Plant Profile: Phlox

Phlox are among the most adaptable perennials for northern gardens. Garden phlox stand tall while creeping phlox spreads along the ground. Some bloom pink or near blue, while others are bright white. One type of phlox is a sign of spring, while others hold out until summer to bloom.

creeping phlox

Creeping phlox makes a stunning show in early spring.

Most phlox are native to North America. Phlox paniculata (sometimes called garden phlox or fall phlox) grows 3 to 4 feet tall and is native in Minnesota and most of the North. It comes in a large number of cultivars, though the most famous is probably the white-blooming phlox ‘David’. This plant blooms in July, August and September and can be a real bright spot in the garden. One issue with tall phlox, however, is its tendency to get powdery mildew on the lower leaves. The typical advice is to plant something short and showy in front of the phlox to camouflage its unsightly limbs. Hybridizers are developing newer varieties that resist powdery mildew.

The other common phlox in northern gardens is Phlox subulata or creeping phlox. It’s also called moss phlox and this species does enjoy a moist, but sunny environment. It blooms in spring and can be a real highlight of rock gardens or garden walls during the early parts of the season. Creeping phlox tumbles over stones and walls and spreads prettily. Most creeping phlox veers toward purple in color but it can also be found in pink and white cultivars. After blooming, creeping phlox stays green and is a soft groundcover in the garden



garden phlox

Opening Act White garden phlox grows in containers. Photos courtesy of Walters Gardens Inc.

Join Us for a Phlox Class!

To celebrate May day and all things phlox, MSHS is hosting a class at Scarborough Fair Boutique in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul. On Wednesday, May 1, horticulturist Mary Maguire Lerman will discuss the many perennial phlox we can grow here in Minnesota, including garden, creeping, woodland and prairie phlox, as well as the newer annual phlox varieties. The class will be offered from 11 a.m. to noon AND from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Each registrant will receive one of the new powdery mildew resistant phlox to take home for planting in his or her garden. You can also enjoy cucumber water and cheese with crackers as you take time to peruse the many delightful clothing, hat and jewelry options at the boutique. Ten percent of all sales on May Day will be donated to the Minnesota State Horticultural Society.

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