Phlox Subulata Planting Hints

Ilona Erwin

Another Plant Profile from

Once upon a time I grew pink Phlox subulata in a rock garden; in that first garden I learned how easy it was to pull a large nursery plant apart and make numerous smaller ones that rooted and filled out easily. I also found that bits of the spring plant firmed into moist soil could also become a new patch of moss phlox, with a little luck from a regular spring rain and good to average soil.

Moss phlox comes in pretty pastels and even a bicolor or two. Clear colors of pink, white, and blue are widely available.

In my garden, now, the blue variety is the one grown as a ground cover.  It produces a beautiful bright spot of color in the spring, no matter where you situate it.  Later, it has a pleasing textured green carpet of foliage, earning the “moss” appellation.  Phlox subulata is native to Eastern USA,  a fairly tough plant, and quite easy to grow and propagate (which explains how well it did for a beginning gardener in those early years in my first garden).

moss phlox in the garden

Here are the highlights of planting Phlox subulata, or creeping phlox and moss phlox, as it is commonly known.

Names for Phlox subulata:

  • Thrift
  • Moss phlox
  • Moss pink
  • Creeping phlox

Named varieties:

  • Blue Emerald
  • Sapphire Blue
  • Candy Stripe
  • Red Wings
  • Scarlet Flame
  • Snowflake
  • White Delight
  • Fort Hill [pink]
What kind of soil?
Moss phlox likes an organic soil best and is pH tolerant (acid to an alkaline range -reputed 5.5 to 7.7)
Adding peat moss, leaf mold, or compost will increase the organic content
This phlox likes sun
It will grow in other light conditions, but in the North it grows well in a sunny spot.
Creeping phlox is easy to propagate
AKA “Creeping phlox”,  P.subulata slowly spreads, but you can divide it or plant cuttings for a greater increase. Any nodule with a bit of root can be planted, as well. I bought a large sized plant and divided it into smaller portions at first.  Keep moist until settled in, as with most perennials.
Tolerates drought, but should not be allowed to get too dry
Moss phlox grows best with consistent moisture, but once established, it will take
Judiciously trim the plant back.
Take grass shears and trim the foliage back. cut out any scraggly looking stems- lightly fertilize and water for fresh new growth.
phlox subulata

moss phlox flower detail

Quicklist Tips:

  • blooms in mid spring
  • grows in mat form. 4″ -6″ high and 20-24″ wide
  • likes moisture, but is drought tolerant
  • best in full sun
  • shear back after blooming
  • useful for erosion control

Moss Phlox Design Tips

A favorite use for P. subulata is under spring flowering bulbs, but what is little known is how pretty the foliage looks in fall. I have a driveway planting which pairs moss phlox and a lovely spurge, Euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire’. The phlox turns a golden tint brushed with deep orange.

foliage colors

Foliage colors, Euphorbia, Ninebark, Moss Phlox, and Sedum

It makes a good edging, but beware of grass invading it. Small flowers of iconic shape smother the plant in spring, so that it appears as a solid block of color, and then melds into the background during the rest of the season. For this reason I personally would use it more for landscape areas and not so much in a flower border.

Related Pages:
Spring Blooms
12 Low-growing Spring Perennials

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.