Growing beautiful phlox in your home has never been easier! Read on for this helpful guide on how to grow phlox from cuttings.
Intro to Phlox
Phlox is a beautiful, versatile perennial that can add a pop of color to an outdoor garden. Originally native to the eastern region of the United States, phlox is now widely accessible to the other areas outside of their native home. Depending on the variety of phlox you grow, you can expect these flowers to blossom during either the spring or summer. These flowers come in an array of colors, ranging from pink, purple, white, blue, and red; you’ll have no issue finding a phlox variety that works with the exterior of your home!
Phlox flowers attract hummingbirds regardless of flower color, which can treat gardeners who double as birdwatchers! In addition, hummingbirds are a type of pollinator, so your garden dramatically benefits from introducing phlox.
Phlox comes in many varieties, and each one can have a particular purpose in the garden. Low-growing phlox makes for an excellent ground cover. Tall phlox makes a colorful backdrop and accessorizes your exterior walls. Medium-sized phlox can substitute bushes or fill empty spaces in your garden.
Phlox is an outstanding addition to any garden, and the best part is that they’re effortless to care for! So let’s look at how to grow phlox from cuttings and keep your plant healthy and happy for years to come.
How to Propagate Phlox
Phlox can be conveniently propagated so that you can surround your home with even more of these delightful flowers. Propagating phlox can be done via two different methods; dividing plants and multiplying root cuttings.
Dividing your phlox plants is pretty straightforward. In the early spring, dig up your plant and break it into smaller sections. When re-planting these smaller phloxes, space them about 2 feet apart to have room for their roots to branch out and grow. You should expect these separate phloxes to flower in the summertime.
Propagating via root cuttings is also another popular method of reproducing phlox plants. Follow these simple steps to increase your phlox supply significantly:
- You’ll have to dig up your plants to access the root system. This should be done in the wintertime before the phloxes start their spring growth. You’ll also need a sharp pair of garden clippers to perform this propagation. Please make sure they’re clean and sterile to prevent the spread of bacteria to the root cuttings.
- Remove the most significant roots that you can find (look for pieces that are at least 2 inches in length). These roots should be close to the base of the main stem; they have the most amount of tissue that’s ready to produce shoots. Take your shears and nick the end of the root so you’ll know which end should be planted.
- Bury your roots vertically into the soil, ensuring that the nicked end is at the top towards the surface, and cover with soil and water. The shoots will grow out of the nicked end during the spring.
Preferred Growing Conditions
Now that you’ve learned how to reproduce your phlox plants via propagation, here are some helpful tips on phlox’s preferred growing conditions.
Sun & Climate
The phlox does not enjoy hot, humid climates, so if you live in the south, you should be more careful to ensure that your plants are in a comfortable location. This can be more difficult if you plan to plant your phlox in-ground, as you cannot move the container to fit its sunlight needs. Instead, I would recommend looking around the perimeter of your home and taking note of how long each side of your house receives sunlight and planting accordingly. Your phloxes should have partial sunlight, so aim for daily 4 to 6 hours of direct rays.
If you live in a hot climate, I also suggest you take the time to spread a layer of mulch around the base of your plants. Mulch has many benefits, including temperature regulation so that your phlox can keep its cool even when the sun is blazing.
Those living in cooler climates such as the north do not have to be as discerning with their planting location, though you must up your phlox’s sunlight intake to about 6 to 8 hours per day.
Your soil should be kept moist but not soggy with water. When watering your phlox, avoid overhead watering and getting the foliage wet. Overhead watering heightens your plants’ risk of being infected with powdery mildew. Instead, point your garden hose at the base of the plants and spray the soil, avoiding the leaves and flowers of your plant.
The soil you choose for your phlox should be rich, fertile, and well-draining. Aim for a neutral soil pH, somewhere in the 6.5 to 7.5 range.
The soil your phloxes are planted in should already have a rich array of nutrients for your plants to feed off of, but the phlox does appreciate a little extra fertilizer. So, once a year in the springtime, revamp your soil’s nutrient level by working in some compost.
Should Phlox Be Pruned?
Pruning is an excellent way to encourage fuller growth in your plant and control its size when it gets too large. However, it would be best if you always pruned off areas of your plant that have been damaged or are dying. This redirects energy towards developing healthy growth in your plant.
In addition, you should prune the stems of your phlox back to about 1 or 2 inches above the soil after the first killing frost in the fall. This date will vary for you, depending on your geographical location. I highly suggest checking in with your local weather authorities on your fall frost dates.
The fantastic thing about owning phlox is that it is not usually bothered by pests. However, on a rare occasion, you might stumble into stem nematodes. While this pest infestation is rare, it does happen sometimes. So it’s great to be prepared for if the day comes.
Nematodes are practically microscopic, and you’ll only be able to see the damage they cause to your phlox. Nematodes live and feed off your plant’s stem and suck the nutrients right out of it. They often infiltrate young planet tissue below the soil, easily penetrable. An infestation causes plant foliage to turn yellow and begin to collapse, and they also stunt the growth of your phlox.
Nematodes are spread through infected soil, so ensure that any new ground you’re bringing into your garden is certified nematode-free. In addition, if you suspect your plants have an infestation, do not transfer the plant to another location, as this can only spread the nematodes further to another area of the garden. Unfortunately, there are no pesticides available to home gardeners to control nematodes. But the silver lining is that this is a rare infestation, and phlox plants are often pest-resistant.
Improper water techniques and lack of air circulation make your phlox susceptible to a disease known as powdery mildew. Powdery mildew gets its name from its appearance; the leaves and foliage of your phlox will look like it has been dusted with a powder. Make no mistake; powdery mildew is a severe disease and, if left untreated, can overtake your whole garden beyond just your phlox plants.
Once powdery mildew has been detected, you must act as quickly as possible, as mold is rigid to get rid of in the garden. Prune any affected foliage from the plant and destroy the clippings, either in the trash or by burning them completely. Please do not use those pruning shears again until you have sterilized them with rubbing alcohol.
If you’ve caught powdery mildew early, you can also treat the affected plants with an organic fungicide to kill off any residual mold that might be unknowingly lingering on your plant.
You can prevent powdery mildew from ever happening by avoiding watering your phlox overhead; instead, water directly at the base of the plant. In addition, air circulation is another crucial aspect of preventing powdery mildew. Ensure to prune away any areas that are too overcrowded to allow airflow between plants.
With low maintenance and a fantastic variety in size and color, it’s hard to find any downside to adding phlox to your home garden. The best part about phlox is how easy it is to propagate; once you learn how to grow phlox from cuttings, you can continue to multiply your plants until the phlox’s gorgeous lush foliage surrounds you. The best part about propagation is that you only need to buy your phlox once for a lifetime of greenery! You can even gift phlox to your loved ones and share its beauty.
BBC Gardener’s World Magazine. “How to Grow Phlox.” Gardeners’ World. https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/phlox-to-grow/
Beaulieu, Kevin. “How to Grow and Care for Garden Phlox (Tall Phlox).” The Spruce. https://www.thespruce.com/tall-garden-phlox-4117536
Perry, EJ & Ploeg, AT. “Nematodes.” University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7489.html
"Phlox Paniculata." Missouri Botanical Garden. https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=f193
Russ, Karen. “Phlox.” Clemson Cooperative Extension. https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/phlox/
The Editors. “Phlox: How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Phlox.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac. https://www.almanac.com/plant/phlox
The Editors. “Powdery Mildew: How to Prevent and Control Powdery Mildew.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac. https://www.almanac.com/pest/powdery-mildew