Phlox divaricata (Wild Blue Phlox)

Plant Info
Also known as: Woodland Phlox, Blue Wood Phlox
Family:Polemoniaceae (Phlox)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich woods
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:10 to 18 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 flattish cluster about 3 inches across at the top of the stem. Flowers are ¾ to 1 inch across with 5 petals fused at the base, forming a long, slender tube; hidden inside the tube are 5 stamens and a short style. The petals are narrow at the base; the tip end is wider and round or slightly indented. Color ranges from pale blue to blue-violet to reddish purple, occasionally white.

[photo of calyx] At the base of the tube is a slender calyx, purplish and glandular hairy, with 5 long, narrow, spreading teeth.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 1 to 2 inches long and to ½ inch wide, toothless, tapering to a blunt or pointed tip, rounded at the base, and stalkless. Surfaces are finely hairy, with short fine hairs along the edges. Attachment is opposite, with leaf pairs at right angles to the pair above and below and widely spaced on the stem. Stems are mostly erect, unbranched except in the flowers, and may be somewhat sticky from glandular hairs. On non-flowering plants, the leaves may be wider, rounded at the tip end, and less hairy overall.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is an oval capsule about 1/6 inch long, shorter than the calyx.


The flowers make a nice contrast with the lush green of spring growth in woodlands across the southern half of the state, and does well in a shade garden. There are two recognized varieties (or subspecies, depending on the reference) of Wild Blue Phlox: var. divaricata, found from Illinois eastward, has flowers with petals notched at the tip, and var. laphamii, covering much of the eastern half of North America, including Minnesota, without the notches.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County, and in Goodhue County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Goodhue County.


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

Posted by: J. Iverson - Fort Snelling State Park
on: 2011-06-03 14:28:41

Near trails around the visitor center.

Posted by: Erica - St. Paul
on: 2013-06-09 13:09:28

Does anyone know of a MN woodland phlox with larger leaves? I have only seen it pictured in a blog from Bayfield. It grows in full shade and looks like a phlox flower, but wider leaves. Doesn't look like the native phlox you have posted here. Leaves are alternating, serrated and feel a little fuzzy. Is this a non-native?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-06-09 16:29:19

Erica, you may have come across dame's rocket, an invasive species often mistaken for a phlox. It has 4 petals rather than 5.

Posted by: Jay - Elm Creek Park Preserve, Maple Grove, MN
on: 2013-06-09 17:06:22

On June 9, 2013, blooming in profusion along the Oxbow Loop south of Eastman Nature Center. Some scattered plants also along the northern part of Sumac Trail.

Posted by: Larese - Evelyth
on: 2015-05-02 12:54:04

my great grandparents, grandparents, and one day my parents will be buried in Evelyth. I purchased some WildPhlox at a native plant sale for my garden, and found this page... Of course we've had trouble with deer eating the gravesite plants... Would phlox do well?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-05-04 03:29:00

Larese, Phlox divaricata is a woodland species and won't likely do well in an open, sunny area like a graveyard. You might try Phlox pilosa instead, which may be better suited to that type of site. I don't know about the deer, though.

Posted by: Alan - Whitewater State Park
on: 2015-05-09 12:37:48

Many scattered clumps of this flower growing in the low wooded areas below the bluffs.

Posted by: dee - Iowa
on: 2015-05-25 19:05:23

I am a Minnesotan--and now live over the border in Iowa.--just a little wys. I have many many deer,.and Wild Phlox do well. The deer do not eat them. They are very hungry deer and even eat a good share of things that deer aren't suppose to--but they leave the wild phlox alone.!!! I think that this is valid in Minnesota as well.

Posted by: Tom - Kasota Prairie
on: 2015-06-16 02:10:07

The phlox that I observed at the prairie have a small compound like leaf structure coming out of the leaf axils. Anyone know what this is? Not mentioned in any of my field guides.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-07-05 11:39:27

Tom, could it perhaps be prairie phlox (Phlox pillosa), which is far more likely to be found in a prairie than blue wood phlox. :)

Posted by: Jane - State park along Cannon River SE of Red Wing
on: 2016-05-20 22:01:47

Many clumps of blue phlox divaricata are blooming in the ditches along the gravel road.

Posted by: Karen Eckman - Shoreview
on: 2019-05-26 14:49:04

Blue phlox just showed up in my partially shaded rain garden. I thought it was an invasive because I didn't plant it and there was a patch right in the middle where several rains partially submerged it a couple of times this spring. Thank you for your website. I am a contributor.

Posted by: Ron Johannsen - Trenton Lake Freeborn Co. Bl
on: 2020-05-07 16:05:37

Blue phlox many blooming now, with other ephemerals.

Posted by: James Cederberg - Rice County Cannon River Wilderness Park
on: 2020-05-07 16:56:33

Lots of these blooming in the park today (5/7/2020), particularly in areas where trees were blown down by the tornado in September 2018.

Posted by: Sandra Sedivy - Mid-Ottertail County
on: 2022-06-01 19:47:06

I just saw this plant blooming in a small, partially shaded garden of natives by my garage. I was surprised to see it because I didn't plant it, and no one near me has native plants. I worried it was an invasive, but after I checked several sources to ID it, I hope it's here to stay. :)

Posted by: Steven Ukasick - Minneapolis
on: 2024-05-05 17:56:36

I saw this lovely woodland Phlox for the first time in the 80's in Jackson County just outside Kilen Woods State Park along a gravel township road in full sun. It was blooming it's heart out as a dense clump unlike how it grows in the woods. When I say a long the gravel road I mean on the shoulder (if you can call it that) right next to the gravel off the road. I'm surprised it survived the snow plows and graders. For the longest time I thought of it as a prairie plant from its location, but there is woods on either side of the road.

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