MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Features

March 26, 2014

Summer phlox a popular perennial

Cold-hardy, perennial, garden or summer phlox plants are loaded with summertime flowers that feed butterflies and have sturdy stems that can be cut for arrangements.

The first discovery of phlox was recorded in Virginia in 1678 by John Banister, an English missionary-naturalist who was studying the flora and fauna of the British colonies. In 1737, Linnaeus established the phlox genus, naming the flowers the color of glowing flame.

Summer or garden phlox, Phlox paniculata, shows off its colors in the heat of summer with large heads of scented flowers covered with butterflies and skippers. The tallest varieties are native from the Appalachians to the Ozarks.

Summer phlox is one of the most widely grown and bred perennials in the world. They are not particular about soil type but need a moist, well-drained place in the sun.

If they do not have adequate air circulation, they are susceptible to powdery mildew. Three mildew-prevention tips: Snip out all but four to six stems in mature clumps, divide clumps every few years, and avoid overhead watering.

Ten varieties will be available at the Muskogee Garden Club’s plant sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Thomas-Foreman Historic Home, 1419 W. Okmulgee Ave.

• Blue Paradise is a phlox introduction from Piet Oudolf. It is mildew resistant with white-eyed, deep blue flowers that become shades of purple during the heat of the day. In the evening they return to purple. Mature plants are 3.5 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

• Bright Eyes grows 2 feet tall and wide. Each flower on the large flower heads is light pink with a red-pink center or eye.

• David is famous for bright, white flower heads in the heat of summer. Humidity- and mildew-resistant, David won the Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of the Year award in 2002 and has been wowing gardeners ever since. It grows 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

• Fairest One is known to be highly resistant to powdery mildew. It has shell pink flowers on 3-foot-tall and 1-foot-wide plants.

• Flame Pink is a dwarf variety that matures at 18 inches tall and 14 inches wide and has bright pink flowers.

• Flame Purple is a dwarf selection that matures at 18 inches tall and 14 inches wide. It has scented, fuchsia-pink-purple flowers.

• Franz Schubert has mauve-lilac-blue hydrangea-like flowers with a darker eye. Mature plant size is 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

• Nicky has the darkest purple phlox flowers on disease-resistant plants. Mature plants are 2.5 feet tall and one foot wide.

• Red Super flowers are deep, red-violet with white eyes and very light scent. Plants grow 3.5 feet tall and 18 inches wide and is a recent introduction to the garden world.

• Orange Perfection has salmon pink-orange flowers with dark pink eyes. The plants grow 3 feet tall and 18 inches wide.

Spring is the best time to plant or divide existing plants. When dividing, dig out the entire clump and cut it into pieces, then replant the pieces 2 feet apart in prepared beds. Phlox clumps should be divided every three years. Even though phlox require minimal care, a sunny planting spot with compost-enriched soil will make them bloom most.

A layer of mulch or compost on top of the planted area will help control weeds and keep the soil moist enough. If there is no rain, deep water the roots an inch a week. Garden phlox will re-bloom if you remove the spent flower heads.

Prune them to the ground after the first hard frost in the fall to protect spring growth from plant diseases.

If you miss the plant sale Saturday, local nurseries and garden centers always have garden phlox varieties for your perennial border. Dayton Nursery (www.daytonnursery.com) has a large selection to check out.

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