Creeping Phlox sounds like a metal band, but it's a plant

Creeping Phlox sounds like a metal band, but it's a plant

The creeping phlox (phlox subulata) is such a beautiful flowering groundcover. She is a true gem in our spring garden. Those yummy blooms are sweetly fragrant, as well. Deer don’t usually go for this creeper, and it’s drought tolerant if you forget to water some weeks.

Phlox is a perennial carpet of blooms that the butterflies like as much as we gardeners do. They grow 4-6 inches tall and almost 2 feet wide. It has been said they spread so quickly that you will soon have a “carpet of color.” Butterflies will be hovering all spring long. During the winter, you’ll have a gorgeous groundcover of green and then for weeks and weeks in the spring, you can enjoy the blooms.

The word “phlox” is Greek and means “flame.” It is a genus of 67 species of perennial and annual plants, according to our friends at Wikipedia. Some types of phlox are found growing wildly in North America in woodlands, prairies and alpine areas. Some flower in the spring and some in the fall. Look for flowers in blue, violet and bright red, pink or white. Some phlox grow upright while our creeping phlox grows short and like a thick mat.

If you want maximum star-shaped flowers to bloom, place your phlox in a sunny spot with well draining, fertile soil. Just loosen the soil to about 12 inches with a garden fork and mix in a few handfuls of compost. It’s easier to plant small plants than seeds directly into the soil with this flower. Plant them about a foot apart and water thoroughly after planting and for the first week or two.

Creeping phlox can be propagated by simply digging up the plant and splitting the root ball through the center with a sharp spade or knife. Replant one half of the phlox in the original hole and plant the other half anywhere you want more of this beautiful ground cover. Phlox appreciates a dose of slow-release fertilizer every few months, and a helpful triple phosphate in the fall to develop its roots.

Once your creeping phlox rewards you with a butterfly attracting carpet of flowers, you may even have to prune it back a little. No problem. Three tips to properly shear your creeping phlox: Wait until they have finished blooming, but no later than the beginning of August, when there are no buds left. Use garden shears and cut back the plant by a third to half on each stem. Make sure to repeat this clipping task every year after the phlox has finished blooming.

For your calendar

The Golden Triangle Rose Society will hold its annual Spring Rose Show at the Tyrell Park Garden center on Saturday, April 29. The event is open and free to the public from noon – 3 p.m. Syble Jeffcoat and members of the club invite you to come on out and see the beautiful gardens in bloom as well. Bring your camera. Doors open at 6 a.m. for contest entries, and yes, you are welcome to enter your best rose. Call Dale Dardeau at (409) 886-4616 for further information.

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