How to Plant, Grow and Care For Flowering Phlox

Phlox is a beautiful garden flower that is low growing, and has many uses. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago shares everything you need to know about growing Phlox in your garden this season!

phlox

Contents

Phlox paniculata, also known as garden phlox or tall phlox, is a flowering perennial. It is loved for its subtle aroma and long-lasting flowers. These flowers begin blooming in the early summer and last into the fall with deadheading.

This beautiful flowering perennial is a welcome addition to your sunny ornamental beds in mass plantings or on its own as a specimen. The varied selection of this species grows every year, so there is a unique color for everyone. No matter how you plant phlox in your yard, you will fall in love. 

Let’s learn how to grow this pretty plant in your garden.

Phlox Plant Overview

Close up of a cluster of flowers growing on the end of some branches. The flowers have five petals that are slightly rounded. The left of each petal is pink and fades into a white, creating a pinwheel effect on each flower.
Plant Type Perennial
Family Polemoniaceae
Genus Phlox
Species Phlox paniculata
Native Area Eastern United States
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Water Medium
Soil Well-draining mix
Hardiness Zones 4-8
Bloom Colors Pink, white, red, lavender, blue, bi-color
Height 2-4 feet
Season Summer

History 

The clusters of Garden Phlox showcase delicate pink flowers that bloom in abundance, their vibrant hues adding a touch of elegance. Surrounding the blossoms, the lush green leaves provide a refreshing backdrop, complementing the petals' soft shades. The sturdy stems stand tall, supporting the graceful beauty of the flowers.
This perennial gained popularity in the 1940s due to its large, billowy flowers.

Garden phlox is native to the eastern United States. With its big billowy flowers, this perennial became popular in the 1940s. The combination of British and American breeding efforts yielded over 800 colorful varieties.

There was a decline in popularity around the 1980s, but now it has made a resurgence with more than 1,000 varieties available around the world.

Cultivation

In a mesmerizing display, clusters of Garden Phlox exhibit enchanting light lavender flowers that exude a subtle allure. Set against the backdrop of verdant green leaves, the delicate blooms create a captivating contrast. Supported by strong stems, the flowers sway gently, lending an air of tranquility to the scene.
Within the phlox genus, there are 12 distinct types and numerous hybrid varieties.

Garden phlox belongs to the Polemoniaceae family, which also includes the rest of the Phlox genus, Jacob’s Ladder, and 23 other genera.

There are 12 different types of Phlox as well as countless hybrid varieties, let’s learn the difference:

Annual Phlox

Annual Phlox (Phlox drummondii) is grown as – you guessed it – an annual. It has very similar flowers to the garden phlox we cover in this article. Annual phlox will grow to one foot tall and its flowers are bright pink or white.

Carolina Phlox

Carolina Phlox (Phlox carolina) is native to the southeastern United States. This species will grow from 2-3 feet tall and will begin blooming in the spring with clusters of white or lavender flowers. Red stripes on the stems of this plant set it apart.

Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera) is not to be confused with the infamous moss (or creeping) phlox. This creeping phlox will bloom in mid-to-late summer with purple, pink, or white flowers.

Garden Phlox

Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) is the longest-blooming variety out there. It will grow up to 4 feet tall and bloom from the beginning of summer and last into the fall.

Meadow Phlox

Meadow Phlox (Phlox maculata) is a rhizomatous phlox that will grow to 3 feet tall. The foliage is narrow and leathery. Aside from the foliage, it is quite similar to garden phlox.

Moss/Creeping Phlox

Moss/Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) is the most beautiful spring-blooming perennial around. The carpet of foliage is covered with beautiful little flowers in shades of pink, white, and purple. This phlox is best planted in rock gardens as a ground cover.

Prairie Phlox

Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa) has a bit more of a wild look to it and would fit in nicely in a wildflower garden. The bright pink flowers will bloom in late spring and last until mid-summer. The stems of this plant have tiny hairs on them.

Sand Phlox

Sand Phlox (Phlox bifida) is a low-growing perennial that will only reach 6 inches tall. Its flowers are silvery purple. This species is relatively resistant to powdery mildew.

