- It’s blue or purple depending upon the variety you grow. Gardeners are always looking for blue plants. I have both blue and purple varieties in my garden because I started with one blue plant and one purple.
- Woodland phlox is also native and would qualify for Wildflower Wednesday status.
- It smells good.
- According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, P. divaricata‘s “flowers attract butterflies, including swallowtails, gray hairstreaks, and western pygmy blues.” I’ve seen hairstreaks and swallowtails already this spring.
- Woodland phlox is ethereal too. It blooms in my garden for about two months, goes to seed and then fades into the background. It also plays well with others whether you plant it with spring bulbs or Nassella tenuissima, Mexican feather grass.
As I wrote above, I started with two plants from Wanda’s former Oklahoma garden about eight years ago. Wanda was better at planting in drifts than I will ever be, but I’ve made progress since 2008 with my spring ingénues. I spread woodland phlox around most of the garden’s shadier spots. This phlox likes dappled shade for most of the year, but it sparkles in spring sunlight before the deciduous trees leaf out. I would never grow it in full sun, but you can place it in the shadow of larger shrubs to create shade. It enjoys irrigation, but good drainage too. You can also grow it in southern climates in morning sun and afternoon shade. I moved some to the tiered borders last weekend. It pouted for a day, and then bounced back.
So, how did I go from two plants to all of this? I spread it by seed and transplanting. While the phlox blooms, I dig small transplants and move them all over the garden. I dig a small hole, plunk in the transplant and water. They have quite shallow roots, and aren’t particular about soil. They do love shredded leaves so I surround them with my shredded leaf mulch. I don’t fertilize them. When they set seed, the shredded leaves are a perfect seed-starting medium–as they are for so many things.
When the phlox goes to seed in a few weeks, I gather the seeds and spread them anywhere I want to see more P. divaricata. They easily sprout and take root. They are not noticeable for the rest of this year, but next spring, I’ll find a few smaller plants in seeded areas.
Repeat the process each year, and soon, you’ll have a carpet of bloom. They are not thuggish and are easy to pull up where you don’t want them. I just dig and move them if I want to place something else there. As I said before, the shredded leaf mulch is a great seed starting medium so put down a layer of it–if you have some–before spreading seeds.
Problems? Like most phlox, P. divaricata can get powdery mildew, but I’ve only seen it once on the species. Voles and moles reportedly eat the roots, but don’t they eat most things–daffodils excluded? I haven’t had any trouble from moles or voles in the back garden though.
You can find plants from Monticello. Plants aren’t cheap, but it’s a faster way to start than with seeds. You can buy seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery. There are also selections of the wild phlox like ‘Clouds of Perfume,’ but the regular phlox is also scented. I would just stick with the species myself.