Landscape Spotlight: Creeping Phlox, ‘phlox subulata’

Posted January 25, 2018 in Blog, Plant and Tree

Colorful, resilient, hardy and low-maintenance are just a few adjectives that can describe this month’s landscape spotlight.  Creeping phlox is considered one of the most colorful ground covers available, and its beauty is only matched its reliability within the landscape.

As a native of eastern North America, this ground cover produces perennial needle-like evergreen foliage all year long, but the real glory is seen when in bloom.  Dense fragrant carpets of various reds, pinks, lavenders and white can be seen in the spring, lasting at least 4 weeks into the season.  The profuse blooms have a moderate growth rate of 4-6” in height and an ample 2’ spread across the soil’s surface.  Because of its compact flower growth and spreading habits, if planted en masse as a ground cover, this seemingly delicate beauty will create a powerful statement within your landscape!

Thriving in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-9 (find your hardiness zone here), this phlox prefers sandy or gravelly soils with good drainage and full sun, though it will tolerate dappled shade.  Once established, this easy-going plant is drought tolerant and is known to be positively deer resistant and pollinator attractive!   Requiring little care when in bloom, it is best to shear after the flowers are spent.  This form of “pinching” will maintain a neat foliage form for the remainder of the year and promote a denser flowering season for the next.  If you wish to propagate the plants through division, divide and plant in the spring immediately after bloom.  This will ensure a higher success rate for transplant.

Now that we know what creeping phlox is, and the conditions to keep it happy, where should it be used within the landscape?  Since this plant will remain short and widespread, the ground cover possibilities are endless.  While homeowners with flat lots can use this plant as borders between lawns, the flowery display is most dramatic and inspiring when planted on slopes and embankments.  Not only do the flowers look beautiful naturally cascading down a hillside, but this plant helps with erosion control!  The low maintenance nature paired with self-seeding will provide environmental benefits with little to no help from the homeowner.

If you are looking to plant somewhere on your own property, you won’t be disappointed with the new curb appeal!  Here are a few of our top locations suggestions for planting:

  • *  In a rock garden or to accent a retaining wall.  Once established, the phlox will find its way to drape itself over the rocks/blocks, creating a colorful floral waterfall.
  • *  At the front of a garden border or as a colorful ground cover under larger plantings like roses or hydrangeas.
  • *  Along wide pathways.  If your pathways are wide enough to allow for the phlox to take up some of the hardscape, while still allowing foot traffic, you will find that the flowers will soften the space, giving it a charming quality.
  • *  As a native addition to a butterfly garden.  Creeping phlox will receive a warm welcome to your sunny butterfly garden among carnations, columbine, butterfly bushes, coneflowers…etc.
  • *  In a larger garden bed mixed in your favorite perennials.  Ground covers are a smart choice for homeowners who would like to save some dough down the road.  If the ground cover grows in over time like it should, it will cover the area and suppress the weeds, eliminating the need for any more mulch.

Ground covers like creepy phlox offer beauty and functionality simultaneously.  Ultimately, these little flowers need to be vigorous enough to feverishly fill-in the landscape where/when needed, but not be overly vigorous that they can’t be controlled when the plants need to be tamed back into shape.  Creeping phlox hits the mark every time; a real spring landscape and ground cover champion!

  • Are you searching for more outdoor inspiration so you can hit the ground running in the spring?  Reach out to MasterPLAN Outdoor Living!  As backyard transformation specialists, we love partnering with our clients to unearth the full potential of their properties and providing a true custom-fit for their family and their lifestyle.  Serving the Poconos and the Lehigh Valley, through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey, we would love to sit down with you to discover the possibilities for your outdoor living space.  When you are ready to chat, we are ready to listen!

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