The phlox family (Polemoniaceae) contains hundreds of members, with 67 in the genus “phlox”, only a few of them are actually referred to as phlox in common garden vernacular.
Phlox (Phlox spp.) has five fused petals, five sepals, five stamens and an ovary with three fused carpels and a nectary disk at the base.
There are annual, perennial and biennial phlox, but those listed below are all perennials. Most phlox are native to the Americas.
History and Folklore
Cantua buxiolia, aka Kantuta, a phlox native to South America is the national flower of Bolivia and Peru and is known as the “magic flower” and “sacred flower of the Incas”. It is red, yellow and green, to match to Bolivian flag!
Over 40 species of phlox were used by Native American tribes for various purposes including decoration, food, medicine and hygiene products.
The word Phlox comes from the Greek meaning “flame”.
Most phlox is native to the US but was brought to Europe in the 1700s where it enjoyed popularity as a cottage garden plant and was bred for many color and form variations.
In the language of flowers, phlox means: Our souls are united. or We think alike.
Phlox grows well from seeds or you can buy started plants and transplant them. If you don’t want them to spread, you’ll want to deadhead your flowers or they’ll reseed like crazy! Deadheading also encourages more blooms and keeps the plants looking neat.
Phlox is susceptible to powdery mildew if grown in shady or damp conditions. Give it plenty of sunlight, good drainage, and good air circulation, but don’t let it dry out.
Harvesting & Storage
Pick flowers just after the dew dries in the morning of their first full bloom. Cut ripe flower heads and shake into a paper bag to gather seeds.
Early blooming phlox is particularly appropriate for any springtime celebration and makes great flower wreaths with a bit of floral tape. All phlox varieties are great for use in wedding decorations, wreaths, crowns, and bouquets. Its earliest blooming varieties are especially appropriate for spring celebrations such as Beltane, Ostara, and Imbolc.
All types of phlox are useful for spellwork for encouraging groups of people (families, coworkers, grassroots organizations) to work together harmoniously toward a common goal. Plant some in your yard to encourage family unity and harmony.
Phlox is also useful in meditations to help you to pluck up the courage, or find an appropriate way to express your love for someone. It can also be used in meditations to increase productivity and stop procrastinating.
Because of the many different color varieties available, phlox can be used in color magic.
Phlox make charming and sweet-scented additions to cut flower bouquets, tussie mussies, etc.
The taller varieties look great in borders and the lower-growing varieties are great edgers and ground covers. Phlox is very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.
Phlox maculata Spotted phlox- is a native Midwest American perennial and the conical flower heads are generally pinkish-purple in color though there are different colored cultivars available. It is a tall prairie plant that reaches up to 3 feet in height. Spotted phlox is in bloom from spring to summer.
Phlox divaricata woodland phlox- is an American native found in moist woodlands. It is more shade tolerant than other phlox species and reaches a maximum height of only about 12 inches. The purply blue flowers appear in April and continue through June.
Phlox paniculata tall garden phlox- grows in 2-4 foot tall clumps with showy flower clusters. There are many colors available and it will bloom all summer. This species is the most susceptible to powdery mildew.
Phlox subulata moss pink or creeping phlox- grows about 4 to 6 inches tall and forms a dense mat of flowers and needle-like foliage. There are many color varieties. It makes a good ground cover in a sunny area.
Phlox stolonifera true creeping phlox- grows 6 to 12 inches tall and is more shade tolerant than phlox stolonifera and is often used the same way in the garden. It is native to Northern and Eastern US and Southern Canada.
Phlox carolina thick leaf phlox – is native to the Southern half of the mid United States and is considered endangers in Maryland. It blooms in early summer and throughout the season and grows 2-3 feet tall with a similar spread. Needs full sun. Available in a variety of colors.