Phlox that Rock

Dazzling Volcano phlox in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Dazzling Volcano phlox (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

There are a variety of phlox out there to suit every need; from short creepers such as Phlox subulata and Phlox stolonifera, the slightly taller (18″) version, Phlox divaricata, and the wild form that brightens our native grassy meadows, Phlox drummondii.  All beautiful specimens of phlox-dom, but my favorite for adding height and scrumptious masses of fragrant flowers all summer long is the much adored “knock your socks off” perennial, Phlox paniculata.

Phlox paniculata 'Shockwave' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Phlox paniculata ‘Shockwave’ (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Unlike its siblings, paniculata grows much taller, easily up to 4 feet tall when planted in moist, well drained soil in a sunny location (zones 4-8).   Paniculata is a long, dependable bloomer that will provide flowers from July through September, benefitting from a little deadheading in between. The range of blossom colors and options seem endless, from solids of shimmering white, soothing coral, bright pink, crimson red, vibrant orange, and pale lavender to combinations with lighter or darker centers (“eyes”) that add dimension and elegance to any garden setting.  Many phlox are intensely fragrant and naturally attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees to the garden.  And did I mention variegated foliage, which only adds to the fabulous display while providing multi-seasonal interest as well.

Violet Pink Phlox in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Violet-pink Phlox (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Some phlox have been shunned from the garden because they tend to get moldy and lose some of the lower leaves.  While I agree that this isn’t an attractive attribute, it is easily remedied by planting other mid-height plants around the base to cover the lower stems.  The mildewed foliage does not appear to affect surrounding perennials, herbs and shrubs, and the phlox won’t mind having close encounters with other garden mates.  I use oregano as a companion plant, which grows to around 12″ and produces delicate rosy pink flowers that work with any phlox combination.  Taller sedums work wonderfully as a back drop to phlox since most of their flower heads are just developing, they actually accentuate the phlox blossoms while their colorful stems delightfully meld with the variegated leaves.

Mesmerized Bees on 'Norah Leigh' phlox in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Mesmerized bees on ‘Norah Leigh’ phlox (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Experiment and play with a few phlox in your beds this fall.  You may want to try the mildew-resistant “Volcano” series, which are more compact (around 24″ tall) but offer a long bloom period in a choice of dazzling shades.  For my fellow variegata-phobes, I adore phlox paniculata ‘Norah Leigh’ with striking ivory variegation and my recent introduction, ‘Shockwave’ with dreamy gold and green foliage.  No matter which phlox you choose, they all make wonderful, long blooming additions that will quickly become an enduring favorite in your garden.  And, they may just rock your world as well~


  1. I am late responding to this but am disappointed in the so called mildew resistant phlox varieties. I have purchased some in the past and yanked them up when the unsightly mildew attacked.

    Had the same problem with mildew resistant monarda.

    Just beware that some things are not as advertised.

    • Right you are, Jean. I have had to remove several monarda and one phlox so far. However, after 20 years, I have had no problem with mildew on Phlox ‘David’ and the variegated ‘Nora Leigh’. My gardens are in full sun and most have good air flow, which might be helping. Thanks for writing and don’t give up on phlox!

  2. Many of the local nurseries do not carry the newer varieties of phlox-
    I have search for “red lava” etc but no luck!
    Where do you find yours?

    • Hi Gloria, Many of my local nurseries carry a variety of the Volcano phlox, but it is definitely hit or miss at this time of year-as many are already sold out. If you have a nursery that you frequent, you might ask them to order for you next year, or to notify you of any upcoming orders. I did search and found listings at, and sold out except for, which still has several colors available. Good luck and thank you for reading!

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