There are many important components of a garden and one that is often overlooked is ground cover. Meant to spread out and fill in spaces, creeping phlox is a gorgeous ground cover plant that can add a pop of cover to any garden or even rock area.
When to plant creeping phlox: Creeping phlox is aptly named because it will slowly grow along the ground, covering what it can find. It is perfect to fill in space between plants or to grow over rocky areas. The best time to plant creeping phlox is either in the spring or the fall. The bright, tiny blooms will appear in the spring but the rest of the year the plant will keep its bright green foliage. Creeping phlox needs well-aerated soil so that its roots can move about and spread. Make sure there is good organic matter in the soil before planting and if you want, you can trim it back once a year.
Planting Creeping Phlox in Different Climates
Creeping phlox is a perennial plant that requires a dormant winter season. As such, a tropical climate is not adequate.
A dry climate may be able to support creeping phlox. The plant is drought tolerant once it is established.
A temperate climate is good for creeping phlox. Just make sure you don’t overwater as the ground can become too moist for the root structure.
Creeping phlox will flourish in a continental climate. The hot summers won’t affect this drought-tolerant plant.
Unfortunately, creeping phlox will not grow in a polar climate.
Choosing Creeping Phlox Seeds
If you decide to add creeping phlox to your garden, you might start off confused. This is because it can also be called moss phlox.
Interestingly, creeping phlox and moss phlox are actually different species but they are so similar that their names are often used interchangeably. Both are perennials that spread over the ground and have multiple, tiny flowers.
Another relative is the phlox plant. This has the same style of flowers but larger, and the plant grows upwards instead of over the ground.
The biggest difference is that creeping phlox, known as P. stolonifera, can tolerate partial shade but moss phlox, known as P. subulata, prefers full sunlight.
Both creeping and moss phlox comes in many different colors, including, pink, purple, and white. You can try out multiple colors for a unique pattern in your garden.
When planting your phlox, make sure there is plenty of space for it to grow and spread. If you have a rock garden or a terraced garden, this is a nice addition.
How to Plant Creeping Phlox Seeds
Start with healthy plants
While you can start creeping phlox from seeds, many gardeners prefer to simply begin with starter plants. You can find this plant at almost any nursery as it is a common addition to many gardens.
Even though they will be small to start out with, these plants will quickly spread out so it’s ok to purchase small plants. Plus, this is a good way to save money.
Look for starter plants that have bushy foliage, so you know they are healthy. Depending on when you purchase your starter plants, the creeping phlox probably won’t be in bloom yet, so there won’t be any flowers to see.
Full sun or partial shade
You have a few options when it comes to planting creeping phlox, which is why this is such a versatile plant. While it does its best in full sun, some varieties will also thrive in partial shade.
Prepare the soil
Before you plant your creeping phlox, now is the time to get your soil nice and ready. Take the time to dig the whole area up, including a depth of 12 inches.
Mix in organic matter, such as compost or manure, to add more nutrients to the ground. If you find any large rocks, remove them. The same goes for any weeds.
Creeping phlox has an intricate root system so the better able it is to spread through the ground, the more it will spread out. Dig up any clumps of soil around make sure the area is loose and airy.
Dig the holes
You don’t have to dig too deep for your creeping phlox but the hole should be about double the width of your plant. In fact, the hole should be positioned so that the root ball sits at ground level. If the hole is too deep, it can cause the root structure to rot from too much moisture.
You can purchase the same color of creeping phlox or you can purchase different colors and arrange them for a pattern. Spread any extra plants out and space them by about 10 inches.
Creeping phlox will spread out but in the first year, there will be notable gaps between the plants.
Finally, fill your soil in and gently mound the soil around the root structure. You want there to be room but also make the root structure nice and secure.
After you plant your creeping phlox, be sure to give it plenty of water. Soak the soil through until it reaches a depth of 6 inches.
How to Water Creeping Phlox
For about the first month after planting your creeping phlox, you want to ensure the soil is nice and moist. Give it water daily or every other day, depending on your climate.
You don’t want to oversaturate the soil, however, so allow the water to penetrate into the soil and keep the area moist but not turn it into a mud puddle.
The bonus of growing creeping phlox is that it is actually a drought-tolerant plant. Therefore, unless you are in the middle of a dry spell, you don’t have to worry about watering it too often.
How to Grow Creeping Phlox
While creeping phlox does enter a dormant period over winter, it will continue to grow back every spring. Even in very cold weather, this plant can survive.
To ensure it will grow and “creep” make sure the soil is nice and airy. You can add small amounts of gravel or perlite to allow the roots to spread out and grow.
As a perennial plant, creeping phlox will continue to grow again each year. If left unchecked, it can take over a large area of the garden.
If you want to contain your creeping phlox, make a plant to trim it back once a year.
Wait until after the blooms are finished, in late spring or early summer, and then you can trim it. Use a pair of gardening sheers and cut back a few inches to keep the plant nice and tidy.
If you love your phlox and want to spread it all over your garden, it is an easy plant to propagate. You can actually do so through cutting or division.
The easiest option is through cuttings. Simply cut off a section 6 inches long from a rooted stem.
Make sure there is at least one leaf on the stem but no flowers. Then, place the roots in a container with potting mixture and good drainage.
In just a few months your cutting will be large enough to transplant back into your garden.
For the most part, creeping phlox is easy to care for but you should be on the lookout for mites. If you see any of the tiny insects, use an organic soap meant for getting rid of insects.
The sooner you can catch mites, the faster you can remove them and stop them from spreading.
Powdery mildew can also be an issue for creeping phlox. To prevent this, make sure you don’t water too much.
How long does creeping phlox take to grow?
As soon as you plant your creeping phlox, it will start to grow, as it is usually begun as a starter plant. The plant will be very small but every year it will grow out further.
Phlox blossoms in the spring, which is usually when it is planted. Expect some tiny flowers the first year and more every subsequent year.
For the most part, phlox will maintain its green color, except for the middle of winter. So, even if the flowers are not out, it will still provide a nice feature to a garden.
What is the best month to plant creeping phlox?
The best times to plant creeping phlox are in the spring and the fall. You can start creping phlox outside in April as it is a hardy plant. As for the fall, September is a good month.
However, if you have very cold winters, you will want to wait until May to plant in the spring and early September for the fall.
When you’re in need of ground cover or want a hardy plant that can grow in your rock garden, creeping phlox is an excellent consideration. It comes in a wide selection of colors and can add a bit of personality to your garden.