Offering a beautiful diversity of size, color, and habit, Phlox are the perfect problem-solving perennials sure to brighten up even the toughest areas of the garden. Largely native to North America in areas ranging from harsh tundra to woodland and prairie ecosystems, Phlox, of the Jacob’s Ladder family, Polemoniaceae, are wonderfully hardy, abundantly blooming perennial classics. Most commonly used in the landscape are cultivars of the eastern North American native garden Phlox and moss/creeping Phlox, with growing popularity surrounding the Minnesota native woodland Phlox and its few cultivars in more recent years.
Phlox paniculata (floks pan-ick-yoo-LAY-tuh), or garden Phlox, are exceptional upright clump-forming plants blooming large, showy panicles of sweetly fragrant blooms that serve as excellent nectar sources for hummingbirds, butterflies, and other local pollinators. Preferring rich, well-drained soils in areas of full or partial sun, garden Phlox feature opposite pairs of deep green, lanceolate leaves creating a lush upright grouping in the garden. Maturing to 18-48” tall and 12-36” wide depending on variety, garden Phlox are perfect for many applications including tall garden backdrops, low sunny borders, cottage gardens, foundation plantings, and more, and are even tolerant of salt spray. Typically blooming from mid-summer to fall, garden Phlox are available in numerous colors including the tall white blooms of ‘David,’ compact size and vibrant purple blooms of ‘Flame Pro Violet Charm,’ mid-sized bicolor purple and white blooms of ‘Sweet Summer Fantasy,’ and tall purple bicolor blooms of ‘Laura.'
Phlox subulata (floks suh-bew-LAY-tuh), also known as creeping Phlox or moss Phlox, are excellent spring-blooming sunny groundcover perennials, blooming profusely from late spring to early summer in numerous shades of pinks and blues, including the unique pink and white striped flowers of ‘Candy Stripe,’ soft blue blooms of ‘Emerald Blue,’ bright pink-crimson flowers of ‘Red Wings’ and many others. Forming a low, dense mat of moss-like green foliage of up to 8” tall and preferring well-drained soils in areas of full sun, creeping Phlox is an abundant spring bloomer perfect for spilling over retaining walls, lining pathways, and creating a lush green carpet as a sunny, drought tolerant groundcover in sunny beds and rock gardens.
Boasting the highest shade tolerance of the three species, Phlox divaricata (floks dih-var-ih-KAY-tuh) is native to woodlands of North America including here in Minnesota. Maturing to only 12" tall with a sprawling habit, woodland Phlox is a durable shady groundcover, able to handle even the toughest dry shady areas of the garden, preferring moist to dry soils in part sun or shade. Blooming fragrant five-petaled blue flowers from late spring to early summer, woodland Phlox is phenomenal massed as a groundcover, planted in woodland gardens, used in low shady borders, or planted along shady hillsides.