There’s nothing like a warm May afternoon to shake off any remnants of the winter blues, and it’s the perfect time to be outside. Your garden may still be gearing up for the big show in June, but you can easily add some welcome pastel color by planting a ground cover of Creeping Phlox. This low-growing plant is covered in small flowers in all your favorite spring shades for several weeks in mid-spring, making it an ideal edging plant for just about any flower border or garden path.
Creeping Phlox is a favorite with contemporary landscapers due to its reliable blooms and neat growing habit, but it works equally well in old-fashioned cottage gardens. Also known as Moss Phlox or Moss Pinks, these plants are native to North America and were also popular among Native Americans, who names their springtime “Pink Moon” after them.
Creeping Phlox Basics
Growing Zones: 3-9
Bloom Time: Small, star-shaped flowers bloom for several weeks in mid-spring; semi-evergreen, needle-like foliage provides an attractive ground cover into early winter
Exposure: Full sun
Mature Size: 3 to 6 inches tall with a spread of 1 to 2 feet
Notes: Creeping Phlox grows in a low mound and will soften the edge of a garden path or retaining wall without aggressive crowding, making it an ideal “front of the border” plant. Blooms come in shades of white, red, pink, purple and lavender-blue and look lovely planted in masses of a single shade. Unlike tall garden phlox varieties, Creeping Phlox is not very fragrant, but it can attract spring butterflies.
Growing Creeping Phlox in the Landscape
Choose a sunny location for Creeping Phlox in a spot where it can be seen. It is very short, so it should be at the front of a perennial border, planted along pathways or as part of a rock garden. Creeping Phlox is a quick-growing ground cover that can thrive in many types of soil, as long as it drains well.
Planting Creeping Phlox
Plant Creeping Phlox in the spring after all danger of frost has passed. It’s best to put out transplants before bloom if possible; however, you may wish to look at blossoms in person to check for the color before proceeding.
To plant, dig a hole about twice as big around as the root ball of the transplant. Unless your soil is very poor, a handful of compost in the planting hole should suffice for nutrients. Gently break up any tightly bound roots and place plant in the hole. Backfill with soil and press into place firmly. Place multiple plants 12 to 18 inches apart to provide space to grow. Water well and mulch with compost or bark to hold in moisture.
For the first season, your Creeping Phlox will need regular irrigation. Make sure to provide water if you receive less than an inch of rainfall per week so it can get established. In the future, these plants tolerate drought well, but be cautious during the first season.
Ongoing Care for Creeping Phlox
Beginning in the second season, Creeping Phlox benefits from annual pruning to encourage lush growth and to maintain its shape. Begin by trimming back any unwanted stems that encroach on a path or another plant. Once you’ve cut it to shape, shear the growth back all over by about one-third. Pruning should be done after all flowers are spent, typically by June.
Creeping Phlox doesn’t require heavy fertilizer and is resistant to pests, though it can be bothered by spider mites in hot, dry conditions. To alleviate this, keep an eye on the plant and irrigate during dry spells if necessary.