How to prune creeping phlox

Written by jacob j. wright
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Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata and Phlox stolonifera) is a low-growing perennial revered for its mat of colourful flowers in springtime. Growing only 5 to 8 inches tall, it does spread out to become 24 inches or more wide. Trimming the plant back no more than 50 per cent keeps it looking tidy within its garden space. It also improves plant vigour when pruning is undertaken after the flowering display.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Hand-held grass shears
  • Landscape-grade scissors

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  1. 1

    Ensure the creeping phlox has finished its floral display. Wait until late spring to schedule any trimming so that flower buds are not cut off.

  2. 2

    Shear the tips of the stems, 1 to 3 inches, all across the mat of creeping phlox foliage. Keep the shears level while trimming so the plant remains a relatively smooth shape and texture as more trimming is done.

  3. 3

    Brush away the trimming debris from atop the creeping phlox with a brushing or sweeping motion with your hand.

Tips and warnings

  • If the creeping phlox plant has become too leggy or large, the stems can be cut back to no more than 1/2 their length. Avoid trimming back into bare, tan-coloured stems too near the plant centre.
  • Don't trim creeping phlox from late summer to the following spring; you will end up cutting away the flower buds. Only trim after the spring flowering wanes.

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