Blue Phlox (Wild Sweet William)

Phlox divaricata

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Photo of blue phlox (wild sweet William) plant with flowers
Blue phlox (wild sweet William).
Julianna Schroeder
Family

Polemoniaceae (phloxes)

Description

A perennial herb with lance-shaped, evergreen leaves and showy, rounded clusters of (usually) lavender flowers. Flowers tubular with 5 lobes, the lobes spreading, somewhat heart-shaped, with or without fine notches, in varying colors: pale blue-purple, red-purple, rose-lavender, rarely white. Blooms April–June. Leaves opposite, lance-shaped, spaced apart, to 2 inches long, finely hairy. Dark green, leafy shoots spread from base, take root, and persist through the winter.

Size

Height: to 1 foot.

Habitat and conservation

Occurs in rich or rocky soils in open woods, thickets, wet streamsides, bottomlands, usually in partial or full shade, but sometimes in full sun. A native to much of the eastern United States, blue phlox is also found in cultivation, and some forms have been created just for gardening.

image of Blue Phlox Wild Sweet William Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide, except for the southeast lowlands.

Human connections

Blue phlox does well in wildflower gardens, thriving in shade or part-shade, in rich soils. Be sure you get your plants from an ethical native-plant nursery; don't dig them from the wild.

Ecosystem connections

Butterflies are attracted to this species of phlox, and several animals eat the plant, as well.