Phlox Subulata – A Plant That Lifts Spirits

Jan 28, 2017 | Love This!

Imagine: Even though it was spring, he was feeling glum. The job wasn’t going well, he’d had words with his sisters, and life seemed to be all grays and browns. The sky was cloud-covered and the land around his house seemed to be stuck in winter dormancy. But as he walked the dogs around the block, a neighbor’s yard caught his eye. There on the slope between the lawn and the street were huge patches of color. Bright pink, lavender, pale pink and white flowers that so completely covered the plants that little green foliage was exposed. For some reason, this show of brilliant bloom cheered him. He shot a photo with his phone, thinking, “I’ll find out what these are so I can plant some this weekend.” And he smiled all the way home.

Name: Phlox subulata aka creeping phlox

Type of Plant: A spring-flowering perennial for full sun that is hardy in Zones 3-9

Why I love this: This low growing perennial is pretty much the definition of low-maintenance. It spreads but not too quickly, seldom needs frequent dividing or cutting back, and doesn’t self-seed. And in the spring, as the landscape is waking up, it bursts into brilliant flowers. Ta-da! It calls, just at the time of year we need bright colors to kick off the growing season.

A Word to the Wise: Two things you must know about creeping phlox. First of all, it doesn’t like to have damp feet, especially in the winter. That’s why it’s so well suited for rock gardens and slopes, because the water drains quickly away in these areas. Secondly, this perennial doesn’t want to be hit frequently with irrigation. A once a week watering is perfect for this plant, as it is for most perennials. But it’s not the plant to put next to a lawn you’re watering more frequently.

Look to purchase this plant in the spring because most garden centers run out of it as June rolls on.

I don’t know why this variety of creeping phlox is called ‘Emerald Blue’ since it has nothing to do with green emeralds and it’s not blue. But if you love lavender flowers and a strong, reliable, spring-flowering plant, this is the Phlox subulata for you.

Phlox subulata is the perfect plant for sunny slopes. Note how nice this lavender flower looks with the lime-green and coral foliage of the ‘Magic Carpet’ spirea shrubs on the left.

Creeping phlox blends beautifully with bleeding heart and Virginia blue bells, not to mention pansies.

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