Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox)

Plant Info
Also known as: Ground Pink, Moss Pink, Moss Phlox
Family:Polemoniaceae (Phlox)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Eastern US
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; barrens, woods, rock ledges, gardens
Bloom season:May
Plant height:2 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Clusters of up to 9 slender-stalked flowers at the tips of branches. Flowers are about ¾ inch across with 5 petals that are fused at the base into a long, slender tube, typically with a dark “eye” around the mouth of the tube. Petal shape varies from narrowly wedge-shaped to elliptic to nearly round and usually has a notch at the tip. Color ranges from white to pink to blue-violet. Inside the tube are 5 stamens of unequal lengths and a 3-parted style. The 5 sepals cupping the flower are shorter than the floral tube, narrowly lance-linear with a pointed tip. Sepals and flower stalks are hairy and green or more often purplish.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves and stem] Leaves are evergreen, opposite or whorled, ¼ to ¾ inch long, lance-linear to awl-shaped with a pointed tip, stalkless, crowded on the stem, and often fringed with white hairs around the edge.

[flowering branches from the horizontal stem] Stems are prostrate, somewhat woody, hairy, freely branched, rooting at the nodes and creating dense mats up to 3 feet in diameter, with the purplish flowering branches held erect or rising at the tip (decumbent).

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is a capsule


Native in the eastern US, Creeping Phlox has long been available in the nursery trade, primarily marketed as a ground cover and for rock gardens and border plantings, with dozens of cultivars of varying flower colors and petal shapes. It does occasionally escape cultivation and is considered adventive in New England, from Michigan west (including Minnesota), and south of Tennessee. We came upon it planted in a graveyard in Carlton County where it obviously took a liking and spread much farther than originally intended. It seems only a matter of time before it takes off down the road. That's how these things sometimes manage to get into the wild. There are 3 varieties of Phlox subulata; they are not well documented but 2 apparently have limited ranges in the eastern US and may be glandular hairy, with var. subulata the most common and having non-glandular hairs.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Sandy Lake Cemetery in Carlton County, and in a private garden in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Nawang B - Hungry Jack Outfitters, East Cook/Grand Marais
on: 2017-06-14 04:25:05

Near the parking lot by the stream at the BWCA outfitter - Hungry Jack. Looked colorful in an otherwise grassy section.

Posted by: Connie Thompson - Detroit Lakes
on: 2018-05-25 14:15:01

I have cluster of it on the east side of my garage/house. They seem to be coming year after year and hopefully getting bigger and bigger.

Posted by: Andrew - Beaver Bay
on: 2018-05-30 13:17:34

Just saw it I in cemetery on Hwy 61 with pink flowers, petals unnotched. Maybe nearby yard with white and pink.

Posted by: CCooper - Twin Cities
on: 2023-04-03 13:00:44

I would like to have this in many colors but have never been lucky to grow them.

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