Annual Phlox aka Phlox drummondii (Flox Drum-on-dye) is sometimes called “Texas Belle” because this colorful spring and summer wildflower plant hails from the “Lone Star” state.
This sweet-smelling versatile annual from the Polemoniaceae (Pol-em-oh-nee-ay-see-ee) family is a wonderful addition to flower beds, planters, hanging baskets, rock gardens and more. It is one of over 65 plus Phlox species.
In this article, we discuss this attractive plant and share advice for growing and caring for Annual Phlox. Read on to learn more.
What Does Annual Phlox Look Like?
The genus name of the plant is “Phlox”, and this means “flame”.
It is the perfect description for the bright, vivid colors of this plant’s blooms.
The annual phlox has a very attractive mounding growth habit providing an appearance of lush abundance to any garden setting.
The flowers are favorites of desirable pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The plant provides an important source of food for them during the cool, early months of spring.
Annual Phlox At A Glance
Flowering & Fragrance: Expect abundant loosely arranged 1” – inch blooms in broad, flat topped clusters throughout the spring and summer months.
The sweetly fragrant flowers grow in flat-topped clusters in shades ranging from palest white to deepest purple.
Some types feature a contrasting “eye.” Flowers should be deadheaded regularly to promote blooming and growth.
Foliage: The full leaves are dark green, pointed and elongated.
Height: Six inches to three feet, depending upon type and growth habit.
Spread: Some types may spread to two feet wide.
Type: Most Phlox are annual plants, but some are perennial versions.
Light & Temperature Requirements: Phlox likes a sunny, sheltered setting protected from early frost.
Water & Fertilizer: Keep the soil evenly moist, feed the plants a couple of times during the growing season to promote blooms.
Soil: Use good quality, fertile, loamy, well-draining soil.
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-11
Positives: Phlox are easy-care, low-maintenance, deer resistant and fairly drought tolerant. They are extremely versatile and attract a wide variety of beneficial fauna to the garden.
Propagation: These ornamental plants are very easy to grow from seed. Once established, your plants may go native and reseed themselves.
Texas Native First Popular In England: As a sidenote Phlox Drummondi a Texas native became popular in the gardening world after its introduction to England in 1835 when seeds were first sent.
Propagating Phlox From Seed
It is unusual to find Phlox seed sold in individual color packets. Most of the time, you will find mixed packets; however, all the colors look good together, so this isn’t much of a problem.
While it is possible to purchase seedlings from a nursery, growing these plants from seed is easy.
On the other hand, if you are adamant about choosing your colors, you may be better off buying seedlings.
Of course, you could always just wait until your homegrown seedlings start to bloom and then sort them out!
Start your Phlox seeds in a tray of good propagating soil on a sunny windowsill sometime during the months of February through March.
In the greenhouse, sow your seeds during March or April. Growing the seedlings in a greenhouse will help them become acclimatized to an outdoor setting.
Follow standard seed care protocol, keeping the seed tray warm and the soil slightly moist. Your seeds should sprout fairly quickly.
When the seedlings have gotten big enough (two or three true leaves), gently transfer them to their own individual pots filled with fertile, loamy, well-draining potting soil.
Continue to keep them in a warm, sunny place to grow large enough for transferring outdoors.
A couple of weeks before planting the seedlings outdoors, give them a light dose of liquid fertilizer.
Try to time your propagation so the seedlings will be 12-14 weeks old just after all danger of frost has passed.
This is when you should plant them out, and they will be ready to begin blooming at this age.
NOTE: Introduce plants to more light and harden plants off before planting outdoors in their new flowering locations.
What Are The Best Varieties Of Annual Phlox?
There are so many wonderful varieties of Phlox it is hard to make recommendations.
All of them are beautiful, and fit in well with all sorts of other flowering garden and container plants.
Some of the most exciting varieties are the new ones, such as the Gisele series. This type of Phlox is especially bred to tolerate drought and heat.
This series comes in many eye-popping colors, including:
Gisele Hot Pink: This cultivar grows to be about a foot tall and eighteen inches wide. Flowers are a bright, neon pink with a darker pink center.
Popstars Blue and Popstars Red produce abundant, boldly colored, star-shaped flowers from very early spring until late in the autumn. This cultivar is extremely heat tolerant.
More traditional varieties of Phlox include:
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) is an excellent ground cover that likes shade and grows well at the base of shrubs.
