Wild Blue Phlox–Success at Last

Wild Blue Phlox

 I have tried in vain to grow Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) that would last for more than one season;  I was never successful until now.  I have replanted more Wild Blue Phlox than any other plant in my garden.  No, make that more than all the plants I have replaced in my gardens.  I finally gave up a few years ago.

savanna wild blue phloxIsn’t this lovely?  This was the planting in my savanna island the first year., but none came back the following year.  I call the area on the other side of the garage a savanna, and while it receives morning shade from the Black Walnut on the east side of the property, it’s sunny all afternoon.   Other partial shade savanna plants thrive there–Bloodroot, Dutchman’s Breeches, Red Trillium, Virginia Bluebells, Jacob’s Ladder, Wild Geranium,  Virginia Waterleaf, Starry Campion, Elm-leaved Goldenrod, and Short’s Aster and various sedges, but the Wild Blue Phlox only lasted a season.

wild blue phlox nxt to logMay 2007  New planting.


bliss woods wild blue phloxpastedGraphic_2.pdf

Bliss Woods savanna, Sugar Grove, May 2009.  Nature’s secret–everything grows close together, much closer than in our gardens, each plant holds the other in check.  For instance, my Elm-leaved Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia), which doesn’t bloom until October, is already 1 1/2’-2’ tall in my savanna garden, while at Bliss Woods it is still lower growing than the Wild Blue Phlox.

Wild blue Phlox under tree at Karen's

May 2015 at my friend Karen’s house, mixed with Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).  If happy, Wild Blue Phlox readily seeds itself and will increase by runners, as well.

wild blue phlox karen 2

May 2015, again at Karen’s house, along with False Solomon’s Seal (Smilacina racemosa), Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), and Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).

wild blue phlox nancy

Wild Blue Phlox at the top of a northwest-facing slope at my daughter Nancy’s house  yesterday.  The phlox receives water from a nearby downspout as it descends down the hill.

Wild blue Phlox my gardem under Redbud

Ta-dah!   May 2015  my house!!!!.  Given to me last year by my hostess at the Bloomington/Normal Wild Ones, I planted it under a Redbud tree next to my patio.   It’s mixed in with Penn Sedge (Carex pensylvanica), Shooting Star (Dodecatheon media), and Wild Hyacinth.   Thank you, thank you, thank you, Bloomington/Normal Wild Ones.

Do any of you have a problem growing Wild Blue Phlox?

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12 Responses to Wild Blue Phlox–Success at Last

  1. Susan T. May 25, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    I planted a berm for my neighbor with ferns and celandine around a bunch of dead logs. It is so lovely that I wish I could see it everyday when I look out the window. Alas I have to walk to the street to view it. I am not trying to get it in my backyard so I can see it out the window.

    Susan Terronez

    PS Such a great follow up to Mertensia virginica and a filler before everything summer comes in.

  2. Judy Fishburn May 25, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    Would the Wild Blue Phlox you write about – possibly be what I grew up calling – Sweet Williams?
    The woods are full of them right now.
    Or – are they called something else?

    • PatHill May 25, 2015 at 8:44 pm #

      What you are seeing in the woods is Dame’s Rocket. It’s commonly called ‘Wild Phlox’ because of its resemblance to garden phlox from a distance. Its 4-petaled flowers idintify it as a member of the mustard family rather than the phlox family that has 5 petaled flowers.

      I wrote about this in May 2012. You can read about it here:


  3. Monica May 25, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

    The only thing I’ve noticed about Phlox divaricata–woodland phlox–is that it has migrated away from the dog pee side of my city parkway woodland planting and now hugs the getting-out-of-the-car side!

    • PatHill May 25, 2015 at 8:46 pm #

      Well. I guess that says something. My phlox has had neither dog pee or foot traffic, so that wouldn’t apply to my situation. Interesting, though.

  4. Jack Shouba May 25, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

    Judy, you are right–another name for wild blue phlox is sweet William; another is woodland phlox.
    Pat, I grow them under burr oaks and they are doing well.
    Although they are usually blue, they can be white. I saw some white ones at Johnson’s Mound recently.

    • PatHill May 25, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

      Lucky you. I’m wondering if is their proximity to a Black Walnut tree. I can’t find anything that would suggest that.

  5. Barb Glassel May 25, 2015 at 11:42 pm #

    Rabbits love to chew a clump of newly planted woodland phlox down to nub — overnight.

    Hate to lose those great blue flowers. Until our latest one is well established and spreads, we will keep it caged. Planting only one is probably risky, ao maybe I should add a few more.

  6. Pat Sullivan-Schroyer May 26, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    So glad to hear that I am not the only one experiencing difficulty growing this wonderfully delightful plant! After 2 unsuccessful attempts in 2 different spots in our savannah yard, I planted it on the edge of our original vegetable garden that is now in half day shade thanks to maturing shrubs and trees in our lot border. It came back! Then the rabbits attacked! I fenced it and now Virginia waterleaf is threatening to crowd it out!
    I love the comment about planting it with shooting stars, Penn sedge and wild hyacinth!

  7. Jason May 26, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    Such a beautiful wildflower. My biggest problem is all the rabbits who love to eat this plant. Otherwise it is always happy in part shade with good moisture.

  8. cecilia carreon May 26, 2015 at 8:56 pm #

    I don’t understand why you would want to grow a potentially invasive
    species. Why? Maybe I am not understanding what I’ve read. PLease explain. Thank you.

    • Pat Hill May 27, 2015 at 7:47 am #

      In trying to clear things up, I only confused some. I wrote about 2 completely different plants. The one I had difficulty growing is called Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata). It has violet to purple 5=petaled flowers and grows less than a foot tall. It blooms from late April to late May. It is native to the eastern and midwestern United States and is a high quality plant.

      The other plant I mentioned, in the next article, was Dame’s Rocket (Hesperus matronalis), erroneously called “Wild Phlox.” It is an upright plant, 2 ft. tall with bright pink to lavender, 4-petaled flowers. It is NOT a phlox; it is a member of the Mustard family. It is native to Europe and is a prolific seeder, considered invasive by some states.

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