Creeping phlox or moss phlox (Phlox subulata) is a dwarf plant that forms low-growing cushions or mats of slender evergreen leaves and turns into a blaze of colour in late spring and early summer. Masses of tiny saucer-shaped flowers, up to 3.5cm across, are borne in profusion on the slender stems, on a compact, spreading, non-invasive plant. The range of pretty colours is extensive and includes white, lilac, mauve, purple, and pink. However, the flowering period is relatively short and so creeping phlox is best combined with plants that bloom at different times of year. In winter, the leaves of creeping phlox remain evergreen but may be slightly browned by cold or dry weather, although fresh growth will appear in spring.
How to grow creeping phlox
Grow creeping phlox in fertile, free-draining soil in sun or light shade and keep watered until established. Trim after flowering if required.
Where to grow creeping phlox
Creeping phlox growing in a pot with cyclamen and saxifrage
Grow creeping phlox in full sun, or in dappled, partial shade in warmer regions with bright sunlight. Creeping phlox is low-growing and spreading, growing 10-15cm high and up to 30-45cm across, making it ideal for a range of situations including rockeries, raised beds, border edges, troughs, and pots. The dense growth is fairly good at suppressing weeds.
How to plant creeping phlox
Plant creeping phlox in spring or early summer, or autumn in mild areas, in good fertile soil that drains freely and with no danger of water-logging in winter. Ensure the top of the rootball is not lower than the surrounding soil, which would cause water to gather around and rot the plant.
How to care for creeping phlox
Watering creeping phlox container display
Once established, creeping phlox needs very little care apart from trimming straggly growth in late summer or early autumn.
How to propagate creeping phlox
Propagate creeping phlox by softwood cuttings of the young shoots, in spring. Take cuttings from the new season’s growth, preferably from non-flowering shoots, and root in a propagator or in a pot covered with a polythene bag.
Pests and diseases of creeping phlox
Powdery mildew is a white, powdery coating on the leaves that can appear after periods without rain. Avoid by an occasional thorough watering during dry spells and improve water-holding capacity of the soil by mulching with organic matter, ensuring the mulch doesn’t come into contact with the plant.
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Stem and bulb eelworm causes twisted and distorted leaves with yellowing and then browning of foliage. There is no cure and infected plants should be dug up and disposed of out of the garden, not on the compost heap. Avoid the problem by buying plants, and also bulbs which can carry the pest, from good quality reputable sources.
Advice on buying creeping phlox
- Creeping phlox is sold in the alpine plant section of nurseries and garden centres and is widely available in a range of colours
- Although sold all year round, the best choice of varieties tends to be when plants are in flower