A Tough Native (or phloxing around for fun)
Heat and rainstorm can’t do very much damage to this native perennial. Once they’re established I merely prune them in spring so they won’t grow too tall and ‘dead-head’ them once the flower’s spent.
I started growing Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) with just a couple of them. Within a few years they proliferated all over the garden. They readily self-sow. If you don’t want too many of them, just don’t let them set seeds. My problem is I have a soft heart with seedlings. I think if it has a will to live why not let it live. This mentality can be a problem for the garden; it can become overcrowded very quickly. So I promise myself I’ll pull out some seedlings that are still “very young”. This method works pretty well with population control and I feel less guilty too, but I probably miss a few good surprises from Mother Nature.
Seedlings don’t always look exactly like their parents, especially given open pollination. I let the Garden Phlox grow wherever they come up, if not too close to any established plants. I tag them, according to color, once they flower. Later, I either remove them if I already have too many of that color or if they have an interesting color, I move them to a better spot. If I want more of the same color, I’ll just divide them.
Why is Garden Phlox good to grow? Because they perform well in the heat of summer when most plants, aside from cactus, don’t. If they’re not too tall, they’ll flop a little under a rain storm but will perk right up once dry. They readily self-sow, so they can be invasive, but with a little discipline in the gardener, they’re easy to control. The only disease that bothers them is mildew, but if they’re dry and not too crowded mildew shouldn’t be a problem. They work beautifully as cut flowers.
And, most of all, they’re fragrant. Their scent welcomes you from morning to evening. Butterflies and bees love them. Deer love them too, especially the tips.
In spring I prune the row along the walkway once they grow up to my waist. This pruning makes them bushier and delays the flowering a little bit. I let the ones on the left, squeezed in with Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), grow to their normal height (around 4 to 5 feet) to balance with other plants in the same row and to cover the pool fence.