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Smooth phlox is a charming in-between bloomer

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Courtesy of Gene Bush

(Read caption) Smooth phlox (Phlox glaberrima) is an easy-to-grow native perennial that flowers in late spring or early summer.

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Gardeners are probably most familiar with Phlox paniculata, or tall garden phlox, which blooms in summer. If you are a woodland or shade gardener, then perhaps the creeping woodland phlox (P. stolonifera), or wild blue wood phlox (P. divaricata) is most familiar.

While tall garden phlox generally wants sun and blooms in summer, the two woodland species bloom in spring and want an edge-of-the-woods location. 

Mr. In-Between

There is a lapse in bloom times between the early woodland phlox and the summer phlox. Fortunately for gardeners, that niche is filled  with the smooth phlox (P. glaberrima). I call this species Mr. In-Between for its continual bloom during May and into June here in Southern Indiana.  It's native to many East Coast and Midwestern states.

While the smooth phlox is satisfying in the species, my favorite is a cultivar named Morris Berd.

Its individual flowers are quite large compared to the species. Each flower is a rosy-pink with a eye of white swirl, and petals are of heavy substance. The relatively large blooms are carried in clusters well above the foliage. Flowers are fragrant and attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies as well as gardeners. Leaves are long and narrow, clean green, providing a nice background for the blooms.

Morris Berd reaches only a foot or so in height and has a spread of couple of feet. While vigorous in growth, the rhizomatous habit is clump forming, and the plant is well-behaved. It is not demanding about soil -- it handles a wide range from moist to dry -- and does well from shade to full sun. Mine is in open shade.

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