Phlox paniculata

garden phlox


Phlox paniculata

L. 1753

pronounced: flox pan-ick-yoo-LAH-yuh

(Polemoniaceae — the phlox family)


common names: garden phlox, phlox

Phlox is derived from the Greek φλοξ (phlox), a flame; paniculata is from the Latin panicula, a tuft or panicle.

This popular garden plant is an erect herbaceous perennial, native to the eastern US, but widely cultivated elsewhere as well. It can grow to about 120 cm tall, with simple leaves on slender stems. The leaves are lanceolate, slightly broadened close to the petiole. They have bristled edges and pronounced side veins.

The flowers are up to 2.5 cm across, trumpet-shaped, and often fragrant, white, red, pink or purple, and grouped in panicles. Each bloom has 5 significantly reduced sepals, with an extended fused throat that opens into 5 distinct and overlapping lobes. There are 5 stamens, 3 stigmas, and one short pistil.

The fruit is an unremarkable seed capsule.

Because of its great popularity, many hybrids have been developed. While phlox start easily from seed, and often self-sow in the garden, it is rare for the seedlings to have the same colouring and habit as the parent plant. Many gardeners dead-head their plants before they go to seed, as the self-sown seedlings tend to grow up into vigorous plants with flowers of a decided magenta hue, reverting to type, and can soon crowd out the mother plant. Once in a while these seedlings create exciting new plants, so it is sometimes worth looking more closely before rooting them out.

Although this is a North American plant, it was European growers who first realized its potential. They developed new cultivars, and exported them back to the US, where they became probably the most popular plant in perennial gardens from about 1900 to the 1940s. They then suffered a downturn in popularity as perennial gardening became regarded as old-fashioned and rather quaint, and many of the old cultivars were lost. In recent years the interest in perennial gardening has returned, and many new phlox cultivars are being developed, with recent focus on producing dwarf plants, and in increasing resistance to mildew.

Medical uses have been reported. It is said that ingestion of leaf material produces a laxative effect, and its application can be used to treat boils.

Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.

Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2014
Page last updated 10th March 2019