Skip to Main Content

Moss Phlox

Photo of: White flowers

Wild moss phlox; photo by Fritz Flohr Reynolds SA 2.0

Are you in need of a good, native groundcover?

Moss phlox (Phlox subulata) is a creeping groundcover in the Phlox family (Polemoniaceae). This herbaceous perennial grows up to 9 inches tall and forms mats across the ground. It prefers full sun, but it can grow in sandy or rocky soil just as well as loamy soil. However it cannot tolerate wet conditions.

In Maryland, wild populations can be found throughout the Piedmont and in the western region. Cultivated populations can grow throughout the state.

Moss phlox can be distinguished from other local phloxes not only by its size but also by the pairs of opposite, needle-like leaves. The leaves are generally less than an inch in length and are semi-evergreen throughout the year.

Photo of purple flowers

Moss phlox; photo by Martin LaBar, Flickr CC by NC by 2.0

In the spring, late March through April, moss phlox has an impressive display of blooms. The small flowers are just under an inch long and have five spreading lobes. Depending on the variety, the blooms can range in hue from white to pink and purple. Some varieties are also bi-colored!

The flowers are dense and often form a sea of color across the landscape. Moss phlox makes an excellent border plant and will spread horizontally if given the space. It often will drape over the sides of edging or walls. The blooms often last 1-2 weeks.

Moss phlox is deer resistant and can form relatively thick mats. Its early blooms attract bee flies, long-tongued bees, small butterflies and skippers.

Author’s Note

Spring has finally sprung! After a seemingly endless winter, I am excited to welcome warmer temperatures, spring flowers and wildlife into my backyard. This issue includes information on spring visitors like flower flies—a pollinator and a predator—as well as a beautiful native groundcover, moss phlox.

In addition, spring is a time for migration, which can be hazardous for many birds. Check out our article on bird-safe windows for tips on how to make your home more bird-friendly as well as some recommendations by guest author, Clare Walker, on plants that help pollinators but often deter deer.

If there is a particular topic that you would like to include, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Happy Habitats!
Kerry Wixted

Click here to have HabiChat—the quarterly backyard wildlife habitat newsletter from the Wild Acres program—delivered right to your inbox!

In this Issue:
Bird Safe Windows
Deer Resistant Plants for Pollinators
Flower Flies
Moss Phlox

Photo of caterpillar munching on a leaf