Although creeping phloxes are much less demanding than other plants, they still need extra protection and upkeep during harsh conditions.
And this guide is crafted for that exact purpose: to give you tips on how to care creeping phlox over winter.
Keep scrolling for more guidance.
How To Care Creeping Phlox Over Winter
Ensure the phloxes are placed in well-drained, intense-sunlight areas. Move them back to sheltered places/ add extra straw layers around their bases when winter comes.
Fertilize them in late winter to speed up their budding processes.
Also, avoid watering these plants in winter unless the soils are too dry.
Choose Suitable Locations For The Phloxes
Most creeping phloxes thrive best under full sun and on well-drained soil – a tip any beginner should keep in mind before venturing into their gardening journey.
Place the plant in places as sunny as possible with at least 6 hours of bright, direct sunlight a day (click here if you consider using grow lights or indirect lights as an alternative).
Still, for afternoon periods, it would be better to turn to partial shades instead of full sun, which keeps the plant safe from excessive, scorching light.
Any area prone to too much shadiness or standing water must be avoided at all costs.
And if you cannot find a great growing medium filled with organic, quick-draining content, the best bet is to make it yourself!
Do so by:
- Mixing well-rotted manures and composts into the garden soil
- Ordering well-drained potting mixes for container plants
Protect Them From The Frost
Creeping phlox plants can tolerate hardiness zones of 3 to 9, meaning their cold temperature tolerance can reach as far as minus 40 degrees F.
But do not take that as a cue to take down your guard in winter! Protecting the phlox against extreme chill is still essential, particularly in regions where the climates are not so forgiving.
For people growing these plants in pots, I suggest moving them back indoors or to sheltered locations (sheds or garages, for instance). Only then can you ensure the freezing temp will not hurt them.
How about creeping phloxes planted deep in the ground – and hence, cannot be moved indoors?
In that case, cover the plant with straw or mulch layers to insulate the floor and protect the phlox’s roots. As its evaporation rate is slowed, your plant can stay safe from root ball freeze.
Needless to say, mulching is one of the most commonly-known methods of retaining moisture and fighting against extreme temperatures.
Any material is welcomed: feel free to use pine needles, bark, wood chips, or other options you have in mind. Put a few layers around the plant’s base, and that’s it!
If you do not hesitate to spend a bit more money on high-quality mulch, then rubber nuggets, orchid bark, Spanish moss, and coco coir are excellent options.
They keep everything tidy and compact, allowing your phlox to thrive despite all odds.
Phloxes grown indoors should not be watered in winter – at all. The precipitation and seasonal rain – not to mention all the mulching materials above – are more than enough for its moisture retention!
Plus, since phloxes are quite well-known for their drought tolerance, keeping them wet for too long does not sound as great as you think.
Overdoing the watering may even get their roots killed and cause fungal diseases.
The same sentiment applies to phloxes growing in containers. Unless the soil is too dry and risks rotting the plant’s shallow root, you do not have to water it all the time.
Provide Them With Proper Drainage
No creeping phlox can grow well without good drainage; ensure the earth around yours is not soggy and drains well.
To treat poorly-drained soil – or prevent your soil from worsening over time – remember the following tips:
- Use grit or gardening sand to boost its drainage.
- Plant the phlox in a pot that has at least one bottom hole. Raised garden beds are also a great alternative.
- If you prefer containers, choose clay or terracotta pots instead of plastic ones; they hold less soil moisture than the latter.
Pay Attention to Fertilization
It would be great to stop fertilizing your plants altogether during winter. The creeping phloxes are dormant at the time anyway and will not use all the nutrients you feed them.
Still, if desired, you may start the fertilization around late winter to speed up their developments (and eventual flower buds).
Use slow-release fertilizers, read the package instructions carefully, and water the plants once you are done.
Prune Your Phloxes
There is no better time to prune the creeping phloxes than late winter, as it ensures optimal, healthy new growths.
- Use a sharp pruning shear to cut off all damaged/dead stems (or any shoot sticking out of the plant’s desired shape.)
- Optional, but you may consider cutting its height by six inches to pave the way for new spring growth.
- And do not forget deadheading. Only when the old, withered blossoms are removed will new ones have room to flourish and help increase flowering production.
Keep An Eye on Diseases and Pests
Like most plants, creeping phloxes are not beyond common pests like nematodes, mites, snails, slugs, etc.
Horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps, and slug traps/slug baits are the best weapons against these insects.
Better yet, since snails and slugs are weak against copper, I recommend placing some copper strips near the plant’s base.
Use fungicide or neem oil to keep excessive moisture from accumulating on their green leaves.
Seek professional help immediately if any unusual signals occur (which I will discuss in the next section).
Recognize and Handle Signals of Winter Damage
Although creeping phloxes can survive guaranteed proper maintenance, winter damage is not exactly uncommon.
Check your plants every day to identify the following issues on time:
- Inspect the leaves. Phlox leaves that are brown, yellow, wilting, or falling indicate serious winter damage or pest invasion (the same pests that eat collard greens).
- Confirm signs of frost damage. Plants suffering from frost damage have their leaves turned brittle and brown.
To confirm the matter, gently bend one of its stems or leaves. If it breaks right away, you know the answer.
- Check the roots. Winter damage/ overwatering issues often manifest in diseased or damaged roots (rotting, dark, and brown).
