A Wildflower You'll Love
Yellow forsythia, red and pink camellias, red and yellow tulips, white and yellow daffodils, pink and orange quince. All are welcome sights in the Southeast right now, but if that is all the colors your garden has, it's missing something important – the color blue, the rarest of flower colors. Fortunately, a trip to the garden center this spring can quickly remedy this oversight. Just look for pots of our native blue phlox (Phlox divaricata).
Wiry stems bearing showy clusters of starlike, five-petaled blossoms rise 8 to 12 inches above tufts of foliage. Individual blooms are about an inch wide. Flowers typically range from light- to medium-blue, but some plants boast plum or pink flowers. I always go for blue.
Also known as woodland phlox, this perennial forms a low mat of creeping stems that root as they go. It's never invasive, though. It prefers moist, well-drained, fertile soil, but adapts well to most conditions. Plant it in light shade to part sun under tall hardwood trees in combination with narcissus, ferns, trilliums, foamflower, wild columbine, bloodroot, and other woodland wildflowers. Be careful not to let fallen tree leaves pile on top and smother it. After it finishes blooming, you can cut off the seed heads or not. I leave them, because seedlings sprout in all sorts of surprising places and I like free plants.
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While I find the plain species just dandy and easy to grow, you can buy selections chosen for more intense colors. ‘Blue Moon' features large flowers of violet-blue with overlapping petals. ‘Plum Perfect,' as you might expect, offers plum-purple blossoms. ‘Louisiana Blue' isn't blue at all. Its striking flowers are deep violet. It's rather prone to powdery mildew, though, while the others aren't.
Grow blue phlox in USDA Zones 3 to 8. Many garden centers carry it in spring. Bluestone Perennials is a good online source.