Santa Fe Phlox

Santa Fe Phlox (Phlox nana) is a low-growing perennial that has pink flowers with white centers. Reaching only 1 foot in height, the Santa Fe phlox will grow nicely in zones 5-8 in sunny, rocky spots in your garden.

Smooth/Marsh Phlox

Smooth/Marsh Phlox (Phlox glaberrima) is a perennial phlox that will grow from 2-3 feet tall. Unlike other phlox plants, smooth phlox spreads by rhizomes and will fill an area quickly. This phlox is a bit more tolerant of wet soil than garden phlox.

Spreading Phlox

Spreading Phlox (Phlox diffusa) is a low-growing, spring-blooming perennial. Reaching the minuscule height of 4 inches, this phlox makes a pretty ground cover. The foliage is needle-like and evergreen, and the flowers will cover the foliage when in full bloom.

Woodland Phlox

Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata) is a wildflower phlox that will reach one foot in height. The flowers can be a variety of colors but are most common in shades of white, pink, and purple. Woodland phlox is native to the United States, making it a great plant for your native flower beds.

Propagation

A skilled gardener wearing blue gloves carefully divides the young plants of Garden Phlox, preparing them for propagation. The healthy leaves, with their vibrant green color, indicate the plant's vitality, while the sturdy stems ensure their upright growth. Nestled in brown soil, the plants' intricate roots anchor them firmly, as green grass carpets the ground below, providing a natural setting.
Propagating is most effectively done through division.

The best way to propagate garden phlox is by division. In the springtime, dig up one of your existing plants. Using a garden knife, split the plant into multiple plants. Plant these new plants and water until established. It really could not be easier!

Another option is to plant from seed. The seeds can be planted in the spring as soon as the soil is workable. You will see emerging seedlings in 1-2 weeks. Keep in mind that this species will self-seed and produce new plants from these seeds in the springtime. You can always uproot some of these seedlings and transplant them to a new area if you wish. 

Planting

With sturdy boots, a determined man anchors the head of a large, blue shovel into the moist brown soil. The shovel's weight digs deep, facilitating the task at hand.
When planting, carefully place into a hole at least 1 foot deep.

Once you have picked the perfect spot or spots in your garden, you will want to work the soil and dig a hole about one foot deep. This is a great time to add some compost, or you can topdress your garden with it afterward.

Be sure to leave enough space between plants to prevent powdery mildew. Appropriate spacing for garden phlox is 1 to 2 feet apart. Other species may vary.

Gently place your plant in the freshly dug hole and rotate the plant until you have the most attractive or symmetrical side facing your highest trafficked area. Backfill with garden soil and water. Continue to water every day until you feel that your perennial has taken hold in your garden. 

How to Grow Phlox

Garden phlox has a reputation for being a bit “tricky” to grow. Follow the tips below to make growing these pretty perennials a breeze.

Sunlight

Clusters of Garden Phlox feature their captivating pink flowers. Surrounding the blossoms, the fresh green leaves provide a vibrant frame, enhancing their visual appeal. Supported by strong and graceful stems, the flowers proudly display their ethereal charm, captivating all who behold them.
Excessive shade raises the risk of powdery mildew infection.

Garden phlox grows best in full sun to partial shade. Too much shade will increase the plant’s chances of coming down with powdery mildew. While this disease will not kill your plant, it will hinder its beauty.

Water

A blue watering can is gently pouring water onto clusters of Garden phlox in a vibrant garden scene. The delicate flowers showcase a pristine white color, gracefully complemented by their lush green leaves and sturdy stems. In the background, other plants thrive, adding to the natural beauty of the setting.
Whenever you can, avoid watering from above and instead direct the irrigation or hose towards the plant’s base.

As with most perennials, garden phlox will benefit from 1 inch of water per week. It thrives in evenly moist soil. Do not over-saturate the roots. Excessive moisture can lead to powdery mildew, so do your best to practice good watering. Avoid overhead watering whenever possible, and aim your irrigation or hose at the base of the plant. 

Soil

Abundant clusters of Garden phlox adorn the garden, presenting a breathtaking sight. The flowers exhibit an array of captivating hues, including pink, red, and white, creating a harmonious blend. Their vibrant petals stand out against the backdrop of lush, green leaves and sturdy stems, adding a vibrant touch to the garden landscape.
Enhancing your soil with compost will enrich it with beneficial nutrients.

