Phlox delivers long-lasting, fragrant autumn blooms

New plant introductions always cause a stir in the gardening community. David, a perennial phlox panticulata that was introduced about 15 years ago, has lived up to the hype.

Perennial phlox is a dependable and versatile plant that is a long bloomer, hardy, long-lived, low maintenance and self-supporting.

It is a mainstay of the late summer and autumn landscape, coming into bloom in late July and often blooming until early September.

Perennial phlox grows in clumps about a metre tall. The sturdy stems produce panicles of bloom. Two special characteristics that make David unique are that it blooms about three weeks later than other varieties so it blooms for most of September and is mildew-resistant.

David produces the typical large billowing panicles of hydrangea-like blooms but in pure white. The stems are stout and erect and don’t need staking.

The leaves of David and most other perennial phlox are deep green, lance-shaped and are placed close together alternately along the length of the tall stems.

The foliage has an almost leathery texture that is attractive well into the fall. David has a unique leaf arrangement on the stems. The stems have four vertical rows of leaves at right angles to each other.

Perennial phlox, an herbaceous perennial, is easy to propagate by division. In the fall, dig up chunks of a clump to start new plants.

Digging up the clumps and dividing them every three years keep the plants vigorous.

Phlox likes rich, loamy soil and adequate moisture, but I have a mauve phlox penticulata planted against the west wall of the garage where the soil dries out quickly.

The panicles of bloom will be smaller if the plant is under constant duress because of a lack of moisture, and the individual blooms will tend to go quickly and turn brown around the edges. It needs full or part sun.

David phlox can stand alone in a flower border because one clump has substantial visual impact. A single clump of garden phlox can get up to 60 centimetres wide.

Besides being included in a mixed flower border, David can be used in a rose garden as well as a peony/iris bed to provide late colour.

Many perennial phlox varieties are fragrant and David is no exception. This makes it a doubly good cut flower because it also has a long vase life, particularly if spent individual florets are removed before the stems are placed into the vase.

Phlox panticulata attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and are relatively pest-free.

Albert Parsons has a diploma in horticulture from the University of Guelph and maintains a flourishing garden at Minnedosa, Man. Contact: countrygarden@producer.com.

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