Monday, September 17, 2012

What should I use to mulch my creeping phlox?

Creeping Phlox

Q. I received my order of creeping phlox and am very pleased.  Never having planted something I wanted to spread quickly I have no idea what type mulch to use.  John, the bed borders the driveway, slopes downhill and also drops a little toward the drive. I appreciate your time and look forward to your suggestions.

A. Mulches are applied to inhibit weeds, moderate soil temperature, preserve soil moisture, prevent erosion, and make the bed more attractive.

There are two issues for you to consider: the growth habit of the plant and the slope of the bed.

As Phlox subulata spreads, the stems root where they touch the ground. Coarse mulches and inorganic mulches such as recycled rubber might prevent the stems from rooting.

Rainfall on a sloping bed can wash some mulches away. If the bed slopes to the degree that that might happen, you should use a mulch that will allow rain to percolate rapidly through it. In that case, I recommend pine straw mulch. However, a thick application of pine straw might inhibit the stems from rooting as they should. The solution would be for you to pull the pine straw mulch away from the phlox as the plants spread so the stems can contact the soil and take root. The pine straw will eventually decompose.

If the slope of the bed is minimal, and there's no danger of mulch washing away, I recommend pulverized pine bark, wood chips or finished compost.

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