Top Tip How To Grow Phlox Flowers
It’s easy to create a magical carpet of color,
WEEDING through an overgrown border of improved clay soil back in the spring, I came across the remains of a perennial phlox or two. Along with ground cover roses, Shasta daisies and day lilies, they’d held their own against a thick mob of grasses, ground elder, nettle and brambles. Good for them I thought, before disentangling my plants and setting them into good, moist soil where they can prosper. Phlox are a pretty and useful group of plants, mainly from North America, with alpine and creeping types for spring and early summer, shade-loving P. prevaricate often known as the wild sweet William and pretty annuals to use as bedding. And there are tall cottage garden perennials flowering from summer to autumn. Their five petaled flowers have a fluttering, satiny elegance, and are usually fragrant, especially in the evening. They attract plenty of insects. I often stop the car to admire magic carpets of pink and mauve in spring, created by the creeping phlox. This common name rightly belongs to P. stolonifera but is also widely applied to the moss phlox, P. tabulate whose perennial mounds of evergreen foliage make cushions only 6in (15cm) high. Don’t overlook this floriferous plant when searching for ground cover to fill difficult narrow, open plan borders, banks and rock gardens. Set plants 12in (30cm) apart in good but well-drained soil in full sun for the best results, as plants can look worse for wear if they suffer water logging in winter or drought in summer. Low-growing phlox’s such as varieties of P. Douglass are usually to be found in the alpine sections of garden centers and will grow well in containers. There must be plenty of crocks (broken clay pot shards and shingle) in the base and a good but gritty, well-draining compost.
◊ Anne’s expert phlox advice
◊ Border perennial phlox (P. particulate) grows by water in the wild and if planted into poor, dry soil in full sun will show stress by turning yellow, flowering poorly or developing mildew
◊ Find them good, well conditioned moist soil, or light shade to shield them from the hottest part of the day. They’ll bulk up into clumps of long stems topped by satiny flowers.
◊ Q There are plenty of cultivars and I’ve always got on well with the strong, classic ‘Eva Cull-um whose pink flowers have a darker eye on stems around 3ft (1m) tall.
◊ All cultivars may need staking. Next year, give them the ‘Chelsea Chop’ (towards late-May, cut them halfway down their stems). This stimulates branching and results in stockier if later flowering plants.
◊ Recent breeding has introduced shorter cultivars like the ‘Flame Series’ at 12-16in (30-40cm) high.