Simply lift the phlox off the ground cover and double-check the root’s condition.
Once you have singled out the source of the problem, choose solutions accordingly. You may apply one of these tips or combine several in one go:
- Prune away the damaged stems or leaves.
- Add extra mulch layers at the base to insulate and keep the roots warm.
- Water the plants if the soil seems too dry.
- Use balanced fertilizer to feed the plant during late winter.
Does Creeping Phlox Stay Green in Winter?
Yes. As one of the most common evergreen perennials on the planet, creeping phlox species retain their lush foliage throughout the year and even during winter.
Sure, the plants usually look much less vibrant in winter than in other seasons, but they are green nonetheless. Their lighter green shades will return in full force when spring comes back.
Some might ask, then why are my creeping phlox turning brown? Well, do note that the plant’s specific winter look might be strongly influenced by external factors like cultivars, growing conditions, and climates.
For instance, regions whose temp drops below zero turn the phlox foliage into a bronzy or reddish color.
This is just a natural reaction to the harsh climate and does not necessarily reflect diseases or unhealthiness.
How Do You Keep Creeping Phlox Alive In Other Seasons?
In Early Spring
Deadheading and Pruning
Pruning and deadheading are the most critical part of any phlox blooming period.
As the blooms start fading away, your job is to remove the withering blooms from these plants to retain both their health/vigor and visual aesthetics.
Nobody wants their gardens to be littered with unsightly, dying phlox flowers!
And sure, cutting off every fading bloom sounds like a daunting task; it would be best to ask for a few helping hands.
Plus, to save time, I suggest you coincide your deadheading timing with plant shaping and pruning.
Some easy and quick methods to prune the phloxes:
- Most people turn to hand-held pruners and clip the stems/flowers one by one.
But trust me, hedge shears or string trimmers can do exactly the same in only half of the required time.
- If you want to shape the plant for its summer growth, the best bet is to start from the mound and cut it down several inches.
This method is like killing two birds with one stone: all the dying blooms are removed, and you get to shape the plant as well.
Experts settle on two ideal timings for creeping phlox fertilization: it must either be early spring (when the plants just start budding) or late spring, as their blooms are already completed.
The former option (before full blooms) paves the way for more vibrant, stronger blooming.
On the other hand, after-cycle fertilization allows the phlox to regain lost nutrients – while also preparing it for the next few summer months.
There are no definitive answers on which one is better; choose one that aligns best with your preferences.
Fertilizer options also offer different materials – but since phloxes are never demanding in terms of nutrients, my all-time favorite fertilizer is definitely compost.
A few layers of compost filling around the base of your phlox are more than enough to supply it with slow-release, abundant nutrients during summer.
Not to mention, the compost also has time to sink gradually into the floor whenever it rains – a terrific option for perennials that require slow, steady energy in hot weather.
But if you are looking for faster blooms, then all-purpose, balanced fertilizers are a better idea.
They feed the plants much more quickly than composts and hence, push the flowers out of their hiding place just as fast.
Mid-Summer/ Late-Summer/ Early Fall
Whether your phlox blooms once or twice during summer, they must always be cut to the middle before the freezing winter arrives at the door.
Not only will this simple yet powerful trick keep the phloxes more manageable and compact for the next spring, but their new flowering growths will also improve.
Not to mention, shorter stems and leaves keep them far from serious powdery mildew – a disease extremely common among low-maintenance perennials like these.
Fertilizing and Dividing The Phlox
Once the plants are properly cut back, it’s time to start working on transplantation/division of the overgrown clumps.
You should keep a consistent schedule for this task (at least every 3-4 years) to ensure the plant’s optimal energy.
To divide the phlox:
- Dig the plants up while keeping their root balls intact.
- Turn the plants over so that your shovel can glide better across their balls to make more even start sizes. Cut the new divisions.
- For gardeners whose phloxes have larger measurements than average, replanting their central areas is one of the worst ideas in the world. Those spots die out faster than any other!
And when dividing, remember to dig the phloxes up as soon as possible, preferably early fall.
That way, there are still at least four weeks of warm weather left (before winter) for the plants to re-establish themselves on the ground.
One last important note: do not put off the fertilization until late fall, as the phloxes are already dormant at this point.
You must get down to the fertilizing steps as soon as possible to promote young, tender growth and boost the plant’s resistance to winter temperatures.
Does Creeping Phlox Like Sun or Shade?
Does phlox like sun or shade? Creeping phloxes prefer full sun. Excessive shade can actually be detrimental to its flower production.
Is Creeping Phlox Easy to Grow?
Yes, guaranteed the soil is well-drained and humus-rich with just the right level of moisture. Almost no other maintenance is required.
How Fast Does Creeping Phlox Grow?
Though considered by many as one of the fastest-growing perennials, creeping phloxes still take 2 years to attain full maturity.
Does Creeping Phlox Come Back Year After Year?
Yes. Should nothing else go wrong, they are supposed to return every spring or early summer.
How Long Does Creeping Phlox Last?
The plant itself can last for a decade if taken care of well. However, its blooms only survive 3 to 4 weeks each season.
Taking care creeping phlox over winter is not difficult, considering this perennial plant is low-maintenance all year round.
But that does not mean you should pay less attention to the pruning, watering, and fertilization process. Keep all my tips above in mind to smooth out your gardening experience.