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.
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.