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Creeping Phlox in Winter: Appearance, Care & Spring Prep

Creeping Phlox in Winter: Appearance, Care & Spring Prep

Creeping phlox is a perennial herb with beautiful flowers that can often be found in gardens across the eastern United States.

Besides its beautiful blooms that come in white, pink, and purple colors, the leaves of the plant have their own ornamental values as well. It’s also an excellent ground cover.

Does creeping phlox stay green in winter? Although the leaves of the creeping phlox stay lush and green even after the flowers have faded, they tend to die back in the winter. No matter how mild the winter, creeping phlox usually goes dormant during those months. In spring, it will come back to life again and bloom before other plants in the garden.

Losing its leaves is not the only potential impact winter weather has on the creeping phlox. Without proper care and maintenance, the plant might not survive the cold months.

Read more to find out how to care for creeping phlox in the winter.

Creeping Phlox in Winter

Winter is not merciful on the creeping phlox. In many varieties, once the flowers have faded and leaves have dropped, what’s left of this lush perennial are just barren stalks.

This puts the roots of the plant under the mercy of the cold soil unless you step in and provide proper care for the flowering perennial.

Is Creeping Phlox Evergreen?

There are many plants that carry the market name “creeping phlox.” The real creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) is evergreen. It has needle-like leaves and blooms early in the spring.

However, other plants with the same market name are only semi-evergreen. These plants have soft and broad leaves and bloom toward the end of the spring.

What Does Phlox Look Like in Winter?

In the winter, all the lush green foliage of many varieties of creeping phlox tends to die back. This leaves a few brown and dry sticks in the ground, but that doesn’t mean that the plant is dead.

Phlox is a perennial, and it will come out of dormancy in the spring. 

Should Creeping Phlox Be Cut Back?

In the winter, you can cut back your creeping phlox to help protect the root system, prevent any damage to what’s left of the crown, and guard against diseases such as powdery mildew.

Cutting back your phlox will allow you to insulate it against frost, snow, and other harsh winter conditions. You just need to mark the spot to avoid damaging the plant when you start your spring planting.

How To Care for Creeping Phlox in Winter

You need to start winterizing creeping phlox right before the temperature drops and the soil freezes. Cut back the stems down to the soil level if desired and cover the spot with a thick layer of mulch.

This will insulate the roots against the cold temperature at the surface. Don’t water or feed the plant during this dormancy period.

How To Prepare Creeping Phlox for Spring

Right after the last frost, remove the mulching layer to allow the crown to grow back. Apply mild fertilizer to encourage the plant to come out of dormancy, and water it thoroughly. 

Creeping Phlox Zone

Creeping phlox grows mainly in temperate climates. It has a high tolerance for cold weather and can survive frost and even snow. It’s usually hardy in Grow Zones 5 to 9. 

A mass of blue creeping phlox flowers with a small garden sign.

Creeping Phlox Varieties

The following varieties are popular and come highly recommended:

  • Angelina Phlox 
  • Britney Creeping Phlox
  • Candy Stripe Creeping Phlox
  • Crimson Beauty Creeping Phlox
  • Drummond’s Pink Creeping Phlox
  • Emerald Blue Creeping Phlox
  • Fort Hill Creeping Phlox
  • Jagger Creeping Phlox

When To Plant Creeping Phlox

The best time to plant creeping phlox is in the moderate seasons, either in the spring or the fall. For spring planting, wait until the threat of the last frost is over and for the soil to become workable.

If you plant it in the fall, allow the plant enough time to develop its root ball before the first frost. 

Where To Plant Creeping Phlox

Creeping phlox needs moist soil all year round except for during the winter. Clay soil is more suitable for this phlox since it has a high retention of water.

Sandy and even loamy soil drain fast leaving the roots dry, which can stunt the growth of the perennial and impact the blooms. 

Creeping Phlox Care

Creeping phlox is one of the easiest plants to grow and care for in the garden.

That said, choosing the right location and keeping the soil moist will go a long way in keeping the phlox happy, lush green, and blooming abundantly. 

Location & Planting

Choose an area in the garden that gets full sun between 6 and 8 hours on a daily basis during the spring, summer, and fall. A south- or west-facing spot is ideal in this case.

Add organic materials to the soil to improve soil aeration, loosen the texture a little, and prevent waterlogging. After planting, cover the soil with a thick layer of mulch to help with water retention.

Watering

Creeping phlox needs moisture constantly, but there’s a fine line between wet and overly saturated soil. So don’t overwater the plant, but don’t let the soil go dry either.

In the spring and fall, you’ll need to water it once a week with 1 inch of water. In the summer, you might have to double that quota and water the plant 2 to 3 times a week.

Factor in rainfall as part of that water quota, and use mulch to keep the soil evenly moist.

Fertilization

As a perennial, creeping phlox needs fertilization to keep blooming year after year. Start fertilizing the phlox from the moment you plant it.

Use a balanced fertilizer, and then switch to a phosphorus-high fertilizer (Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster is ideal) around the time the flower buds emerge. Then go back to the balanced fertilizer in the summer.

Fertilize lightly once every 4 to 6 weeks, and stop fertilizing 4 weeks before the first frost. 

Deadheading and Pruning

To ensure abundant blooms, you’ll need to deadhead the spent flowers before they form seeds. This will encourage the plant to grow more flower buds. Apply a light fertilizer to trigger a second bloom.

After the flowers have faded, cut back the stems to prevent the plant from getting leggy. The plant will compensate by sending out new shoots with lush green leaves that will stay until the end of the fall.

Related Questions:

Does Creeping Phlox Turn Brown in Winter?

In the winter, the foliage might die back as the plant goes dormant. The stalks of the plant may turn brown as a sign of dormancy.

It’s recommended that you cut back the plant to ground level to prevent damage to the root system and diseases such as powdery mildew.

Cover it with mulch before the soil freezes, and keep the mulch in place until the early spring.

How Hardy Is Creeping Phlox?

Creeping phlox is quite hardy and can handle harsh weather conditions including frost and snow, but it’s quite sensitive to drought and will struggle in dry soil.

So keep the soil evenly moist throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Don’t water the dormant plant in the garden. 

Conclusion

Creeping phlox is a perennial evergreen flowering plant that dazzles with its colorful blooms and lush green foliage.

However, in the winter, the plant will go dormant and the leaves will fall. Often all that remains in winter are brown sticks that can be cut back if desired.