Phlox stolonifera

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Robert Pavlis

Phlox are well known as rock garden plants and sunny border plants, but few people are familiar with Phlox stolonifera, a North American native that is ideal for the shady garden. It was voted Perennial Plant of the Year in 1990 by the Perennial Plant Association.

Phlox stolonifera; photo by Robert Pavlis
Phlox stolonifera; photo by Robert Pavlis

P. stolonifera, also called creeping phlox, is a vigorous mat-forming ground cover that flowers on short stems in mid spring. The highly fragrant flowers can be lavender-blue, violet, pink and even white.  Because of its low stature it works well growing under and around other taller plants and is not usually bothered by deer or rabbits.

Creeping phlox prefers part shade and a fair amount of moisture but will grow just fine in the dry shade under maples where it will spread a bit slower. Its name comes from the fact that it makes stolons which are ground hugging stems that root as they go.

Phlox stolonifera; photo by Robert Pavlis
Phlox stolonifera; photo by Robert Pavlis

P. stolonifera can be distinguished from a similar woodland phlox called P. divaricata by the fact that it’s petals are not notched as in P. divaricataP. divaricata is also a bit taller and does not spread as quickly by stolons.

Soil Science for Gardeners book by Robert Pavlis

Phlox stolonifera

(floks sto-lon-IF-er-ah)

Life Cycle: perennial

Height: flower are 20 cm (8 in), leaves are 8 cm (3 in)

Bloom Time: mid spring

Natural Range: Eastern North America and north into Quebec

Habitat: open woods and wooded stream banks


Cultivation of Phlox stolonifera:

Light: part shade to full shade

Soil: humus rich moist soil is prefered, but not too fussy

Water: average moisture, can take drought

USDA Hardiness Zone: (3?) 4 – 8

Propagation: seed, cuttings, division

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

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