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On Gardening: Luminary Sunset Coral creates a new phlox fanatic

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

Luminary Sunset Coral has turned The Garden Guy into a full-blown phlox fanatic. The rousing color would probably remind you of some electrifying lipstick or fingernail polish, a rare color in the plant world.

Our master bath has a huge window overlooking a square-shaped bed with an 8-foot-tall windmill palm in the center. It gives you a touch of the tropics as you soak in the tub. Most plant partnership gurus would never consider a summer phlox, caladiums and elephant ears as an ideal combo, but all I can say is, holy wow.

I first reduced the number and size of existing clumps of Royal Hawaiian Maui Gold Colocasia to three clustered in a triangular pattern around the palm. They were just returning from a winter rest in April. I then planted three Luminary Sunset Coral phlox. They debut next year and will be in high demand.

Next, I grabbed my cordless drill and Twist n’ Plant Auger and planted jumbo Heart to Heart Bottle Rocket caladium bulbs. My first Sunset Coral phlox blooms were in mid-May, a few days ahead of the caladium leaves. If you have the opportunity to plant Heart to Heart jumbo bulbs, you will be amazed.

The combination has required watering like everything else this summer, and always making sure the Luminary Sunset Coral phlox has access to sunlight as its partners start to grow. Even though they reach 28 inches tall with an equal spread, I still from time to time have to remove a leaf and petiole of an elephant ear and caladium too.

The size of leaves on the Heart to Heart Bottle Rocket caladiums have been huge, but in a most glorious way, each looking as though they were hand-painted. Every day this bed always gives a new look.

In the backyard just over the stacked stone wall, I used Luminary Sunset Coral and Luminary Ultraviolet phlox, alternating with Pyromania Backdraft and Pyromania Blaze torch lilies or kniphofia. The Luminary Ultraviolet can reach 3 feet tall, and I can tell there is some magic of color when partnered with the Sunset Coral. This will be a high priority of mine for next spring planting, especially in proximity to the torch lilies.

Then in a new pollinator garden, I used them with the new Meant to Bee Queen Nectarine and Meant to Be Royal Raspberry agastache, Truffula Pink gomphrena, Rockin Playin’ the Blues salvia and Pyromania Blaze torch lily. This gives you a little bit of a prairie habitat look, which I love.


The Luminary series of tall garden phlox now totals four gorgeous colors, including Opalescence, which is hot pink and in my front yard, and the white Backlight, which is new in garden centers this year.

All of the Luminary series are fragrant as you would expect and tops for disease resistance. I have yet to see powdery mildew on any of them at my house or in any trial. The tall garden phlox, known botanically as Phlox paniculata, is native to 36 states and will thrive at your home, too. The prerequisites are sunlight and consistently moist but well-drained soil. One trait I particularly love about them is they are so easy from a maintenance standpoint. By the time I think I might deadhead, they are already flushing with new blooms.

Thrilling beauty, fragrance, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and native DNA makes them must-have plants for your garden. They will bloom all summer and are recommended for zones 3a-8b. Put them high on your list.


(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

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