Whether you’re planning a cottage garden or you have a slope in your yard that needs some color, creeping phlox is a must-have. Plant this hardy, semi-evergreen perennial in the spring or fall. Once you do, it will come back each season to add a carpet of color to your outdoor spaces. Creeping phlox spreads easily and is a popular ground cover. You’ll discover a multitude of color variations, including blues, purples, pinks, reds, and whites.
This laid-back plant isn’t difficult to grow. It thrives in a variety of conditions and establishes itself in just about any soil type, including sandy or graveled soils. The optimal soil for this flowerer is moist, well-drained and hummus-rich. Plant in the fall, a few weeks before the first frost, or in the spring once you see no signs of frost, ice, or snow. Choose an area that receives full sun to partial shade. By mid-to-late spring, you’ll see a mat of beautiful, star-shaped flowers that look like colored moss from a distance.
Once the blooms have faded, the tiny, awl-shaped, needle-like leaves of the creeping phlox stay green through most of the year. Their alternating growth pattern adds to the plant’s appealing visual appearance. The creeping phlox’s stems emit a sticky sap, so you may prefer to wear gloves when working with them. Over time, the stems become woody and can choke out softer stems, which interferes with the plant’s flowering capabilities. You can cut out these tougher limbs to allow the softer stems to emerge and develop blooms.
Phlox germinates quickly from seed. Once the soil reaches a consistent 65 to 75 degrees, you can plant them directly into the soil, about ⅛ inch deep and one-to-two inches apart. For areas with late springs, plant the seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last spring frost. They’ll germinate in five to 14 days, depending on the outdoor temperature. You can also propagate cuttings from existing plants. In the summer or fall, take a stem cutting and dip it in a plant hormone. Then, plant it in a soilless medium, like perlite or coarse sand, to take root.
Creeping phlox is an ornamental plant and a great choice if you’re seeking a mostly maintenance-free, full-color potted plant to adorn your patio or front porch. It won’t take long after planting to develop vibrant, attractive flowers that cascade over the brim of your container. Use a quality potting soil mix and a pot that’s big enough to allow at least six inches between plants. Start with plants you find at the nursery or grow your own from seed once any danger of frost has passed. Water well after planting. Maintain the phlox by watering only after the soil has dried slightly.
Plant on slopes to add instant curb appeal to your outdoor space. Soil erosion can be a real problem for many gardeners. Not only does a sloped area lose nutrients after rainstorms, but the run-off also causes silt build-up, clogged storm drains, and additional loose soil complications. You’re left with big, bare patches of dirt. Planting a sturdy, fast-growing plant such as creeping phlox on slopes helps diminish these issues. The roots take to the soil and fix it firmly in place.
Consider planting creeping phlox around stone walls or large rocks in your outdoor space to add color and elegance. These plants will grow quickly and spread across stone like a colorful waterfall. If you have an elevated terrace garden, plant creeping phlox in different colors to create a romantic, blooming, visual element that requires little maintenance. You’ll also attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, which only add to the beauty of the space.
If you prefer orderly flowers that stay in their places, this isn’t the plant for you. Creeping phlox is a profuse spreader and a multi-branching plant. Expect it to cover every bit of empty ground space it finds. Creeping phlox only reaches four to eight inches in height, although some varieties grow taller. This makes it ideal for bordering walkways or driveways or surrounding a garden. If you want to add additional texture to your carpet of phlox, consider planting companion plants such as candytufts, lamb’s ear, or blue fescue.
In the fall, check your plants for any signs of garden pests, such as nematodes or mites. Check under leaves, their favorite hiding place. If you discover an infestation, spray the plants with insecticidal soap. Inspect them for leaf spots or signs of blight, which are common issues for this type of plant. Pull any weeds you find. Cover the soil around your plants with about two inches of sawdust, wood chips, or straw mulch. This protects the roots from the thawing-freezing cycles that often occur during winter.
While this plant is deer-resistant, small mammals like rabbits like to snack on them. Fencing around a garden is an effective deterrent, but if that interferes with the aesthetic you’re going for, try deterring the rabbits with stinky repellents. If a plant isn’t aromatic, the rabbit won’t eat it. You’ll find an assortment of rabbit repellents on the market, but you can also make your own using a mixture of tabasco pepper sauce, dish detergent, crushed garlic, and water. Spray it on your phlox to deter the pesky critters. It won’t hurt the rabbits or your plants.
The hardest part about planting creeping phlox is deciding which variety you like best. If you dream of an all-white landscape, consider “Snowflake,” which produces pristine, five-sided flowers. “Purple Beauty” blooms with soft purple flowers with deep violet eyes around the center. For something fun, look for the “Candy Stripe,” which presents with oodles of candy pink and white-striped flowers that radiate against glossy green foliage.