Garden phlox (phlox paniculata) is a native plant, which, as its common name indicates, has been a staple of flower borders and cottage gardens for many years. Its native range includes the eastern half of the United States with the exception of Florida, and it can be found in open areas such as roadsides and meadows. It grows about 3-4 feet tall and has clusters of scented rose pink flowers, which bloom from June until frost. It is a great plant for pollinators, being attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
With showy flowers and scent as part of its natural attributes, many hybrids have been developed which extend flower color all the way from pure white, through all shades of pink, purple and even cherry red and coral. Additionally, hybridization has created compact varieties and also improved mildew resistance. So if you want a pollinator-friendly perennial for summer color, consider some of these cultivars.
‘David’ is a well-known tall variety that reaches around 3’ tall. With large clusters of scented white flowers, with deadheading it can be encouraged to bloom from July to September. It was discovered as a seedling at the Brandywine Conservancy near Philadelphia PA and named for the husband of the horticultural coordinator.
‘Volcano® White’, along with the other colors in the Volcano® range are shorter varieties ranging between 12-20” tall. Bred from disease resistant stock discovered in eastern Europe, it has large clusters of long-blooming flowers and makes a bold splash towards the front of borders.
‘Opening Act Blush’ is another compact variety at around 20” tall. With large heads of pink flowers, this early bloomer provides a long season of color and also comes with good disease resistance. It is one of a group of early-blooming phlox under the name ‘Opening Act’.
If a tall pink is required, look no further than ‘Jeana’. This is actually a wild variety, discovered growing by the Harpeth River near Nashville TN, and named after Jeana Prewitt, who found it. With small flowers over a long blooming period and disease-resistant foliage, this variety is tall, growing 4-5’ high. It is particularly attractive to a variety of pollinators: bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
‘Nicky” is a deep magenta variety growing about 3’ tall, and is considered one of the darkest colored phlox. With its fragrant flowers it makes a striking accent in flower borders.
‘Peacock Cherry Red’ is a cultivar whose name aptly describes its flower color. Reaching 18” tall, it adds impact to the summer border in July and August.
‘Sweet Summer® Queen™ Salmon Orange Dark Eye’ might be a mouthful of a name, but it not only has attractive salmon colored flowers, but has the additional interest of a two-tone effect with a dark pink center or “eye” to each flower. Growing 18-24” tall, it too offers fragrance and mildew resistance.
In contrast to ‘Sweet Summer® Queen’ above, “Volcano® Purple with White Eye’ has the opposite two-tone effect. With predominantly purple petals and a white eye it too makes for a striking accent in the border. It too grows 12-20” and like others in the series is mildew resistant.
These are just a few of the garden phlox that are worthy of a spot in New England gardens. With phlox being the National Garden Bureau’s perennial of the year, why not take a look at this attractive summer native?