Phlox paniculata

These summer perennials are unsurpassed for colour and scent

The border phlox, P. paniculata, is one of the most anticipated blooms of high summer. The large heads, made up of rounded blossoms, come in a range of understated tones, from whites, pale blues and lilacs, through to hypnotic varieties with coloured eyes, to self-tones with screaming magenta or purple.  But that's just half the story as it's the intoxicating sweet scent that also helps make them so alluring. Butterflies and moths think so too, and are often seen drinking in all that's on offer from the long-tubed, flat-faced flowers.  Phlox panculata comes from the woodlands of central and eastern USA and eastern Canada. This herbaceous, 1.2m (4ft) perennial inhabits woodland edges, stream sides and damp meadows, where it produces white or lavender flowers. It prefers damp soil and will perform in semi-shade in a wide variety of conditions, but it's susceptible to powdery mildew.  It was one of the first plants found when America was colonised and soon found its way into gardens, where breeders got to work widening the range of colours and making them stockier, more compact and disease resistant.  Today, border phlox is easy to grow and rewarding, often flowering into autumn if deadheaded. It can be propagated by softwood cuttings in spring, root cuttings or division when dormant, which also helps to rejuvenate the plant. 

The border phlox, P. paniculata, is one of the most anticipated blooms of high summer. The large heads, made up of rounded blossoms, come in a range of understated tones, from whites, pale blues and lilacs, through to hypnotic varieties with coloured eyes, to self-tones with screaming magenta or purple. 

But that's just half the story as it's the intoxicating sweet scent that also helps make them so alluring. Butterflies and moths think so too, and are often seen drinking in all that's on offer from the long-tubed, flat-faced flowers. 

Phlox panculata comes from the woodlands of central and eastern USA and eastern Canada. This herbaceous, 1.2m (4ft) perennial inhabits woodland edges, stream sides and damp meadows, where it produces white or lavender flowers. It prefers damp soil and will perform in semi-shade in a wide variety of conditions, but it's susceptible to powdery mildew. 

It was one of the first plants found when America was colonised and soon found its way into gardens, where breeders got to work widening the range of colours and making them stockier, more compact and disease resistant. 

Today, border phlox is easy to grow and rewarding, often flowering into autumn if deadheaded. It can be propagated by softwood cuttings in spring, root cuttings or division when dormant, which also helps to rejuvenate the plant.