How to Plant Creeping Phlox in Containers in 3 Ways

Planting Creeping Phlox in containers is an excellent way to bring vibrant color and lush greenery to any space, whether it’s a patio, balcony, or garden. Known for its dense carpet of blossoms and easy maintenance, Creeping Phlox thrives in various conditions and offers stunning visual appeal.

With proper care and attention, you can enjoy a flourishing display of this perennial beauty even in confined spaces. From selecting the right soil and container to mastering watering and fertilization techniques, container gardening with Creeping Phlox can be both rewarding and straightforward.

Key Takeaways

  1. Easy Maintenance: Creeping Phlox is low-maintenance and pest-resistant, making it an ideal choice for container gardening.
  2. Optimal Conditions: Ensure well-draining, slightly acidic soil and provide at least 6 hours of sunlight daily for the best growth.
  3. Fertilization and Watering: Use water-soluble liquid fertilizer twice a year and water once a week, adjusting for weather conditions to keep the plants healthy and blooming.
If you want a fairy tale-like touch in your home, try creeping phlox
If you want a fairy tale-like touch in your home, try creeping phlox

Known scientifically as Phlox subulata, this perennial is not only easy to grow but also boasts a profusion of blossoms once it blooms.

While it’s low-maintenance and thrives when planted directly into the ground, you might wonder about its suitability for containers. 

After all, confined spaces can pose challenges for most plants and they’ll need more care and love.

However, for a ground cover as robust and vibrant as Creeping Phlox, container planting can be just as straightforward. 

Dive into the details below to learn everything you need to know about how to plant Creeping Phlox in containers.

First, Let’s Revise The Basics of Growing Creeping Phlox

This type of ground cover plant produces a thick layer of blossoms, and their colors are adorably charming.
This type of ground cover plant produces a thick layer of blossoms, and their colors are adorably charming.

Growing any plant successfully involves understanding its specific needs and characteristics.

This includes assessing whether your area is suitable for Creeping Phlox, mastering watering techniques, and more.

The good news is, as mentioned earlier, this perennial beauty is quite self-sufficient (pest resistant even!).

So you don’t have to fret over providing the perfect conditions for it to thrive.

Let’s review some of the fundamental care facts about Creeping Phlox:

  • Hardiness Zone: USDA 5-9, with preferred temperature ranging between 68 and 95 °F.
  • Soil Type: Opt for soil rich in organic matter with a slightly acidic pH (6.0 to 8.0). Don’t forget to make sure it is well-drained.
  • Water: Aim for watering once a week; adjust the frequency as needed, especially during hot and dry seasons.
  • Fertilizer (for container): Twice a year, ideally in early spring and before summer, apply a water-soluble liquid fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio (10-10-10).
  • Sunlight: Thrives in full sun with at least 6 hours of exposure daily but can tolerate light shade.

How to Plant Creeping Phlox in Containers: Grow From Seeds

Creeping Phlox can thrive without much attention. You can often find them flourishing alongside woodlands and shady river banks.
Creeping Phlox can thrive without much attention. You can often find them flourishing alongside woodlands and shady river banks.

Before diving in, let me emphasize something paramount, a reminder I tend to highlight in every seed-growing discussion:

Invest in quality seeds from reputable suppliers, preferably newer batches.

While cheaper options might seem appealing, they often result in days of frustration trying to germinate unviable seeds.

The same applies to old seeds forgotten somewhere in your home for years.

Yes, there’s a slight chance some may still sprout. But time takes its toll, and it can diminish the viability of certain seeds over time.

Step 1: Start Your Seeds Early

It’s essential to remember that even though they’re potted, you can’t plant them at any time.

Phlox needs abundant direct sunlight and goes dormant in winter.

Therefore, planting them in late summer or fall won’t yield any results.

For optimal success, begin planting your seeds early.

Around six weeks before the ground thaws from frost, sow the seeds in small pots with a light layer of potting soil.

Give them a thorough watering, then enclose the pots in a plastic bag until the seeds start to sprout. 

Phlox doesn’t really need watering every day. Once a week should suffice.
Phlox doesn’t really need watering every day. Once a week should suffice.

Step 2: Spacing

When planting Creeping Phlox from seeds, another factor to consider is proper spacing.

While they may seem insignificant when the sprouts are still small, they’ll spread and compete with each other over time.

This competition often leads to plants dying off.

Therefore, I’d suggest you provide at least 6 inches of space between each seedling to allow them room to thrive.

After sowing the seeds, water the soil and ensure it remains consistently moist (but not overly wet) for the seedlings.

Sprouts usually emerge within a month or two, although timing may vary depending on the variety.

Step 3: Place on a Sunny Windowsill

Once the sprouts emerge, remove the pot from the plastic bag and feed the plants with all-purpose fertilizer.

Ensure they receive ample water.

Place the young phlox on a sunny windowsill where they can soak up plenty of sunlight with the soil temperature at least 65°F.

This perennial plant loves full sun and requires at least 6 hours of exposure daily.
This perennial plant loves full sun and requires at least 6 hours of exposure daily.

Step 4: Transplant Creeping Phlox to a Flower Box

Keep the new Creeping Phlox indoors until after the final frost and temperatures have stabilized enough for the young phlox to thrive outdoors.

Look for periods with minimal fluctuations between night and day temperatures.

Choose a flower box large enough to accommodate at least three to four plants.

Transplant your phlox into the box, ensuring they are spaced at least 15 inches apart for optimal growth. Avoid overcrowding the box.

Use all-purpose potting soil and water the plants generously.

