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Mastering Creeping Phlox Care: A Comprehensive Guide for Growing Stunning Ground Cover

These low-growing, enchanting, lush perennials, with their thick carpet of vibrant blooms, have become a favorite among gardeners for their ability to transform rocky slopes, garden edges, and difficult terrain into a sea of color. Known for their early spring flowering and hardy nature, Creeping Phlox can add a splash of beauty to any garden space, while simultaneously suppressing weed growth, retaining moisture, and controlling erosion, just like mulch. What mulch doesn’t have is the exciting choice of colors and the subtle, slightly spicy, vanilla or honey sweetness that you can smell from a distance. 

This guide will walk you through every aspect of Creeping Phlox care, ensuring your Phlox plants create a stunning display year after year.

 

 

What is Creeping Phlox?

  • Botanical Name: Phlox subulata
  • Common Names: Moss Phlox, Mountain Phlox, Moss Pink
  • Type of Bloom: Five-lobed, rounded or heart-shaped petalled blossoms measuring about an inch in diameter.
  • Bloom Time: Early to mid-spring
  • Height: 4-6 inches tall, spreading up to 2 feet wide
  • Available Colors: Pink, white, lavender, blue, red, and bicolor varieties

Creeping Phlox forms low-growing mounds of blossoms that flower prolifically from early to mid-spring. This popular perennial ground cover is used by gardeners to address erosion on sloped-yards, edge walkways and paths, accent taller plants in your flower gardens and to decorate rock gardens or retaining walls. Once established, Creeping Phlox plants are moderately drought tolerant. 

 

A Few of Our Favorite Varieties:

  • Blue Emerald Creeping Phlox boasts pale, lavender-blue flowers, fading to white, with both colors appearing on your Phlox plants at the same time.
  • Candy Stripe Creeping Phlox is one of our most joyous-looking varieties. Its white blossoms display watercolor-brush streaks of pink, accented by magenta-decorated centers.
  • Scarlet Flame Creeping Phlox bears mounds of deep pink blossoms with splashes of red surrounding its tiny yellowy-orange centers.
  • White Delight Creeping Phlox is one of the more dramatic varieties. This cultivar grows a bit taller with pure white blossoms and heart-shaped petals. You should see it planted en-masse!

 

Basic Creeping Phlox Care:

  • Sunlight: Creeping Phlox thrives in full sun to partial shade, needing at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily for optimal blooming.
  • Watering: Phlox plants are drought-tolerant once established. We recommend that you water deeply, but infrequently, preferably at the base of the plants. A drip system or drip hose is ideal! Allow the top inch or two of the soil to dry between waterings.
  • Soil: This perennial ground cover prefers well-draining, slightly alkaline soil. Amend heavy clay soils with sand or gravel to improve drainage.
  • Feeding: Fertilize in early spring with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer. Avoid over-feeding, especially with high-nitrogen fertilizers, which can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of those gorgeous flowers.
  • Pruning: After flowering, trim back by about one-third to maintain shape and encourage more dense growth. Remove any dead or damaged foliage as needed.

 

Tackling Pests, Diseases, and Other Creeping Phlox Issues:

Root Rot: This can occur in poorly drained soils. Ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering, amending your soil with sand or very small gravel if necessary.

Spider Mites: These can be a problem in areas that experience high heat and low humidity. Regularly mist the plants to increase humidity and discourage mites.

Deer and Rabbit Damage: While generally deer-resistant, young plants may need protection. Use physical barriers or repellents if necessary, while your Phlox plants are maturing.

 

Want More While Spending Less?

Creeping Phlox can be propagated through division or stem cuttings:

  1. For division, separate clumps in early spring or fall.
  2. For stem cuttings, take 2-3 inch cuttings in late spring or early summer.
  3. Remove lower leaves and plant in well-draining potting mix in a prepared garden spot or containers.
  4. Keep soil consistently moist until roots develop, usually in 4-6 weeks. Emerging new growth tells you that your Phlox plants have developed a strong root system.

 

Overwintering Creeping Phlox:

Creeping Phlox is hardy in many regions, though some winter care, especially in colder climes, can ensure more vigorous growth the following year:

  • Avoid cutting back in the fall, as the foliage helps protect the plant over the winter.
  • In colder regions, apply a light layer of mulch after the ground freezes to prevent heaving (plants lifting out of the ground as the soil compresses due to the cold).
  • In spring, remove any winter-damaged foliage and mushy mulch as new growth appears.

As you cultivate your Creeping Phlox, experiment with different varieties, or mix them up all together and watch them come to life with exceptional color and a catching fragrance each spring. Have you ever seen logos or writing done in flowers and wondered “how do they do that”? This is often accomplished with different colors and heights of Creeping Phlox!

We hope this guide serves as your go-to resource for all things Creeping Phlox and that it inspires you to continue exploring the endless possibilities Phlox plants offer. May your garden be a testament to the beauty and versatility of Creeping Phlox as it flourishes under your care and transforms your personal outdoor spaces into a fragrant, springtime spectacle!

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