Phlox subulata
Common Name: moss phlox 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Polemoniaceae
Native Range: Eastern and central United States
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to May
Bloom Description: Red-purple to violet-purple to pink to white
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Air Pollution


Best grown in humusy, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Best flowering is in full sun, but plants generally appreciate some dappled sun in areas with hot, humid summers. Good soil drainage is important. Plants grow well in sandy or gravely soils and tolerate hot, dry exposures better than most other species of phlox. Plants will self-seed in optimum growing conditions. Cut back stems after flowering by 1/2 to maintain form and promote denser growth plus to stimulate a possible light rebloom.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Phlox subulata, commonly called moss phlox, moss pink, mountain phlox or creeping phlox, is a vigorous, spreading, mat-forming, sun-loving phlox that grows to only 6” tall but spreads to 24” wide. It is noted for it creeping habit, its linear to awl-shaped leaves (which retain some green in winter) and its profuse carpet of mid-spring flowers with notched flower petals. It is native to somewhat dry, rocky or sandy places, open woodland areas and slopes from Michigan, Ontario and New York south to Tennessee and mainly in the Appalachians to North Carolina. Loose clusters (cymes) of fragrant, tubular flowers (to 3/4” wide) bloom in April-May. Flowers are red-purple to violet-purple, pink or infrequently white. Each flower has five, flat, petal-like, rounded lobes that are distinctively notched. Linear to awl-shaped, green leaves (to 1” long). From Latin, subulata means awl-shaped in reference to the leaves. Vegetation mats purportedly resemble moss, hence the common name of moss phlox. Many cultivars of this plant are available in commerce featuring flower colors of blue/purple, pink, red and white. Attractive to butterflies and other insect pollinators.

The genus name is derived from the Greek word phlox meaning flame in reference to the intense flower colors of some varieties.

Specific epithet means awl-shaped.


Phlox subulata and its cultivars do not seem to be bothered by powdery mildew to the same extent as are most other species of phlox. Spider mites can be a problem, particularly in hot, dry conditions. Foliar nematodes can cause damage in wet/humid conditions. Watch out for rabbit damage.


Rock gardens, edgings, foundations or ground covers. Ground covers are particularly valued in sunny areas of woodland gardens, slopes, native plant gardens or naturalized areas. Also appropriate for sunny areas of border fronts. Drape slightly over a rock wall.