late August. Here at the Ranch, we have heart-eyes for their large, rounded flower panicles that look like softballs atop each stem. Our favorites include ‘Jeana,’ a classic native selection with long panicles of lavender-pink flowers that pollinators love; and the Opening Act hybrids, a mid-height series of reblooming, mildew-resistant phlox, averaging 2-2½’ tall.