Friday, March 16, 2012

Trailing Phlox - Phlox nivalis

Trailing phlox (Phlox nivalis) is a low, sprawling perennial wildflower native to much of north Florida and with a disjunct record in Manatee County.  It occurs throughout the Southeast Coastalplain as well, and disjunct, rare, populations are reported in Texas and Michigan. 
Though fairly widespread in the northern half of Florida, its distribution is sporadic. It occurs in sunny, well-drained uplands; in old fields and sandhills. Here, it forms large mounds. Many runners emerge from the central portion of the plant and they grow in all directions, hugging the ground and rarely standing more than 6 inches above it.  The runners occassionally root as they touch moist soil.
The stems are clothed in evergreen, needle-like foliage. Each leaf is a shiny rich green in color and the edges have short stiff hairs. A well grown specimen makes a striking foliage plant in the garden - even when it is not in bloom.
The flowers are similar to those of other phlox.  They occur at the ends of the stems in small clusters and are often held upright; sometimes 6-8 inches above the ground.  Each is tubular with five petals flaring out from the central tube. Color is extremely variable, from deep pink to lighter shades and sometimes with "eyespots" near the opening of the tube.  Horticulturalists have taken advantage of this variability and there are named color forms available in the trade. Flowering occurs in the spring and may last through the summer.
Trailing phlox is offered by southern nurseries in states outside of Florida, but it has never been offered here for some reason.  It is a beautiful, hardy member of a most-beloved genus of garden plants, so its lack of availablility is a mystery to me.  I currently am growing it in my Pinellas County landscape, so if it prospers I hope to make it available to others in future years.
Use trailing phlox as a ground cover near the front of a mixed wildflower bed or as a mass planting in areas near walkways and trails.  Because it is evergreen, it remains attractive throughout the year as a foliage plant and because it is low, it does not overwhelm neighboring plants or small spaces.  Keep it trimmed if you need to confine it or let it sprawl and form masses that can reach several feet across.


  1. I really enjoyed tending my flowers,its like, its nice to wake up in the morning seeing them growing up and waiting for them to bloom :)


  2. Couldn't agree with you more. I spend far more time in my garden than I ever did under the "old system", but it is time I wouldn't trade for anything else. Gardens should be "in-putting" not "off-putting." We should look forward to the time we can get away into our gardens to work/observe/mess around...

  3. I used to garden just to make used of my time. What do you mean by in-puting and off-putting Mr.Hill?

  4. I define it as this: I believe a good garden entices us in and a bad one causes us to want to stay out. I look forward to my time in my garden - even when it requires some work. In the old days, I might find excuses to stay out and find my enjoyment elsewhere.


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