time of the year something magical begins to happen over
the eastern two-thirds of the United States and that is
the spring arrival of phlox. It will be happening from
Texas north to Quebec, Canada and then to the east
you think about it geographically that is quite
extraordinary that the woodland phlox or wild blue
phlox, Phlox divaricata and its close cousin the prairie
phlox, Phlox pilosa both have a native range covering
such a wide expanse.
you take that to mind you have to agree that these two
phlox would probably be adaptable to your landscape.
Indeed the wild blue phlox is a tried and true perennial
that offers fragrant flowers in bright blues, lavenders
and pinks that normally coincides their bloom in
dazzling partnerships with dogwoods, redbuds and
azaleas. I’ve seen them combined wonderfully with
Dutch iris and daffodils creating an idyllic
complementary color scheme.
prairie phlox also called downy phlox boasts a
delightful fragrance and is often called fragrant phlox.
It too comes in lavenders and pink shades which
sometimes lead to confusion as to which species
passersby see as they zip down the country roads. The
prairie phlox does offer you the rare ability to create
one of those dreamy wildflower meadows where they can be
combined with plants like coreopsis, white indigo and
with many natives these aren’t the everyday staple at
the garden center. On the other hand no respectable
native plant nursery would be without these stalwart
performers. The wild blue phlox likes a site with
morning sun and afternoon shade while the prairie phlox
can take much more of a full sun approach. While the
soil need not be too luxurious, strive to make it both
fertile and well drained. Neither phlox will be
particularly happy if the soil stays soggy for long
periods of time.
nursery grown transplants 10-12 inches apart planting at
the same depth they are growing in the container. Apply
a good layer of mulch after planting to help deter weed
growth, conserve moisture and keep soil temperatures
moderate. Once the woodland phlox has finished blooming
cut the foliage back by half. This will encourage new
growth. Take this opportunity to stick the cutting in
moist sand or peat to start more plants. The prairie
phlox spreads by rhizomes and seeds so depending on the
size of patch desired you can let the seeds fall
naturally or cut back, relying on the plants underground
ability to enlarge.
woodland phlox is often sold generically despite several
well-known varieties. Louisiana Blue, May Breeze, and
Clouds of Perfume are well known selections. My favorite
is Chattahoochee which is actually a hybrid of the
woodland and the prairie phlox. The result is a light
purple with a striking dark eye.
prairie phlox doesn’t have an abundance of named
varieties. Ozark Rose, Slim Jim and Forest Frost are
three that I have seen touted in the trade, so keep your
eyes open. You may also find named selections special to
your area. Regardless if you purchase by variety or go
generic you will be getting a wonderful native perennial
that will give years of enjoyment.