Phlox, known for their abundance of small, often fragrant flowers in the summer, are available in a range of forms from tall perennials to ground-covering or alpine types. Some varieties are even grown as annuals for garden beds.
A well-known variety is Phlox paniculata, often referred to as garden phlox or border phlox. In its natural habitat, it can grow up to nearly 6 feet tall and typically has pink flowers. However, through selective breeding, shorter and more colorful cultivars have been developed. These come in a spectrum of colors including blue, purple, pink, magenta, red, and white. These garden-worthy types are not just visually appealing but also fragrant, bloom for a long time, and attract bees and other pollinators.
Phloxes are robust and easy to grow, making them a great addition to perennial borders and cottage gardens. They usually don't require staking thanks to their strong stems and are generally resistant to pests and diseases, providing long-lasting beauty in the garden. Phlox pairs well with other perennials like delphiniums and red hot pokers, and can also be combined with ornamental grasses for a contemporary look. They're also excellent as cut flowers.
For successful growth, plant your phlox in a sunny area with moist, well-drained soil. They need regular watering in hot, dry conditions as they are prone to drought stress. Regular maintenance like deadheading after blooming can stimulate more flowers later in the season. Dividing the plants every few years helps maintain their health and encourages continuous blooming. Taller varieties should be placed towards the back or middle of a border, while shorter ones are ideal for the front.
When planting phlox in the spring, make sure the soil is warm and moist, as they don't do well in dry, sandy soils. Enriching the soil with organic compost or well-rotted manure before planting and mulching afterward will improve soil conditions. Over time, phlox tends to form large clumps, so dividing them every three or four years in early spring is advisable to maintain their health and prevent overcrowding. Signs that it's time to divide include a decrease in flowering and a sparse center.
How to Plant Phlox:
- Choose the Right Location: Find a spot with full sun to partial shade, ensuring at least 4-6 hours of sunlight daily. The soil should be well-drained.
- Prepare the Soil: Clear the area of weeds, rocks, and debris. Improve the soil by adding compost or well-rotted manure, working it to a depth of about 12 inches.
- Soak the Bare Roots: Soak them in water for an hour before planting to rehydrate the roots.
- Dig the Planting Hole: Make a hole large enough for the Phlox plant's roots, with the top of the root ball level with the soil surface.
- Place the Plant in the Hole: Set the bare root plant in, spreading the roots out. The crown should be at ground level.
- Backfill the Hole: Gently fill in the hole, tamping down the soil to remove air pockets.
- Water Thoroughly: Water the plant until the soil is moist but not soggy.
- Mulch (Optional): A layer of organic mulch can help with moisture retention and weed control, but avoid covering the stem.
- Keep the Soil Moist: Maintain consistent moisture in the soil during the initial weeks.
- Monitor and Care: Regularly check the plant for growth and adjust watering as needed. Provide support for taller varieties if necessary.
By following these steps, you can successfully plant bare root Phlox and enjoy their beautiful blooms in your garden!