Are you looking for a beautiful and easy-to-grow ground cover for your garden?
Look no further than phlox!
With its stunning carpet of colorful flowers and low-growing habit, phlox is the perfect addition to any garden or rock area.
But how do you plant this gorgeous ground cover?
In this article, we’ll give you all the tips and tricks you need to successfully plant and care for phlox.
So grab your gardening gloves and let’s get started!
How To Plant Phlox Ground Cover
When it comes to planting phlox ground cover, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
First, choose the right variety of phlox for your growing conditions. Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) is a low-growing species that works well as a ground cover, while woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) prefers partial to full shade and moist, rich soils.
Next, make sure you plant your phlox in well-drained soil and partial to full sun. Water the creeping phlox immediately after planting, moistening the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Keep the soil lightly moist for about a month, or until the plant is established and new growth appears.
When planting, space your phlox plants about 18 inches apart for garden phlox and 2 feet apart for creeping phlox. This will give them plenty of room to spread out and grow into a beautiful carpet of color.
It’s also important to add organic matter to the soil before planting, such as garden compost or well-rotted manure. This will help improve drainage and create a better overall environment for your phlox.
Choosing The Right Location For Phlox
Choosing the right location for phlox is crucial for their growth and overall health. Phlox plants thrive in well-drained soil with full sun exposure, although some varieties can tolerate partial shade.
Before planting, it’s important to prepare the soil by spading it to a depth of 12 to 14 inches, removing any large dirt clods, rocks, and weeds. Adding organic matter like peat moss or garden compost can improve soil drainage and create a better environment for your phlox.
Make sure to choose a location that has good drainage, as phlox don’t like to sit in consistently wet soil. In northern areas where spring snow is slow to drain, it’s essential to plant phlox in well-drained soil to prevent the roots from rotting.
Spacing is also important when planting phlox. Garden phlox should be planted about 18 inches apart, while creeping phlox should be planted about 2 feet apart. Giving these plants lots of room for air circulation is the key to limiting the appearance of mildew.
When choosing a location for your phlox, consider the surrounding plants and their growing conditions. Phlox combines well with other herbaceous perennials such as delphiniums, campanulas, and red hot pokers. For a more contemporary look, combine them with ornamental grasses.
Preparing The Soil For Phlox Planting
Before planting phlox ground cover, it’s important to properly prepare the soil to ensure that your plants have the best chance of thriving.
Start by using a garden fork or tiller to prepare your garden bed. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 to 15 inches, breaking up any clumps and removing any rocks or debris. This will allow the roots of your phlox plants to penetrate deeply into the soil and access important nutrients.
Next, mix in a layer of compost that’s between two and four inches. This will help improve soil structure, add vital nutrients, and enhance drainage. If you don’t have access to compost, you can also use well-rotted manure or another organic soil amendment.
Once you’ve added your compost, rake the soil smooth and level it out. This will make it easier to plant your phlox and ensure that they are all at the same depth.
When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole that’s slightly larger than the root ball of your phlox plant. Gently remove the plant from its container and loosen any tangled roots. Place the plant in the hole, making sure that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil.
Backfill the hole with soil, gently tamping it down around the base of the plant to remove any air pockets. Water your phlox immediately after planting, moistening the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.
Watering And Fertilizing Phlox
Watering your phlox is important to keep the soil moist, but be careful not to overwater. Phlox prefers soil that is evenly moist, but not waterlogged. Water your phlox once a week, and more often during hot and dry weather.
Fertilizing your phlox is also important for healthy growth and vibrant blooms. When planting, add a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer blend or compost to the backfill soil. Fertilize annually with compost or a slow-release granular formulated fertilizer when flower buds begin forming. Lightly fertilize after the flowers fade, and the phlox may rebloom.
It’s important to be cautious when fertilizing your phlox, as excessive use of chemical fertilizers can cause leggy stems and encourage leaf growth instead of flowers. Instead, opt for slow-release granular fertilizers that release nutrients over a longer period of time. For creeping phlox, aged manure or compost in the spring is helpful, but not necessary.
Pruning And Maintenance Tips For Phlox
Phlox is a low-maintenance plant, but it still requires some pruning and maintenance to keep it looking tidy and healthy.
For creeping phlox, an annual feeding and watering during dry spells is necessary. Additionally, mature plants might need some pruning to keep them looking neat. If you don’t mind your phlox spreading naturally, you can skip the pruning. However, if you prefer a more controlled growth pattern, prune the plant regularly.
Another important aspect of maintaining phlox is weed management. Weeds can compete with your phlox for soil nutrients and moisture, so it’s best to start managing weeds early in the spring before the phlox blooms and its foliage is at its fullest. Hand-pulling is the most effective method for removing weeds. If you let the weeds get out of control, it might be easiest to dig up the phlox (keeping its roots intact), clear the area of grass and weeds, and then replant the phlox.
Many varieties of phlox are perennials and do not need pruning during the growing season. You can remove spent flowers for aesthetic purposes. Cut phlox back after the stems and leaves have been killed by autumn frost. Trim the stems back to within 2 or 3 inches of the ground. This will make it easier to locate the plant if it needs dividing in the spring and prevent stepping on new growth.
Phlox likes consistent moisture in the soil, so water it twice weekly during its first year, and weekly during dry spells thereafter. To help keep the soil moist, consider mulching around your phlox. Mulch not only retains moisture but also helps deter weeds. Fertilizer is recommended once every season, in tandem with compost and mulch.
After your phlox blooms and the blooms begin to fade, deadhead the plant to encourage it to bloom again. Simply pinch off the flowers or use scissors to cut off the spent blooms. After the blooming season, leave the foliage on your plant to help it gather energy for the coming year. Wait until after the first heavy frost to cut your phlox to the ground. Be sure not to pull it, so as not to disturb the roots.
By following these pruning and maintenance tips, you can ensure that your phlox ground cover remains healthy and beautiful for years to come.
Common Pests And Diseases Of Phlox And How To Prevent Them
While phlox is generally a hardy plant, there are a few pests and diseases that can affect its growth and health. Powdery mildew is a common fungal disease that can appear as white spots or coating on the plant tissues. To prevent powdery mildew, ensure proper air circulation by not planting your phlox too close together. You can also use an organic insecticidal soap to control this disease.
Leaf spots are another common problem with phlox and can appear as dark brown spots on the lower leaves of the plant. They can spread quickly if left unchecked, so it’s important to remove infected leaves as soon as they develop. To prevent leaf spots, make sure you water and fertilize your phlox properly.
Rust is a type of fungus that can cause brown, blistered-looking spots on the leaves of your phlox plant. Good placement of your plant will keep rust away, so be sure to plant in an area that doesn’t stay soggy and leave adequate space between your phlox.
Spider mites attack the underside of phlox leaves and can cause yellow spots and an overall unhealthy appearance. To remove spider mites, spray the plants with a strong stream of water. If that doesn’t work, use specialized sprays and insecticidal soaps designed to target these pests.
In addition to pests and diseases, improper environmental conditions such as lack of water or improper lighting can also cause yellowing and dried out phlox plants. It’s important to monitor your plants regularly and take action as soon as you notice any signs of trouble.
By keeping an eye out for these common pests and diseases and taking preventative measures, you can ensure that your phlox ground cover stays healthy and vibrant for years to come.