Phlox Divaricata Clouds of Perfume

Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume' (woodland phlox) plant
Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume' (woodland phlox) plant

Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’ (woodland phlox) is covered in showy blooms in spring. The wonderful flowers are a bluish lavender colour, and make a focal point when they are in bloom. This plant does well in part shade or medium shade, but won’t bloom in deep shade. If you have a smaller monitor, you’ll have to click the top picture to see the whole photo.

I used it have the woodland phlox for a couple of years in deeper shade, where it had to compete hard with a willow. The plant survived at the same size, but never bloomed. Then I moved it to this medium shade area, where it gets about 2 hours of sunlight, or so, and it is very happy. The Phlox puts on a great floral display, and is about four times the size now.

Depending on the angle of the sun, the ‘Clouds of Perfume’ blooms can appear more bluish or more lavender, but they always look marvelous. Their name is more of a metaphor for beauty, than a description of their scent, since I never detect much of a fragrance.

Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume' and ostrich fern
Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume' and ostrich fern

I love the way the Phlox divaricata looks in front of this Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern). The lacy fronds make a great backdrop for the flowers, while their narrow vase shape gives lots of room at the bottom for the phlox. The plants spread out nicely over time, but not in an annoying way. It’s very easy to pull it back if you want to, and not insistent about returning. I’m happy to have the woodland phlox fill out the space here. The groundcover is gradually moving towards the edge of the Hydrangea shrub, and makes a good underplanting for it, since the Hydrangea is slow to leaf out in spring.

We had a number of frosts in May, and many of the leaves of this perennial turned a tan colour, I thought that it might die back, or lose its buds and not bloom, but it recovered just fine. There are so many new green leaves, that I can’t even see the damaged ones, and the plant is full of these beautiful blooms. This plant handles zone 3 and a cold spring very well.

Woodland phlox blooms for about three weeks in late spring, and as they fade, I always wish that the flowers would continue to enliven the garden. After the blooms are finished, I cut them and the flower stalks back. The foliage afterwards is short, around 15 cm (6 in), and although it has a nice green colour, it fades into the background. I planted some Heuchera in front of it last fall, to add interest for the rest of the season. I think this should work well, as the Heuchera has much showier leaves. I’m delighted by the splash Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’ makes when in bloom, so it’s definitely worth adding to the garden, but you might want something in front for the rest of the season.

18 thoughts on “Phlox Divaricata Clouds of Perfume”

    1. Helen, I checked my records, and it started blooming on June 10 this year, May 30 last year, and June 1 the year before that. Perennials get a slower start here, and this year has been even more delayed for some. That’s why I like so many spring flowering perennials, since I would not not to wait until July to get any flowers. :)

      Joanne, I love the colour too. It really grabs the attention in the garden right now, set off by the green background. The plant is usually quite covered in the blooms.

  1. I’m going to have to find some of those phlox for my garden. They look wonderful next to the ostrich fern, and the color is such a beautiful shade.
    Spring certainly has taken her time in your northern garden, hasn’t she? We’ve finally warmed up this week to what feels like summer. The sun is so welcome after all the rain and cool weather we’ve had.

    1. Kerri, the woodland phlox looks stunning when it’s in bloom. I love this particular colour too. since it looks good with the fresh green shades.
      We’re just getting our summer weather too. I have my late spring flowers still out, and the peony buds are swelling. I can’t wait to see them in flower.

    1. Rebecca, I love blue and lavender coloured flowers. There area lot of blooms from the blue/violet end of the colour spectrum flowering right now in my garden.

      Naturalnightdew, the name they gave it is a little confusing. Mine are actually not strongly scented. I think the name is more to create a picture of beauty in your head, to make an association with a lovely thought. The flowers do make a pretty cloud over the plants, though.

  2. Clouds of perfume, that is a beautiful name and I was not aware that this plant has scent. I must go back and smell this plant. In Malaysia, it blooms throughout the year.
    Northern Shade – I have one in a pot, but still not as beautiful as the one you have.

  3. P divaricata is a wonderful plant…and ‘Clouds of Perfume’ sounds delicious. I’ve a similar colored one planted with tiarellas and Christmas Ferns beneath Oakleaf Hydrangea. I love spring. gail

    1. Gail, that sounds like a wonderful combination. I have some Heuchera in front of them now, and they work well together. With the quick succession in spring, each week looks a little different.

  4. I just purchased some creeping phlox, which blooms in spring…but right now I don’t know the name of it. I’m on vacation, and it is sitting in containers at home, ready to plant in the garden! I will check to see if it’s the same as yours. If not, I’ll be out at the garden centers looking for Clouds of Perfume;-)

    1. Jan, the phlox is starting to fade now, but the Heuchera in front look like they’re about to open. I love the succession of blooms in the garden, since there is always something to look forward to.
      Have a great vacation, and have fun planting your new additions when you return.

  5. Hi Northern Shade: Thanks for posting on the Phlox divaricata. I spent part of last winter dreaming of using them for a shady West side yard that got converted from grass/moss last year to mulch to match a change that the neighbour decided on. Spruce and lilac roots grab most of the moisture and maybe an hour or two of late afternoon sun makes it to the ground.

    Haven’t been able to find Phlox divaricata yet, but I put in a couple of Phlox ‘Dwarf Compact’ that I grew from seed. They are compact, but doing well enough in several colours (although I think they prefer full sun). I guess that will be a temporary measure, though, since much to my surprise this species (Phlox drummondi) is an annual (duh!). I guess that will give me more time to prepare a bed and find some ‘Clouds of Perfume’.

    Have you had any problems with powdery mildew with your ‘Clouds of Perfume’? I’ve read that the fungus is a problem with some Phlox varieties and the soil in this West side strip is dry, poor, and just beyond the reach of the garden hose, so keeping the soil moist is work.

    1. Dave, my Phlox divaricata stays healthy, and gets no powdery mildew (knock on mulch). They are in the shadow of trees, plus they are on the north side of a fence, so they get an hour or two of early morning sun. They thrive in this location, with healthy foliage and lots of blooms. I do water the garden with a hose, so they are not getting stressed from lack of moisture. I really like the flowers on this perennial, but wish it had a longer bloom time.

      I haven’t had any problems with powdery mildew on my Phlox paniculata ‘David’ yet. Paniculata are especially prone to it, but ‘David’ is more resistant, which might help. I grew other types of phlox in my last garden, and never had a problem either. I’ve added P. paniculata ‘David’s Lavender’ this year, so we’ll see how it does.

  6. Yes, I can remember… It’s a little bit sad for me to see all these wonderful small shrubs, we had in our garden too. Now they are lost beauties and we know, that we haven’t any place for them.

    1. SchneiderHein, I love Phlox divaricata when it is in bloom in the spring. It really catchers they eye when those lavender flowers are all out. It is fairly plain when it’s not in bloom, so now I have some Heuchera in front of it, and you see the more attractive Heuchera leaves for the rest of the season.

  7. I love this plant and cant wait for it to spread so I can take some cuttings. I have a woodland garden and it just looks great when the blooms blow in the wind. Fantastic.

    1. Jennifer, I find that mine spreads nicely now, but does not bother the surrounding plants. It spreads gently into open space. At first, I had mine in a really tough spot, extra shady and right next to the greedy willow tree. Now that it is in a mostly shady area, but with an hour or two of dappled light, and a few metres (yards) from the tree trunks, it really flourishes. The flowers look great against a green background, and the only thing that would improve it is a longer bloom time.

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