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How to Grow and Care for Phlox
Phlox makes a great addition to any garden as a low-maintenance, pollinator-friendly flower. Phlox plants are perennials, so they'll come back to brighten up your garden every season with their colorful star-shaped blooms. Phlox grows in either creeping or tall forms, and that variety sets you up for an easy solution to any empty space in the garden. On this page, we'll cover all of the phlox basics: types of phlox, how to plant phlox, and tips for phlox care and maintenance. With just a bit of planning ahead, you'll have healthy, happy plants for years to come!
Types of Phlox Plants
Phlox plants can be broken down into two main categories: tall garden phlox, reaching up to five feet tall, and creeping phlox, a petite ground cover at just 5 to 6 inches tall. While the two have different growing habits, they share a flower form, and both are prolific bloomers. With these perennials, you'll have a long blooming season and long-lasting foliage, too.
Tall Phlox, also known as garden phlox, are fragrant plants that can grow to be three to five feet tall. You'll also find shorter varieties, as this is a popular garden plant with lots of interest in cultivation. These flowering plants are eye-catching additions to the garden; blooming in a variety of bright colors. Tall phlox typically bloom during the middle of summer and make great additions to any flower bed. Its height makes tall phlox a great candidate for the back of a bed or border, as it stands tall behind other plants.
Creeping phlox is a low-growing perennial that is often used as a ground cover, perfect for filling in empty spaces in the yard or garden, and for spilling down steep spots in the yard. Unlike tall phlox, these plants bloom in the mid to late spring. They can spread out in rock gardens, and even fit within the cracks of stone walls. To learn more about these plants, check out the video below:
How to Plant Phlox
Phlox are best planted in spring. Make sure the container is kept moist prior to planting, and that the area they will be planted in is devoid of any melting snow or ice. Plan to plant your phlox immediately upon receiving them.
Phlox are easy to plant, and the hardest part will probably be finding the right spot to place them! Both varieties of phlox thrive in well-drained soil with full sun, with tall phlox being slightly more adaptable to partial shade. Check your variety's spacing needs, and be sure to choose a location that has good drainage.
Speaking of drainage, consider amending your soil to improve water flow for your phlox. Like many perennials, phlox don't like to sit in consistently wet soil. Use peat moss or loam to mix into your soil, providing good aeration before planting. Consistent, well-draining soil will make watering easier, and prevent the roots of your plant from becoming too compacted or wet.
How to Care for Phlox
Phlox plants are amazingly low-maintenance, and a great plant for beginning gardeners-or for those spaces you don't want to mess with every day!
Phlox likes consistent moisture in the soil, so water it twice weekly during its first year, and weekly during dry spells thereafter. To help keep the soil moist, consider mulching around your phlox. Mulch not only retains moisture, but it also helps deter weeds.
Fertilizer is recommended once every season, in tandem with the compost and mulch. In spring, add a balanced fertilizer to your watering, and consider spreading compost along with mulch during your springtime gardening. After those simple tasks, your phlox will be well-set for the growing season!
After your phlox blooms and the blooms begin to fade, deadhead the plant to encourage it to bloom again. Simply pinch off the flowers or use scissors to cut off the spent blooms. After the blooming season, leave the foliage on your plant to help it gather energy for the coming year. Wait until after the first heavy frost to cut your phlox to the ground. Be sure not to pull it, so as not to disturb the roots.
Common Diseases and Pests
Phlox is a truly easy plant to grow, resistant to many common pests and diseases. However, any plant can become unhealthy, so let's look at a few pests for which to be on the lookout.
Powdery mildew is a common problem with tall phlox, so keep an eye out for these spots and be sure to prune off any infected parts. Powdery mildew presents just how it sounds, as a white powder on the leaves and flowers of the plant. The best method of prevention for powdery mildew is proper air circulation, so make sure not to plant your tall phlox too close together.
Leaf spots may appear as dark brown spots on the lower leaves of phlox, and can spread if left unchecked. If you see leaf spot, cut off the damaged areas. Once your leaf is infected, it will dry out and curl up. Prevention for leaf spots is to ensure proper watering and fertilizing. It is also important to remove infected leaves right when they develop.
Rust, a type of fungus, can cause brown, blistered-looking spots on leaves. While it's unlikely to kill your phlox plant, it probably isn't part of the look you're dreaming of. Good placement will keep rust away, so be sure to plant in an area that doesn't stay soggy, and leave adequate space between your phlox.
Spider mites attack the underside of phlox leaves and can be very difficult to spot. They often form webs and can spread from leaf to leaf very quickly. If you notice your phlox has yellow spots and a generally unhealthy appearance, it may be a sign of spider mites. First, try removing the mites by spraying the plats with a strong stream of water. If that doesn't resolve the problem, the insects can be managed with specialized sprays and insecticidal soaps designed to target these pests.
Phlox is a great choice no matter what your garden needs may be. If you're looking for a flowering groundcover or a colorful upright addition to your landscape, check out phlox! To read more about the benefits of growing phlox, check out this article.