Plant of the Month for June 2013

Phlox condensata; photo by Todd Boland
Phlox condensata

Description and General Information:

Phlox condensata forms a dense cushion of evergreen foliage. Numerous, nearly stemless white to pale mauve flowers are produced individually or in pairs. In the wild, it occurs on high mountain slopes, screes, fell-fields and rocky ledges, generally on limestone substrates. Elevations range from 6100-14,000 feet depending on the mountain range it inhabits. While frozen for many months, the strong winds of their natural haunts prevent the accumulation of much snow. Essentially, it grows in very xeric alpine environments.

This species has two distinct populations which overlap the distribution of bristlecone pine,Pinus aristata. The subspecies condensata is found in Colorado and New Mexico while the subspecies covillei is found in California and Nevada. The minute leaves are linear, almost needle-like and sparsely hairy on the subspecies condensata while more elliptical and densely hairy on the subspecies covillei. Those with lavender-colored flowers are generally restricted to the subspecies covillei.


This species requires full sun and sharply drained medium that is alkaline in nature. Winter-wet must be avoided. This is a challenging species to grow outside of its naturally-occuring region. In wetter areas, an alpine house is almost essential.

Bloom period:

In the wild, this species blooms in July and August. In cultivation at lower elevations, blooming may commence in April.


Cuttings or seed.


Seeds require a stratification period of about 3 months at 4 C before exposing them to gentle heat.


As plants have just a single main stem, division is not practiced.


Tip-cuttings 2-5 cm long may be taken after blooming and rooted in sharp sand.

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