For Your Garden - April 2008
Have you ever thought of including native wildflowers in your garden? Native woodland wildflowers are resistant to cold and drought and are rarely attacked by disease and insects. They are perennials that you can enjoy year after year without having to provide them with much care. They bloom early in the season before tree leaves have all unfurled to take advantage of light that will be unavailable to them later in the spring and summer.
common phlox (Phlox divaricata)Photo © Illinois Department of Natural Resources
The lovely flowers of common phlox, also known as sweet William, start to grace the forest floor in mid-April and continue blooming through early June. Its stems grow upright or creeping and may be up to one and one-half feet long. The leaves are oblong or oval and arranged opposite each other on the stem. Each finely hairy leaf may be up to four inches long. The light purple to blue flowers develop in clusters at the stem tip. Each flower has five petals. A single flower may be one and one-fourth inches wide. The seeds are contained in a capsule. Common phlox can be found statewide growing in rich open woods. This plant can add a beautiful splash of color to your spring shaded garden.
Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014. Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.