You can also apply water-soluble fertilizer at this point to provide the necessary nutrients for robust blooming.

Step 5: Transplant to a Larger Container

Its hardiness zone is USDA 5 to 9.
Its hardiness zone is USDA 5 to 9.

If you prefer to keep your phlox near your deck, patio, or other favorite areas for easy viewing, consider placing them in a long container pot.

Phlox is a creeping groundcover that enjoys stretching out, and its low-growing blossoms create an impressive display when lined up in a row.

Remember to prune the vines and leaves to allow the blossoms to take center stage.

Fill the larger container with potting soil mixed with all-purpose fertilizer.

Transplant the young phlox flowers, ensuring they are spaced 6 to 8 inches apart.

As they grow, they will quickly cover the remaining space. Keep the soil moist by watering it regularly.

How to Grow Creeping Phlox in Containers from Propagation

Another way of introducing Creeping Phlox into your garden is by propagating from existing bushes.

It’s a simple and effective way to grow new plants, offering quicker results compared to growing from seeds.

To propagate new phlox, we have two options: division and cuttings.

Creeping Phlox thrives in temperatures ranging from 68 to 95 °F. It can tolerate cold temperatures as low as 40°F, but not below that.
Creeping Phlox thrives in temperatures ranging from 68 to 95 °F. It can tolerate cold temperatures as low as 40°F, but not below that.

Grow Creeping Phlox from Cuttings:

1. Select Healthy Parent Plants: 

When you’re picking out Phlox plants for cuttings, go for the healthy ones with robust growth and lively leaves.

Take your time to check the stems and leaves closely, making sure they’re clear of any disease or pest issues.

I stumbled upon this gem of advice from Gardener’s World, which recommends going for softwood cuttings from the fresh, young shoots—especially those from this season’s growth and ones that haven’t started flowering yet.

It’s a great tip to keep in mind!

2. Timing: 

The optimal window for taking cuttings from Phlox is during late spring to early summer, when the plants are in their prime growth phase.

It’s best to steer clear of extreme temperature conditions, be it scorching heat or chilling cold, as these can cause undue stress to the parent plants.

It requires fertilizer twice a year, ideally in early spring and before summer.
It requires fertilizer twice a year, ideally in early spring and before summer.

3. Prepare Tools and Materials:

  • Sharp, sterilized pruning shears or scissors: bruised cuttings will severely affect them from quick adaptation.
  • Rooting hormone: to encourage root formation.
  • Potting mix or propagation medium: I’d recommend mixing in some organic manure to assist with the cuttings.
  • Don’t forget your pots!

4. Take Cuttings:

  • Use sterilized pruning shears or scissors to make a clean cut just below a leaf node (where a leaf attaches to the stem).
  • Remove any lower leaves along the bottom third of the cutting to expose the leaf nodes.

5. Apply Rooting Hormone (Optional): To encourage root development, dip the cut end of each cutting into powdered or liquid rooting hormone. This step is optional but can improve the success rate of rooting.

6. Prepare Potting Mix: Fill small pots or containers with a well-draining potting mix or propagation medium. Moisten the potting mix slightly to ensure good contact with the cuttings.

Feed them with water-soluble liquid fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio (10-10-10)
Feed them with water-soluble liquid fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio (10-10-10)

7. Plant Cuttings:

  • Insert the cut end of each cutting into the prepared potting mix, pressing it gently to ensure good soil contact.
  • Space the cuttings evenly in the pots, leaving space between them to allow for airflow and prevent crowding.

8. Provide Care:

  • Place the pots in a bright, indirect light location. Avoid direct sunlight, as this can cause the cuttings to wilt or dry out.
  • Keep the potting mix consistently moist but not waterlogged. Mist the cuttings regularly to maintain humidity around them.
  • Monitor the cuttings for signs of new growth, indicating that roots are forming. This process typically takes several weeks.

9. Transplanting: Once the cuttings have developed a healthy root system and are actively growing, they can be transplanted into larger pots or outdoor garden beds.

Grow Creeping Phlox from Division

Creeping Phlox prefers soil rich in organic matter with a pH level between 6.0 and 8.0.
Creeping Phlox prefers soil rich in organic matter with a pH level between 6.0 and 8.0.

Propagating creeping phlox through division is the way to go. It involves simply splitting clumps of thriving Phlox into smaller sections to grow new bushes.

This method not only relieves stress from overgrown bushes but also provides newly separated phlox with a fresh environment to thrive.

Since they already have roots, all you need to do is wait for them to settle into their new home.

  1. Wait for spring or fall when the plant isn’t actively growing, typically after it has finished flowering.
  2. Select plants that are at least two to three years old.
  3. Carefully dig up the entire plant, ensuring not to damage the root ball.
  4. Shake off excess soil.
  5. Using a sterile, sharp spade, cut through the roots to divide the plant in half.
  6. Loosen the soil in the planting area and incorporate organic matter.
  7. Space the divisions about 12 to 18 inches apart if planting in a large pot; otherwise, one division per pot is sufficient.
  8. Water thoroughly to settle the soil and place the pots in a location with ample sunlight.
  9. Provide regular soil moisture to the newly planted phlox for about a month.
Happy garden! Which Creeping Phlox variety is your favorite?
Happy garden! Which Creeping Phlox variety is your favorite?

Final Thoughts

Growing creeping phlox in a container offers a convenient and attractive way to enjoy this beautiful plant.

Now, you can cultivate phlox in containers, adding a burst of color and beauty wherever you choose to place them.

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