March Plant of the Month: Woodland Phlox Phlox divaricata

With nondescript leaves that fade into the background during the vibrant garden show of summer and fall, our March Plant of the Month showboats in the spring, and you won’t want to miss its blooms! Woodland Phlox Phlox divarcata ‘Blue Moon’ is native to Virginia, it’s even found historically in the Capital Region, and can be seen growing along the forest floor from the mountains to the piedmont. This very adaptable plant can grow to form a dense ground cover, but spreads much slower than the similar “Creeping Phlox”. 

Range map from the Digital Atlas of Virginia Flora.

In the spring these plants erupt in colorful blooms from lavender to pink and can be so dense that it is hard to see the evergreen leaves. This habit of thick blooms is what earned it the name “Phlox” which is greek for “flame” and alludes to the thick colorful swatches that can appear when they grow in mounds across the forest floor and partly-shaded meadows.

The flowers of Woodland Phlox are not just beautiful to look at though, with an earlier bloom time, these tube-shaped flowers are an important early-spring food source for many pollinators. They are particularly favored by hummingbirds, butterflies (especially the tiger swallowtail) and long tongued bees, including the fan favorite bumblebees! It’s not only the pollinators that benefit though. Because Woodland Phlox is incapable of self-pollination, it requires the many different types of visitors, from birds and butterflies, to moths and bees, to facilitate pollination and help it go to seed. 

Whether you try to spot these beauties during a hike in the woods or while strolling along the Low Line, if you catch them on a warm day when the sun is bright you are more likely to be treated to the sweet aroma that their flowers can create.




Native Plants for Virginia’s Capital Region (2018),full%20sun%20in%20cooler%20climates.

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