Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Wildflower Wednesday: Summer Blooming Phlox

I've been waiting for the summer Phlox to bloom. The garden seems to come alive when the various shades of pink, magenta and white pop open. They bloom in full sun, part sun and even shade.
this cross has the brightest eyes that may have come form P' Laura'

The first Phloxes in this garden were here when I arrived. They were the offspring of whatever the previous gardeners might have planted 35+ years ago and were all wonderful magenta flowered beauties. Many of those original plantings are still here. The offspring of the offspring are here and after years of letting species and cultivars go to seed, real treasures have been produced in the crossings of the crossings.

Over the years I've added others, including a few hybrids. The ones that have survived and thrived are in bloom right now.

Here's Phlox 'David' which is a stunning white. There are  several groupings of pure white seedlings, none that I planted.

Phlox 'Jeana' has smaller flowers than other summer phlox, but she's big on nectar and draws the most pollinators.

Phlox 'Wanda' blooms all summer if deadheaded. You have to love that in a flower and yes, bees do visit this hybrid.

An unknown seedling from a cross.

Another unknown cross in a luscious color.

Some of the seedlings are brightly colored and others are pale pinks.

All of them are beautiful to me.
Practically Perfect Pink Phlox pilosa demonstrating butterfly attracting qualities
Phlox flowers are the classic butterfly plant with  landing pads of deliciousness (flared petals), a narrow tube that is accessible to the long proboscis of butterflies and fragrant flowers that occur in loose, rounded clusters. The long bloom time means there's plenty of nectar for pollinator visitors from July into August. I've seen butterflies, skippers, bumblebees, Minor bees, carpenter bees, flower flies and Snowberry Clearwing Moth visiting. I've read that Hummers visit as well and I hope they might stop by, too.

Phlox has all the characteristics of a classic butterfly nectar flower.

  • clustered flowers with a landing platform
  • brightly colored
  • open during the day
  • ample nectar producer 
  • nectar deeply hidden in corolla

If you want to attract butterflies, moths, skippers and other pollinators to your garden, then plant more Phlox! That's what I've been doing. Phlox paniculata 'Jeana' was planted several years ago and she rocks as a butterfly magnet. I add at least one plant a year, more if I can find them in 3 inch pots. They do better in spring planting if they're smaller.
These moths hover and stabilize their flight by resting their front legs on P 'Jeana's' blossom

But, right now I am wondering what happened to all the butterflies that usually flock to my Phloxes?

There have been rare sightings this spring/summer. I just saw a Yellow Sulphur on the Partridge pea and the Phlox, but it zipped by too fast to pose for a photo. Yesterday, a  Swallowtail was nectaring on  'Jeana'.

 It's been disappointing and disconcerting to say the least. Here we are in  the fourth week in July and the butterflies and skippers are missing in action. I'm not alone in this wondering what's going on, other gardeners have been asking "Where have  the butterflies have gone?" Thankfully, Phlox are able to do their thing despite the missing butterfly.

What is their thing?

Looking pretty! Well, that's a given, but..

P paniculata sps
More importantly, Phlox provides nectar for pollinators during this critical time.

Critical time!

Yes, critical! Mid-to-late summer is usually one of the toughest times for nectar and pollen-feeding insects. Plants like Phlox are very important producers of nectar.

Nectar robbing Carpenter bee

That's good to know. Is there anything else you can tell me about phlox?

I don't think one can have too many Phlox

I'm glad you asked!

Phloxes are native to North America and found growing in diverse habitats from the coldest alpine tundras to prairies, woodlands and meadows. With over 65 different species in North America there are options for many habitats.

They're all beautiful and fragrant.

Phlox will grow in partial shade or full sun~
Phlox paniculata sps and cultivars love moist, rich, well draining soil and flower best in full sun. What they get here is shallow, summer dry, clay soil that's been amended with leaf mold and compost. I do give them a nice big drink if we don't get rain. If you can keep them relatively moist and provide decent drainage you'll have good success (hardiness zones 3 to 8) and keep the pollinators well supplied with nectar.
More robbing!
If you want to see what kind of offspring you can get from all the cross pollination that will be happening, then don't deadhead your plants, let them go to seed and self sow. The parent plants always bloom true, but seedlings will be a pleasant surprise of mixed colors for your garden.

