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Pruning Phlox: Expert Tips for Lush, Healthy Blooms

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Pruning Phlox: Expert Tips for Lush, Healthy Blooms

Welcome to our easy guide on pruning phlox, made for every gardener who loves these colorful blooms. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about pruning phlox, from the reasons why it’s important to the best times and methods. Whether you’re working with tall or creeping phlox, we’ve got practical tips and simple steps to follow. From thinning them out in spring to deadheading in summer and cutting them back in autumn, we’ll help you keep your phlox healthy and gorgeous. So grab your gardening gloves and pruners, and let’s get started on making your phlox thrive!

Why Prune Phlox?

Pruning phlox is super important for keeping your garden looking great and your plants healthy. One big reason to prune is to remove spent flowers (deadheading), which helps the plant produce more blooms and keeps everything looking tidy.

Cutting back the dead stems of perennial phlox in the fall, down to a few inches from the ground, also helps prevent fungal diseases from sticking around over the winter. Plus, pruning improves air-flow around your plants, which makes them healthier overall.

When to Prune Phlox?

You can and should prune Phlox three times per year:

  • In the spring, thin out the stems to improve air circulation and focus the plant’s energy on the strongest shoots.
  • During the summer, deadheading spent flowers will help extend the blooming season, keeping your garden colorful for longer.
  • In late autumn or early winter, cutting back the stems will help the plant conserve energy for the next growing season. Pruning at these times ensures your phlox stays healthy and vibrant throughout the year.

The Tools You’ll Need

Before you start pruning, gather and clean your tools. You’ll need a few essentials:

  • Pruning Shears: This is the best tool for clean cuts on your Phlox.
  • Gardening gloves: Never forget to protect your hands when you are pruning. This is your best friend for protection in the garden.
Pruning Phlox: Expert Tips for Lush, Healthy Blooms

Pruning Phlox Step-by-Step

Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of pruning phlox with our step-by-step guide.

Thinning (Spring)

This will help your Phlox to breathe more easily, reduce the risk of powdery mildew, and focus its energy on the strongest shoots.

  1. Focus on parts where stems are too dense and might benefit from thinning.
  2. For very bushy plants, remove up to a third of the stems completely. Pinch back the remaining stems to the first set of leaves. Make sure there is enough space between stems for good ventilation.
  3. Get rid of the removed stems and leaves to prevent any potential disease spread.

Deadheading (Summer)

This helps the plant focus on producing new blooms. You can deadhead individual flowers too, but it is less effective.

  1. Keep an eye out for any flowers on your phlox that are starting to fade or look spent.
  2. When you spot a group of fading flowers, cut them back to where they meet the main stem.

Cutting Back (Autumn)

Even though this might seem drastic, don’t worry. Phlox plants are tough and will come back stronger next year.

  1. After the flowering season is over and the plant starts to retreat, it’s time to cut back your Phlox.
  2. Cut the plant all the way back to the soil. This helps the plant save up some energy for the next growing season.

Pruning Tall Phlox Species

Tall phlox species, like high perennial phlox and large-leaved phlox (Phlox amplifolia), need a bit of special care when it comes to pruning. Once the stems have completely withered in late autumn, you can cut them back. While deadheading flowers is also an option, it’s not strictly necessary unless you want to prevent the plants from self-seeding.

Pruning Creeping Phlox Species

Creeping phlox species, like cushion phlox (Phlox douglasii), have their own pruning needs. The best time to prune these varieties is right after they finish flowering in early summer. Pruning at this time gives wintergreen phlox a fresh start and can even lead to a second round of blooms later in the season.


After pruning your phlox, giving it a good watering helps it recover quickly. But remember, too much water can be harmful. If you’ve done a full cut-back for winter and it’s already rainy, skip the watering!

Pruning Phlox: Expert Tips for Lush, Healthy Blooms

Frequently Aksed Questions

How to prune phlox for winter?

To prune phlox for winter, cut the stems back to 2 or 3 inches above the ground after the first autumn frost. This helps identify the plant in spring and protects new growth from being stepped on.

When to prune phlox?

Prune phlox in late autumn after the stems have withered or in early spring just before new shoots appear. Deadheading spent flowers is also possible throughout the summer.

When should you deadhead phlox?

The best time to deadhead Phlox is late summer or late fall. Your Phlox will be much prettier.

Will phlox flower again if cut back?

If you cut back old stems on your phlox, you can still get some flowers in the same season. They will start growing fast next spring.

Where do you cut phlox?

Phlox are perennials; you can cut back all stems about 2-3 inches from the ground before winter. They will come back strong next spring.