How To Care For Phlox

By Kent Higgins

Among perennials, the summer flowering hardy phlox command attention this month when their big, colorful blooms brighten the border. The perennial phlox (Phlox paniculata) is an easy plant to grow provided close attention is given to the control of red spider mites and mildew. These are the main pests of this plant. Dusting with sulfur periodically (except when the temperature goes over 85 ) will keep the plant free of mildew.

Sulfur dust also will hold down red spider mites, but one of the new miticides will be more effective. Red spider mites usually escape attention because they are very small, being scarcely visible to the naked eye. They live mainly on the undersides of the leaves. Phlox leaves that begin to lose their good green color should be examined closely to determine whether or not red spider mites are responsible for this condition. Use a hand lens for this inspection or shake the leaves over a sheet of white paper. Spider mites, if present, will show clearly as tiny, red specks that move actively.

Another important point in the culture of the perennial phlox is to cut off the faded blossom cluster before it sets seed. This often is overlooked. Ripe seeds fall to the ground, germinate next spring and produce vigorous plants that crowd out the parent plant. They account for the common complaint that the blooms of phlox change their color. The seedlings do not produce flowers of the same color as their parent plants; instead they are of low quality magenta, or other inferior shade.

This is a good time to visit nurseries and chinese house plants, and get acquainted with varieties of hardy phlox while they are in bloom. You can make a more satisfactory selection of the colors you want and the plant size you desire. Outdoor and house plants can be purchased and planted now.

Phlox is one of the few plants that can be transplanted successfully with-out significant setback while in full bloom. They should be dug with a ball of earth (moist, so that it holds together) containing practically all the root system. In addition to securing new varieties for the border you can bring new life and color to the perennial garden during this time when there are relatively few other perennials in bloom. - 29857

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