Garden phlox is tolerant of many different soil types. The one requirement this species demands is moist, well-drained soil. It does not like wet feet. Adding compost to your soil will also benefit your phlox by providing it with added nutrients and beneficial microorganisms. 

Climate and Temperature

A captivating close-up of a Garden phlox cluster reveals intricate details. The flowers, in various stages of bloom, showcase their distinct colors and delicate petals. Lush green leaves provide a verdant backdrop, while the sturdy stems gracefully support the cluster, contributing to the plant's overall beauty and elegance.
 In warmer areas, it is advisable to plant it in partial shade to mitigate heat-related strain.

This perennial is not a big fan of humidity or extended periods of heat. They are hardy in zones 4-8. Plant in partial shade in warmer climates to alleviate any heat stress. 

Fertilizing

Clad in gardening gloves, a man diligently spreads white granular fertilizer on a bed of dark, nutrient-rich soil. Among the soil, a plant with slender, long branches grows, displaying its resilience and vigor.
To assist the plant’s growth, you can add plant tone, a granular fertilizer, during the spring.

This perennial does not need regular fertilization. A spring application of granular fertilizer such as plant tone is usually plenty. Adding compost to the soil each year is another great way to give your plants a boost of nutrition while improving the soil structure and drainage.

Maintenance and Care

A pair of pruning shears is skillfully employed to trim the stem of a plant. The stem, sturdy and resilient, supports the growth of the plant with small, lush leaves. Atop the stem, delicate white flowers bloom, showcasing their intricate beauty.
Prevent the growth of additional weeds by pulling them out and applying mulch to your gardens.

It’s difficult to find a perennial with so much beauty and such little required maintenance. Deadheading and pruning are quick, simple tasks that make a huge difference in plant growth and aesthetic.

As your phlox flowers begin to fade, grab your snips and deadhead the blossoms. This task will promote new blooms while also preventing self-seeding

Keep your gardens free of weeds. Weeds may seem small and innocent on the surface, but they can damage your flower beds. Weeds are great at sucking water and nutrients from the soil, leaving our perennials and shrubs short on what they need most to survive. Pull weeds and add mulch to your gardens to prevent additional weeds from growing. 

At the end of the gardening season, when your plants begin to look a bit ragged and tired, simply snip the stems down to the ground. It will regrow the following spring.

Phlox Varieties

There are numerous varieties of flowering phlox you can grow in your garden. They come in a wide range of colors, so there is a variety suited for just about any garden. Here are a few of our favorites to get you started!

‘Bright Eyes’

A close-up of the Bright Eyes plant reveals delicate, pink flowers blooming in clusters, their petals gently unfurling. The leaves are vibrant green, showcasing a glossy texture and distinct veining patterns, adding to the plant's overall allure.
For maximum impact, it is recommended to plant ‘Bright Eyes’ in large groups.
bloom-colors bloom colors Pink
height height 2-3 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

The flowers on this variety are a sweet shade of pink with dark pink or red “eyes” (centers). Growing up to 3 feet tall, ‘Bright Eyes’ would make a charming addition to a cottage-style garden. This is a variety with notably good mildew resistance. Plant in masses for the most impact.

‘David’

The David plant showcases stunning white flowers in full bloom, their delicate petals radiating a pure elegance. The leaves, a rich shade of green, exhibit a smooth texture and pointed tips, gracefully complementing the slender stems that support the blossoms.
‘David’ exhibits sturdy stems and excellent resistance to powdery mildew.
bloom-colors bloom colors White
height height 3-4 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

The white phlox that all other white phlox are judged against is ‘David’. This beautiful, large plant boasts large cones of white flowers throughout most of the summer. It has strong, sturdy stems and great powdery mildew resistance. 

‘Flame White Eye’

Flame White Eye plant displays a combination of light purple and pristine white hues, forming a captivating contrast. The leaves, lush and green, serve as a lush backdrop to the vibrant blooms, enhancing their beauty.
With white and pink blooms, these flowers will bring a soft aroma to your yard throughout mid-summer.
bloom-colors bloom colors White with a hot pink center
height height 1-2 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

This is a bushier variety with the same stunning flowers. These white and pink flowers will bloom from mid-summer onward, and bring a soft aroma into your yard. Deadhead these blossoms to extend the bloom!

