by Connie Oswald Stofko
I got my white phlox from a neighbor maybe 20 years ago. They’re beautiful and dependable and slightly fragrant and I love them.
But in the past several years I’ve been getting flowers that show up pink or slightly pink.
A lot of phlox are hybrids, said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. Two different plants are crossed to get the new plant.
Without warning, the hybrid can revert back to one of the parent plants, he said, causing the pink flower. He has also heard of colored flowers reverting back to white. This can happen to roses as well.
But what probably happened is that I let my plants go to seed.
“When you get seedlings, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see color variations,” Farfaglia said.”Dividing the plants is the way to get the same plant every time.”
If you want to maintain the same color, pull out the plants with flowers of a different color, he said. Also, don’t let the flowers, even the flowers of the color that you want, go to seed. Cut the flowers off before they go to seed.
He noted that some people enjoy the variety and like to let their phlox or other perennial flowers go to seed.
“That’s okay too,” he said, “as long as you realize you might get a different color.”
Has this happened to you? Do you see the color change as a nice surprise or as something you want to prevent? Leave a comment.
I made a mistake in this article by using the word “revert.”
Reader Remy Orlowski of the Sample Seed Shop wrote to correct me.
“Hybrids do not revert,” she said. “Spontaneous mutations do.
“Plants that are variegated (flowers or leaves) will shoot up solid colors because variegation is a mutation.
“Hybrids are the babies of crosses. So when you see another color in your plant, it is from seed. The color difference (also size of the plant, size of the bloom) is either showing color from the breeding lineage or it is a cross with other varieties in your garden/neighboring garden.”
Orlowski also supplied more details on how the flower of a rose might come up in a different color, which I didn’t ask John Farfaglia to elaborate on.
“Roses sometimes are mistakenly thought to change when it is the top grafted part that has died and the root stock has grown up and replaced the desired rose,” Orlowski said. “This is why I personally like own-root roses as that will not happen. They often are smaller and can take longer to become a full sized shrub, but they will not die out.”
I thank Orlowski and Farfaglia for their time and patience in helping me get this right!