Thursday, 16 June 2016

The moss phlox, Phlox subulata is very easy to grow

Bulbs can grow through it
It sets off neighbouring plants
Lovely rich red
You might not think it is easy when you see a list on the net of its pest and diseases! I have never seen any - but then I don’t wear my reading glasses very often in the garden. It is important to remember that if you grow plants well, that health is the norm. My version of growing my phlox subulata is to leave it alone and let it get on with covering the ground. It produces a tight covering mat in all shades of mauve, pink, red and white. Mine grows in well drained sandy soil and also in places that at times are quite wet. It fails where it floods!
It comes in all colours 
Phlox subulata
Shame on me, my lack of attention has allowed moss to grow
I was intrigued to read it is called the moss phlox. The leaves are so fine that the name describes it exactly. I could see that they are very similar when I pulled out several handfuls of real sphagnum moss after this very wet Winter! I chopped up this moss and mixed it with soil  to make some special potting compost.

We all know and love the very easy to grow and long flowering taller herbaceous phlox of the paniculata kind. There are many other phloxes in the nurserymen's catalogues of varying ease and difficulty. Some are lovely but very miffy. Nurseryman love the tricky ones because innocents come back time and again!
Helianthemum 'Henfield Brilliant'
Phlox subulata is strong growing and associates with other ground cover (I clip the helianthemum hard after flowering)
If you have the right conditions Phlox subulata is very easy. Mine were purchased originally at my favourite nursery at Reighton near Bridlington about fifteen years ago in 40 pence pots! 
The books correctly tell you they can be raised from seed or cuttings. Why don’t they tell you that it is so much easier to take out a chunk from a clump with your spade?
Yesterday we visited the Reighton nursery from our holiday at Filey! They had very sturdy plants but now 70 pence each. Much to my surprise they are all named varieties. My memory has failed me yet again as I have being telling everyone they were seedling varieties.
Did I excitedly copy their names? Roger dream on.
Phlox subulata
I don’t know if it was two young plants together when I bought it or whether it has self seeded 

Phlox subulata
 In the pink
The idea of a delicate plant such as this phlox covering the ground and smothering weeds is a difficult concept for new gardeners. Ground cover plants won’t kill any weeds for you! It is essential when using them as ground cover to kill all the perennial weeds first. Every last piece of such as couch or ground elder. Sensible gardeners do this in a new garden with glyphosate.
Nor will your phlox do anything if it is surrounded by weeds coming from seed. They need to be hoed or weeded away. As the phlox spreads over the years it provides a tight mat and almost no weed seed germinates within the clump. Even so the diligent gardener might need to pull out the odd dandelion!
The evergreen foliage provides a tight ground cover all the year round
I read in wikipedia that Phlox subulata has a delicate smell of marihuana. I have never noticed  - but then I wouldn’t know!

It has plenty of room to spread its wings in my Worsbrough cemetery garden
It will still be there when the bluebells die down
Do give Phlox subulata a try. It is very easy....
....and has very rich colours
My previous long-long article on border phlox described how to plant phlox and leave it alone - other than to propagate more or move it to a new garden!


  1. I do like these phlox but I have mine in a container.

  2. I like them too except for one I have which I find too "phosphorescent". It is a shocking pink but I keep it as it is so healthy and always blooms profusely.

    1. I would rather fancy a shocking pink one Alain

  3. I have always liked phlox but they do not do so well with me as I have found they prefer dryish conditions in full sun to flower really well.

    1. They like my sandy soil Rick. They don't do so well at Bolton Percy but as you see in my pictures they do very well on the stony soil at Worsbrough

  4. Many thanks for identifying this for me, I wondered what it was! I have a patch which is mixed up with weeds and an anthill. I need to transplant it to somewhere 'clean' but without knowing what it is, it's hard to pick the right place for it. It's very popular with some day flying micro moths, so perhaps it is their food plant. I'm fascinated by the tiny things in the garden!

    1. I would love to see your garden Sarah! It sounds so interesting and something of a battlefield!

  5. There's some cracking photos of Phlox subulata in Japanese Gardens, they use it over mounds as ground cover in huge swathes. It's really eye catching.

    1. Thats a really helpful comment Jeremy. I understand in humid places in Japan they also use real moss as ground cover and I am told buy moss at the garden centre. Don't know if this is true. It would be great to hear from someone from that lovely country!

  6. I like the Phlox subulata in your garden. So, it suppresses weed once established and it also smells of weed, nah, I wouldn't know either.


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