‘Goldmine’

The Goldmine plant boasts exquisite red flowers, their intricate structure revealed in fine detail. The branches, adorned with clusters of blossoms, extend gracefully, showcasing a harmonious blend of vibrant colors and delicate shapes.
Due to its size, this variety adds beauty to a mass border planting.
bloom-colors bloom colors Bright Pink
height height 2-3 feet tall, 2-3 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Most phlox plants do not have remarkable foliage, however, ‘Goldmine’ sports beautiful variegated green leaves with a golden yellow border. This is a sizable phlox plant and would be really beautiful as a border in a mass planting. This tough cultivar is resistant to powdery mildew.

‘Nicky’

Nicky showcases charming flowers that bloom in dark magenta color, creating a captivating display. The sturdy stems support the blossoms with resilience, while the lush green leaves provide a verdant backdrop, accentuating their beauty.
‘Nicky’ is an excellent choice to enhance the beauty of a white or pastel-themed garden.
bloom-colors bloom colors Deep Magenta
height height 2-3 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

This cultivar has beautiful deep-colored flowers that would accent a white or pastel-themed garden very nicely. Growing to just about 3 feet tall, these magenta flowers will bloom for a few weeks in the middle of the summer.

‘Orange Perfection’

A close-up of Orange Perfection exhibits stunning flowers with vibrant orange petals that seem to glow with warmth and radiance. The leaves, lush and glossy, provide an elegant frame to the blossoms, their deep green hue creating a harmonious contrast against the vibrant blooms.
To avoid powdery mildew, this plant requires good air circulation.
bloom-colors bloom colors Orange
height height 2-3 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Don’t worry if you are not a fan of pink or purple flowers; this is a great orange variety for you! ‘Orange Perfection’ does need very good air circulation to prevent any powdery mildew from appearing. The bright orange flowers with red eyes will bloom from the middle of the summer into the fall. 

‘Peppermint Twist’

Peppermint Twist plant reveals exquisite flowers in shades of pink and white, their delicate petals gently swirling like candy canes. The lush green leaves serve as a lush carpet beneath the blossoms, while slender stems rise gracefully, supporting the captivating blooms. In the background, other flowering plants add to the vibrant tapestry of colors.
With pink and white stripes and a delightful scent, these flowers are a joy.
bloom-colors bloom colors Pink and White
height height 1-2 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

This is a super fun addition to your gardens. The flowers are pink and white-striped and sweetly fragrant. ‘Peppermint Twist’ is a mildew-resistant variety. These brightly colored flowers will bloom all summer long with consistent deadheading

‘Red Riding Hood’

A close-up of Red Riding Hood showcases bold and velvety red flowers. Each petal exudes a rich, deep color, creating a striking contrast, resulting in a visual feast for the eyes.
‘Red Riding Hood’ phlox is a stunning variety that yields an abundance of vibrant cherry red flowers.
bloom-colors bloom colors Cherry Red
height height 1-2 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

This variety produces A TON of bright cherry red flowers! The stems and leaves are a bit darker shade of green. Plant in a grouping for maximum impact. ‘Red Riding Hood’ is a compact phlox that fits nicely into borders, containers, and flowerbeds. 

‘Younique Old Blue’

Younique Old Blue boasts enchanting flowers in light blue color, evoking a sense of tranquility and serenity. The delicate petals seem to dance on the slender stems, while the leaves, with their lush green hue and textured surfaces, provide a beautiful backdrop, accentuating the captivating blooms.
This plant is known for its ability to attract various pollinators, particularly hummingbirds and butterflies.
bloom-colors bloom colors Dusty blue with white centers
height height 1-2 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

For a softer look ‘Younique Old Blue’ has pale blue flowers with white centers that will bloom for weeks in the summertime. This plant will attract pollinators of all sorts, especially hummingbirds and butterflies. ‘Younqiue Old Blue’ demonstrates good mildew tolerance. Plant in flowerbeds, containers, or perennial borders. 

Plant Uses

A beautiful garden filled with vibrant Garden phlox flowers that bloom in various colors, creating a captivating sight. Tall and majestic green trees form a lush backdrop, creating a serene atmosphere.
Adding phlox to your indoor arrangements enhances their beauty.

