Phlox pilosa (Prairie Phlox)

Plant Info
Also known as: Downy Phlox
Family:Polemoniaceae (Phlox)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry; prairies, open woods
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:6 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
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: flat Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] A dome-shaped cluster to 3 inches across at the top of the plant. Flowers are short-stalked, pink to purplish (rarely white), ½ to ¾ inch across, with a long, slender tube, 5 broad, spreading lobes and 5 yellow-tipped stamens hiding inside the tube. There is often a darker pink spot at the base of each lobe.

[photo of calyx] The calyx at the base of the tube is purple-tinged and hairy, with 5 long, very narrow teeth that are erect to spreading.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves and stem] Leaves are narrowly lance-linear, to 3 inches long, 1/8 to ½ inch wide, toothless, with a long taper to a pointed tip, a rounded base, and no stalk. The texture is slightly rough from short hairs. Leaves are widely spaced on the stem and oppositely attached, with pairs at right angles to the pair above and below. The stem is erect to ascending, densely covered in white hairs, and typically unbranched except in the flowers.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is an oval capsule that is shorter than the calyx. When seeds are ripe, the capsule explodes, flinging seeds several feet from the mother plant.


Prairie Phlox adds a splash of shocking pink to prairies each June. It also does well in a garden, in sunny, sandy soil. There are numerous varieties (or subspecies, depending on the reference)—up to 9 total, most of which are very localized in a few states. The primary distinguishing trait is the calyx hair (or lack thereof); the hair length and whether hairs are glandular sets one apart from another. The one in Minnesota and most of the Midwest is var. fulgida, which is not glandular and has very fine hairs on the calyx.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County, and Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, Sherburne County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


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

Posted by: shannon - Sherburne Wildlife Refuge
on: 2010-06-14 09:18:08

The Prairie Phlox are currently in bloom in the Sherburne Wildlife Refuge.

Posted by: Nancy - Near Cherry Grove.
on: 2015-06-07 16:13:17

Found in ditches in company with Wild Sweet William, the last of the Wild Blue Phlox, and parsnip and Golden Alexanders -- a fragrant bouquet ( and feast for the pollinating small solitary bees!) of semi-look-alikes that points up the differences in comparison.

Posted by: Barbara Morseth - Chippewa County, Montevideo, Mn.
on: 2019-06-16 17:59:35

I have native wild phlox purple flowers blooming in the bushy grove surround,ing my house. I pick a bunch every other day for display on my kitchen table with Queen Ann's Lace included.

Posted by: luciearl - lake shore
on: 2019-06-23 07:40:53

Much of this blooming along the Paul Bunyan Trail, Brainerd to Merrifield. It was pretty next to Hoary Puccoon.

Posted by: Elle
on: 2019-06-28 12:11:46

I have prairie phlox in my at home garden. It does well in the heavier clay soil that it's in as well but the rabbits have been difficult to keep away. It is the first year I have had it but hoping with a little care will be able to establish despite the rabbits persistence.

Posted by: Bob Djupstrom - Lost Valley Prairie SNA, Washington county mn
on: 2021-06-06 15:00:42

A few blooming as well as Hoary Puccoon on June 5, 2021.

Posted by: Ron Johannsen - Trenton Lake
on: 2022-06-27 13:48:35

June 25, 2022 many color shades present white to dark purple. Rainbow of colors.

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