Flummoxed by Phlox

This may be another case of mistaken plant identity. There are magenta-colored garden phlox volunteers popping up in my garden. The color and size matches the phlox paniculata labeled 'Robert Poore' that I purchased three years ago. However, the information that I've found from my research source states that this phlox is sterile. But wait-- there is contradictory information on the same page stating that this phlox self-sows seeds if not dead-headed.

The original phlox grouping is next to my stone chimney, tucked behind a semi-circle of Indian Hawthorne, safely within the cottage garden fence (away from deer). The original three plants spread quickly to fill the area. I have another variety of phlox, a tall, salmon pink variety that fortunately hasn't self-sown. I actually prefer the 'Robert Poore' magenta color.

A magenta phlox showed up beside the tall salmon pink which is not a particularly good color combination. The phlox roots are buried beneath a giant mass of creeping perennial heliotrope, so this awkward pairing will remain until next summer when I can once again identify the plants by the bloom colors. Another volunteer showed up outside the cottage garden fence, so I decided to transplant it between a grouping of coneflowers, rosemary and sage to see if the deer would find it. This little phlox survived unnoticed until late August when some critter decided to take a nibble. Since I needed the magenta phlox in another location, I moved the little volunteer inside the fence.

There are times when Mother Nature creates improved designs. Another alleged 'Robert Poore' volunteer popped up between the Encore® Azaleas and heuchera 'Purple Palace.' That's not all. The seeds from a purple Wave® Petunia sprouted in front of the purple heuchera. This little combination is so appealing that I have moved more phlox 'Robert Poore' seedlings to this area for a mass planting.

In case you are interested in phlox 'Robert Poore' for your garden, it is rated for zones 2b-11. Isn't that just about the entire world? I've found another source that says 'Robert Poore' grows in zones 4-8. The height of my phlox is around 2-3+ feet and it doesn't flop over on the ground. The phlox began blooming in late June and a few blooms were still going until the mid-November frost here in zone 7b. Powdery mildew wasn't a problem until late October. Since 'Robert Poore' is supposed to provide better mildew resistance, this is another confusing point on the correct identification.

I have collected and planted seeds of this phlox in the garden. If these seeds germinate, sprout and then bloom as magenta phlox, then I will be a happy gardener -- whatever the real source, whatever the real name of this phlox! If I have no phlox seedlings next summer, then I'm heading out to purchase phlox paniculata 'Robert Poore' for sure.

Story and photos by Freda Cameron



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