Carpet Phlox, a great groundcover

May 10th, 2009

When this blog started I really liked Ice Plant and it was my favorite groundcover. Not anymore. As much as I liked ice plant for it’s drought invulnerability and it’s nonstop all summer long flowers, it is only marginally hardy here and I had problems keeping it coming back.

I planted some carpet phlox way back then too though, and it is still going strong and spreading, and while it doesn’t flower all summer (Spring only) I still love it, and think it may be my favorite flowering ground cover.

Carpet Phlox

It forms a nicely evergreen spreading mat of foliage that keeps weeds down and otherwise acts like a mulch for the soil. In spring, concurrent with tulips usually, it’ll be covered in blooms, absolutely covered. It also has a scent, and looks great cascading down walls.

I have three varieties, though I do not recall they’re specific names. One is pink, but it is sold as red. One is lavendar, but it is sold as blue, and the third is a candy-cane like white with red stripes.

The best performer for me as been the lavendar (aka blue). It grows the fastest, flowers nicely, and is very hardy and evergreen here in my mid-south Michigan zone 5 garden. Pink (aka red) has the same hardiness as the blue, but grows perhaps a little slower. The flowers are brighter though (you can’t out-bright hot pink).

The “candy cane” looking one is a poor performer. It is the least hardy, getting some die back here, it grows slower, and seems much more susceptible to drought than the other two (or, it needs more water) all told it has been a poor performer and I do not recommend it.

The other two I recommend fully.

Carpet phlox spreads like other ground covers by slowly creeping and having new roots get formed where it touches the ground. I also believe there is some seed based spreading going on as well. It seems to grow a foot or two in a year, depending on the variety and the health. Supposedly hardy to zone 3. I’ve seen some people pooh-pooh it because it doesn’t flower all summer, but the foliage is not unnattractive and the plant is largely carefree, no weeding, no seeding, no watering, no fertilizing. That has to be worth something. Sure, there are plenty of annual groundcovers that’ll bloom all summer, but those are annuals, and so much more work.

All told, next to some golden lysimachia, I think carpet phlox is my favorite ground cover. But then again, it is Spring, and it is really beautiful right now (everyone who walks by the yard turns their head). Maybe I’ll feel different in the fall.

10 Responses to “Carpet Phlox, a great groundcover”

  1. Carolina John  Says:

    i like the carpet phlox too. I’ve been thinking more about picking some up, but that pic looks great. i might just have to get some now.

  2. Karen's Garden Tips  Says:

    Phlox sublata and Phlox stolonifera look very much alike but differ significantly in their drought tolerance. Which of the two do you have?

  3. Gururaj  Says:

    The phlox flowers look good, and they are fragrant flowers too – I think I should plant these. Do you know the latin name of the scented flower? We have several varieties here in Japan – somebody here has put up some nice photos with the names in English too: You should be able to see the photos and the English names; the rest might appear garbled.
    Nice blog; I have added it to my blogroll.

  4. G. Preston  Says:

    I’ve been thinking of planting creeping phlox. Is this different than carpet phlox? I am trying to find a perennial that will grow well in fairly dry soil. I found your blog very informative, and will post link from my blog.

  5. Administrator  Says:

    I have sublata

  6. Anne  Says:

    Thanks for this info! I am planning to plant some of the purple in my front garden (I’m turning our front yard into a garden instead of a lawn) and I’m happy to hear your recommendation!

  7. Julie  Says:

    I love phlox. Every spring I get people stopping by to ask what they are. I really enjoy the early blooms.

  8. George  Says:

    They are perfect for a rocky slope where nothing else will grow. They fill in nicely during the summer and fall, but when spring comes, they pop out to turn a normally mundane space into a showplace.

  9. Rob  Says:

    They work great and you can get many colors now that are very hardy. I have tons of it

  10. Jax  Says:

    I also planted a bunch of creeping phlox at the house we purchased about a year and a half ago. Phlox is a great plant and very low maintenance as you mentioned. However, I do have a problem with deer yanking up “branches” here and there, so mine have yet to really take off as they should. It is quite annoying, as they don’t even eat what they destroy, they just yank it out of the ground and leave it there to irritate me.

    I love ice plant as well, but yes, even in zone 6 where I am (nearing zone 5, I think) it doesn’t always come back. I’m in southern NY near the Catskills.

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