P paniculata 'David' and unknown mother= A pleasant pinkish surprise.
Isn't this seedling adorable? I need to remember to thank the pollinators

7-25-2020 Spicebush swallowtail! So excited!

The particulars
Botanical name: Phlox paniculata
Common Name: garden phlox, summer phlox
Family: Polemoniaceae  
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Pink-purple to white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Fragrant Attracts: Birds, Hummingbirds, Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Clay Soil, Black Walnut

Phlox Wanda. (info/source)
Phlox hybrid ‘Wanda’
Type: Herbacious perennial
Family: Polemoniaceae 
Native range: same as Summer phlox
Zone: Hardy in zones 5-10
Size: 18" to 24″
Bloom: Spring through summer, deadhead for continued bloom
Bloom description: Bright pink flowers
Water: requires moist well-drained soil
Maintenance: deadhead
Sun: Full sun and semi shade 
Comments: Wanda is thought to be a hybrid, and some speculate that the genes of Phlox divaricata might be in there along with P. pilosa. The plentiful flowers are a strong fuchsia, perhaps magenta, and may vary a bit on whether you place her in full sun or partial shade.  (info/source)
Tolerant: Heat and humidity tolerant

Phlox paniculata 'Jeana' 
Type: Herbacious perennial
Family: Polemoniaceae 
Native range: same as Summer phlox
Zone: Hardy in zones 5-10
Size: 5′ tall beauty
Bloom description: impressive floral display and fragrant
Bloom: from mid-July through early September.
Maintenance: Water when droughty
Sun: Full sun
Comments: This cultivar was discovered growing along the Harpeth River near Nashville, Tennessee and named after its discoverer, Jeana Prewitt. ‘Jeana’ attracted more butterflies than any other garden phlox in the entire  Mt. Cuba trial. With a top rank in both horticultural and ecological evaluations, Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’ is hard to beat. (source)

Disease/insects: PS The biggest problem I have had has been an attack of Phlox Bug~A nasty creature that sucks the plant juices and disfigures the plant. I cut the plant back after the first frost and trash the stalks....Never composting them. Phlox bug over winters in the stalks and this takes care of most of them. You can read about my battle with them here.

Posts about Phlox
Nectar Robbers are at it again
Early Summer Pollinator magnets
Summer Phlox

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. I am so glad you stopped by. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I LOVE phlox! Mine are covered in butterflies, especially loved by the swallowtails. Thanks for hosting WW!

  2. Thanks for visiting and supporting WW! xo

  3. I know how much love Phlox Gail, but I'm smiling to myself this month because I too have several phloxes blooming in my garden, but I would never write about them for Wildflower Wednesday . They're the only flower in my garden I've seen visited by the amazing hummingbird hawk moth and worth keeping just for that. The butterflies are doing well in my corner of the world, but I reckon they're about to disappear as it's time for the annual Big Butterfly Count!

  4. I’m only seeing cabbage whites, alas — plus only a few sulfurs and an occasional yellow swallowtail.back in spring. Not really many bees (of any sort), either. A bit unnerving.

  5. Wildflower Wednesday link made! Thanks, Gail.

  6. Wonderful plant that Phlox. Not a lot of butterflies here either. I have seen Pipevine and Black Swallowtail lately.

  7. I love phlox, but sadly can no longer grow them as the deer keep them from ever blooming. So I've been removing them whenever I can. We've had lots of butterflies the last two weeks, more than normal. Even my husband has noticed there are more. Not many Monarchs though.

  8. I had some Phlox 'David', though it seems to have disappeared. I tried growing some Marsh Phlox, but apparently it never got established. Maybe I will try again.

  9. Our bees are enjoying aloe flowers.

  10. I don't see Mr Linky? Not even a click here for ...

  11. So sorry. Was a broken URL

  12. Hi Gail! Huh, so you're not seeing many butterflies on your phlox either? I'm sorry to hear that. I was hoping they were further east. One of my northern readers said the cold spring might have stalled them. Perhaps so. I love all of your phlox. The magenta one here is still my strongest, but I'm loving some of my other ones too. I could never grow David. It always died here. Hugs my friend, Dee


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson