Phlox is a wide-ranging North American native perennial and a common fixture in woodland, prairie and meadow landscapes.
Phlox are an easy-to-find wildflower stretching from Florida and Quebec to Alaska. One of the classic American perennials, this was one of the earliest North American natives to enter cultivation. 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.
Although there is great variation within the genus, a tubular flower with five petals is common in all types. Flower color varies between white, pink, magenta, purple and blue across the genus, with some species showing notable orange or red coloration. All species are popular with pollinators.
Basic Types & Variety Names
Phlox is a genus with a multitude of species, heights, bloom times and garden applications. Many of these species are unrecognizable to the average gardener but becoming more common in newer varieties now available. Through all of the diversity, perennial Phlox can be loosely grouped into two types: spring bloomers and summer bloomers.
Spring Bloomers (creeping/groundcover types) – Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox, Moss Pinks) and other early-spring blooming species are low-growing, ground-hugging plants. Typically native to rocky, well-drained environments, when put in a garden without restriction they become carpets of color. Most of these types tend to spread and work well as groundcovers.
Summer Bloomers (tall garden phlox and related types) – When referring to phlox, most first think of Tall Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata). This clump-forming perennial blooms in midsummer and is among the tallest of this species. Also characteristic of Tall Garden Phlox are the perfectly formed large, rounded flower panicles that top each stem.
In addition to Tall Garden Phlox, summer-blooming species (including Phlox glaberimma and Phlox pilosa to name a few) are becoming more common, particularly in newer varieties. These newer garden varieties tend to bloom a bit earlier, have a more mounded shape and have a stoloniferous habit. Also characteristic of summer bloomers is a propensity to rebloom after the first flush of flowers, particularly when trimmed back.
The National Garden Bureau has declared 2022 the Year of the Phlox. Learn more about it at https://ngb.org/year-of-the-phlox/.