Wild Sweet William – Phlox drummondii

Wild Sweet William originates in sunny Texas and likes a bright but sheltered position outdoors. It is most suited for growing in pots and tubs, although dwarf forms also look attractive when planted at the back of a window-box.

The generic name Phlox is the Greek word for flame, an obvious reference to the glowing colours of the flowers. This group of plants also contains perennial plants, some of them tall-growing varieties more suitable for the garden.

Wild Sweet William, Phlox drummondii, has upright growth with clusters of tubular flat-topped flowers. The dark green leaves are elongated and pointed, but are barely noticeable when the plant flowers.

The variety grows to a height of 38cm (15in), with flowerheads 8cm (3in) in diameter. Cultivars range from 15-30cm (6-12in) in height.Wild Sweet William - Phlox drummondii

Display ideas

Wild Sweet William’s bright flowers look very attractive when planted in dense clumps. You can fill the spaces around the edges of a tub with a foliage trailing plant such as a small-leaved ivy.

Colours and varieties

Phlox drummondii is available in a number of forms. They include the Stellaris group, which are compact plants about 15crn (bin) in height with star-shaped flowers, and the Nana Compacta group, which includes bushy dwarf plants with clear-coloured flowers.

There are a number of small alpine varieties which can be grown outdoors in miniature gardens or low troughs. P. subulata, Moss Phlox, is a mat-forming plant only 5-10cm (2— 4in) tall, and has pink, white or violet flowers.

Growing from seed

1 Sow seeds indoors in March, in pots or trays of seed compost. Cover with a piece of glass and turn the glass daily to stop damping off.

2 Keep at 15°C (60°F) and remove the glass once the seeds have germinated.

3 When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into some soil-based compost. Harden the plants off by putting them outside during the day. Plant outside in May once the danger of frost has passed.

Pests And Diseases

Leggy growth may occur if the plants are overfed or are grown in too much shade.

Prevention: Grow your plants in a bright position that is shaded only from hot mid-day sun and feed only once or twice during the summer.

Aphids may attack. Treatment: Spray with a solution of soap and water or an insecticide.

Droopy yellow leaves are caused by cold, compact or wet compost. Prevention: Grow your plants in a light soil-based potting compost.

PLANT CARE

This plant is very easy to care for, and once established in the growing position it will almost look after itself. Remove the flowers as they fade to prolong the flowering period.

  • Potting: Sow seeds in seed compost and prick seedlings out into a nourishing soil-based compost.
  • Water generously throughout the growing and flowering period. During warm weather plants should be watered at least once a day. Never allow the compost to dry out.
  • Feeding: Feed once or twice during the summer with a standard liquid fertilizer to encourage flowering.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: The plant thrives in a sunny but sheltered spot that is shaded at mid-day.
  • Temperature: These plants are tolerant of variations in summer temperatures and will survive the first frosts of autumn, but they do best in warm, sunny conditions.

Buying Tips

  • Bedding plants are sometimes available in late spring, hut plants are usually raised from seed.
  • Choose bedding plants with compact growth. If buying seed, check the date stamp on the packet to ensure it is fresh.
  • Wild Sweet William is a half-hardy annual that dies down in the autumn.

Wild Sweet William, an annual Phlox, is an attractive plant that flowers profusely during the summer. It is available in white and shades of red, pink, purple and lavender.

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