Wagon Wheel Phlox produces unusual flowers with petals that look like wagon wheel spokes in a pretty shade of salmon.
Sternenzauber has very pretty fringed, pointed, star-shaped blooms in an attractive shade of lavender/pink.
Other notable varieties include Star Phlox, Dwarf Beauty, Grandiflora and Gigantea.
What Are The Best Companion Plants For Phlox?
Grown in combination with springtime bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, Phlox is a real show-stopper.
Choose a low-growing variety to create a nice base at the feet of taller spring flowers.
Plant a ground covering Phlox variety around the base of spring-flowering shrubs, such as:
Phlox will provide early spring color and (when properly deadheaded) will continue to provide bountiful blooms throughout the summer months.
When planting Phlox, it’s smart to set up groupings of 3-5 plants about 12” – inches apart to provide an impressive display of texture and color.
Create beautiful, garden borders by combining several different colors of low-growing Phlox.
How To Prepare Your Garden For Phlox
When planning to set Phlox plants directly into your garden, be sure the soil is properly prepared.
Use a tiller or a garden fork to loosen up the soil to a depth of about 12” – 15” inches. Turn in 2” – 4” inches of finished compost.
Plant the seedlings about 12” inches apart early in the springtime. When transplanting larger, more established plants growing in a pot or container, dig a hole about two times the size of the diameter of the pot.
The hole should be deep enough that the soil level in the pot is even with the surrounding soil when placing the plant in the ground.
When placing Phlox in your garden, pay close attention to the type of plants you have.
Phlox come in three separate categories, and each has slightly different growth requirements.
Border Phlox, such as:
- Garden Phlox
- Meadow Phlox
- Carolina Phlox
… does best in a partial-to-full sun setting with well-draining soil that is average or rich. Keep the soil slightly moist.
Phlox Growing in Low Mounds, such as:
- Sand Phlox
… prefer loamier or sandier soil. They do well in full sun and can tolerate drought.
Woodland Phlox, such as:
- Creeping Phlox
- Blue Phlox
…do well in part-to-full sun with humus-rich soil, kept evenly moist.
5 Tips For Success With Phlox
#1 – Phlox Like Well Draining Soil And Lots of Sun
Generally speaking, most Phlox likes well-draining soil and lots of sun. Late afternoon shade can be helpful, especially during the hottest months of summer.
Fertilize once before setting your seedlings out and again early in the summer.
#2 – Wet Soil = Droopy, Yellow Leaves
Plants kept in soil that is too wet will begin to display droopy, yellow leaves.
Plants that do not receive enough sun tend to grow in a leggy, ungainly manner.
#3 – Mulch For Moisture and Prevent Weeds
Mulch around Phlox with a couple of inches of leaves, bark, or similar substance to help keep moisture in the soil and discourage weed growth.
#4 – Water Regularly
If your Phlox gets less than an inch of rain weekly during the spring and summer, be sure to water regularly.
Even though Phlox is quite drought tolerant, it cannot do without water altogether.
#5 – Cut Back After First Frost
When growing one of the taller varieties of Phlox, cut it back to an inch or two after the first killing frost in the fall.
If it survives the winter and/or reseeds itself, be sure to divide it every couple of years to promote healthier growth.
What Are Common Phlox Pests & Diseases?
When well-cared-for, these plants are generally healthy and trouble free but watch for signs of:
- Powdery Mildew on Phlox plants causes leaf drop, affects vigor – Select resistant varieties
- Stem Nematodes
- Southern Blight
- Stem Canker
- Caterpillars eating foliage
- Leaf Miners
- Leaf Spots
- Aphids (plant lice) feeding on new growth – Learn natural remedies for aphids
Versatile Phlox A Great All-Around Summer Plant
Most Phlox are annuals, but some are perennial Phlox and some are annuals that reseed themselves every year.
The genus includes an impressive array of varieties ranging from low, quickly spreading ground covers to tall, impressive specimens that make nice cut flowers.
All of the varieties produce copious numbers of blossoms to delight the senses from early spring until mid-autumn.
When blooming, these plants display billows of pretty, colorful, star-shaped flowers in a wide array of colors from
Phlox with creeping growth habits do well in rock gardens and as a ground cover. Medium sized, mounding varieties make excellent borders.
Taller, more fragrant types dress up your flower garden and make lovely cut flowers.