Garden phlox is our August Plant of the Month for 2022. When I was younger and just getting into gardening (around age 6), I remember my grandma showing my the beautiful garden phlox she had in her cottage garden. As I grew, I originally saw it as a weedy plant that would not stay where I put it and was always getting powdery mildew. But now, I love the sweet smelling thing.
In my own garden I grow garden or fall phlox in both full and part sun. And it is amazing. Garden phlox, Phlox paniculata, is native in the Central Great Plains and Upper Midwest regions. It grows 2 to 5 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide, but reseeds into large masses of plants. It is a savannah and thicket flower, growing on woodland edges and along meadows. Flower color can be pink, purple, white, red, or multi-colored.
Pollinators of Garden Phlox
Garden phlox makes the list of Plant of the Month because it is easy to grow, attracts pollinators, has good fragrance, and is hardy to the Central Great Plains. Pollinators of this phlox include butterflies mainly, but also bees, moths, and others. A few moths also use the plant as a host. Swallowtail butterflies are primarily known for nectaring on the flowers of fall phlox.
Cultivars of Fall Phlox
When I moved to Northeast Kansas, I had no idea that fall phlox was native to my area. Even more surprising, I found it growing wild in 2 spots, both less than 1 mile from my property. And then I discovered it on my property! And this was not cultivated fall phlox either. But now, I have both the native and cultivated species in my garden plan.
My Entry Garden contains the native garden phlox in abundance, as well as mixed into my Monarch Waystation. In my Sunny Cottage garden, I have white and pink cultivars. Some newer cultivars are listed below.
- ‘Red Riding Hood’ has dark, nearly scarlet red flowers. It grows 2 feet tall and wide.
- ‘Cover Girl’ has lavender flowers on taller, 3 foot stems. It grows almost 3 feet wide.
- ‘Backlight’ is the new white flowered cultivar, growing 3 feet tall by 2 feet wide.
- ‘Kung Fuschia’ is a fun name on a shorter plant. It grows 1 1/2 feet tall and wide.
Growing Garden Phlox
If you can get past having some late summer disease issues, then growing it is easy. Plant fall phlox in full to part sun, where plenty of air movement is available, if possible. This is not often easy in a cottage style garden like mine. Despite being an edge plant, it does not like wet feet, so make sure the soil is well drained or the ground is sloped away.
Powdery mildew is a leaf disease that can affect flowering if it starts in early summer as opposed to late summer. The leaves take on a white, powdery-like appearance and shrivel.
Cleanup is easy. In late fall or early spring, cut or break off the dead stems 1 to 2 inches above the ground. Cutting it there will prevent damaging the crown of the plant.
Companion Plants of Garden Phlox
Garden phlox works well in different parts of the garden, and many plants grow well with it. The leaves are small and does not have a texture which is hard to match. Use it in meadows, cottage gardens, pollinator and butterfly gardens, or places when the fragrance can waft into the house. Plants which match well with it include the following.
- Culver’s Root
- Purple Coneflower
- Rudbeckia ‘Henry Eiler’s’
- Rudbeckia ‘American Gold Rush’
- Ornamental Onion ‘Millenium’
- Miscanthus ‘Bandwidth’
- Switchgrass ‘Northwind’
- Russian Sage ‘Sage Advice’
- Spirea ‘Goldmound’
- Goldenrod ‘Fireworks’
Garden phlox is a well known perennial plant with good fragrance and flower power for cutting and butterflies. I love the smell and the way it fills in in my gardens. Add some to your garden today.