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How do you like your phlox? Low and casual, or formal and stately?

Phlox has two personalities. If you like a casual look, try low-growing annual phlox, which produces an abundance of colorful blooms on plants 6 to 20 inches high. For a formal, more stately bloomer, try perennial summer phlox; varieties available include ones that tower to a dramatic 5 feet, as well as newer ones like the one pictured at right, which reaches only 1 to 2 feet.

In mildest-winter areas of Southern California and the desert, plant annual phlox now to give it a head start in winter rains; wait until spring elsewhere. Perennial phlox is most available in spring.

Colors for both include pink, lavender, salmon, purple, and white. You can get annual phlox in some bicolors. Often perennial garden phlox has a contrasting dot of color at the center of each floret.

Both types appreciate fast-draining soil with plenty of organic matter, and abundant water. Feed regularly throughout the growing season. Since flowers fade in intense sun, provide some afternoon shade in hottest areas. With perennial phlox, you may need to apply fungicide late in the season for mildew. Where summers are hot and dry, mites may need control--spray kelthane if infestation is severe. Annual phlox (Phlox drummondii)

In mild-winter areas, annual phlox out-performs the perennial kinds. Plants look good massed in borders, window boxes, and flower beds.

You can choose from a range of heights (6 to 20 inches) and varieties with unusual star-shaped blooms, as well as ones with classic smooth-edged flowers. These dwarf types grow 6 inches tall. The taller strain, Finest, is not often sold as plants but is obtainable as seed. To prolong bloom, keep spent flower picked. Summer phlox (P. paniculata)

Also called perennial garden phlox, it grows best where winters are cold. It also grows successfully in milder areas that get some winter chill. It languishes in coastal California, since winters are not cold enough for sufficient chilling, and cool summers promote mildew.

Striking blooms appear on upright stalks throughout the summer. You can now get these in more compact forms, such as the 2-foot-tall 'Sandra'. Also available is the extra-dwarf 'Pinafore Pink', which stays under a foot high.

Cut off faded flower heads to encourage lateral blooms. You will probably want to weed out volunteer seedlings since they tend to revert to the common magenta color. Stake to keep taller plants from toppling. Plants will usually need dividing after three years.
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Date:Nov 1, 1984
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