Garden phlox will grow from 2-4 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. This size lends itself very nicely to perennial borders or flower beds. Depending on how much space you have, you may wish to plant your phlox in a cluster to create a dazzling display. Scattering a few plants here and there throughout your gardens is also a nice way to add color and continuity to your beds. 

Phlox also makes a beautiful addition to your indoor arrangements. Add this perennial to your cutting gardens, or be sure to plant enough in your flower beds so that you can snip a few stems for your vases. 

Pests

The plant with green leaves is infested with brown slugs, which are causing significant damage to the foliage. The slugs, slimy and brown in color, crawl across the plant's slender stems, leaving behind a trail of destruction. The green leaves, once vibrant, now bear the marks of the slug invasion.
Fortunately for gardeners, this is a pest-resistant perennial.

Lucky for us gardeners, this happens to be a perennial that does not have issues with pests and insects. If it is planted in an area with too much shade and moisture, you may run into some slug or snail damage. This can be remedied by transplanting to a more desirable location with more sunlight

Diseases

A close-up of elongated green leaves of a plant reveals a powdery mildew covering their surface. The delicate white powder lends an ethereal appearance, contrasting with the natural green hue. This fungal infestation has taken hold, compromising the health and vitality of the plant's leaves.
Ensure proper spacing between plants to enable adequate airflow.

The number one disease you will run into with this perennial flower is powdery mildew. This fungal disease is more prevalent in warm, humid, and moist areas. You may notice white powdery-looking spots on the stems and leaves of your phlox. 

You can prevent powdery mildew by spacing your plants the correct distance apart. This will allow sufficient airflow between your plants, which will reduce humidity and moisture. Most importantly, plant your garden phlox in full sun or partial shade. This will keep the plant dry enough to prevent any powdery mildew from spreading. 

If your plant has come down with a case of powdery mildew, don’t worry! This disease will not harm your plant but will make it look a little less beautiful for the season. If you wish to treat the disease, head to your local garden center and grab neem oil or a copper fungicide. Follow the labeled directions on the bottle to ensure you are not overdoing it. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can garden phlox grow in containers?

Absolutely! Garden phlox makes an excellent thriller for your mixed container plantings. Keep in mind, this is a good-sized perennial that grows up to 2-4 feet tall and 1-3 feet wide. You will want to choose a container that is large enough for all of your plants to thrive.

While you are planting your phlox in a container, it is best to use a good potting soil to help aid with draining and keep the roots from getting too wet. Garden soil may be too heavy and could lead to plant death.

You can also overwinter your container-planted garden phlox. Simply cut the stems back after the plant has died back and move the entire container into a garage, or garden shed.

Does garden phlox self-seed?

They sure do! If you don’t deadhead your aging flowers, your phlox blossoms will produce and drop seeds right into the soil.

If you don’t mind this, then let those babies grow! You should keep in mind, however, that the flowers on new phlox plants will likely not be the exact same color as the variety you purchased and planted in your gardens. Garden phlox seedlings tend to revert back to a lavender shade.

If you are not interested in expanding your garden phlox population, all you need to do is remain diligent about deadheading. If you are too late to deadhead, just be ready to pull the seedlings out of the ground when they begin to sprout.

Are garden phlox deer or rabbit resistant?

Sort of. Garden phlox may attract deer or rabbits, but it is not the first thing they will nibble in your garden. That being said, if they are hungry enough deer and rabbits will eat anything, including garden phlox.

If you have a higher population of deer or rabbits in your area you may want to take some precautionary measures by spraying some deer or rabbit repellant every week or two, and after it rains will help to keep any critters away from your precious plants. If you don’t love the idea of the sprays, you may opt for a deer netting. These nets are black and hard to see. They work at keeping deer, rabbits, and birds away from your plants.

Final Thoughts

Garden phlox is a beautiful perennial that is well-loved for its sweet aroma and its ease of use in a cottage garden. But you don’t need a cottage-style garden to enjoy this beautiful plant.

If you are looking for an upright growing perennial with stunning flowers, garden phlox will glow in any perennial garden. If you already have this flower, try a new variety that I have listed above. Happy digging!

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